President Donald Trump sparked controversy Friday, calling it a “great day” for George Floyd, the man whose death in custody last week unleashed nationwide protests over police brutality against African Americans.
“We all saw what happened last week. We can’t let that happen,” Trump said of Floyd, who was killed as a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
“Hopefully, George is looking down right now and saying, ‘This is a great thing that’s happening for our country.'”
The remarks during a televised White House briefing came eleven days after Floyd’s death and sparked confusion as to why Trump thought it was a great day for Floyd.
“This is a great, great day in terms of equality,” Trump added, even as he stands accused by many of having failed to respond to the racism, police brutality and inequalities that demonstrators are protesting.
Trump had summoned the media to welcome a surprisingly strong US jobs report, the opposite of what economists had expected given measures in place to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
The rest of his speech was devoted to welcoming the good news on the economy, which Trump said was now in “rocket” mode.
Trump’s “great day” comments were seen by many as too closely conflating Floyd’s death and the day’s good economic news, and as speaking on behalf of Floyd on the economy.
The White House called such an interpretation “false.”
“It was very clear the President was talking about the fight for equal justice and equal treatment under the law when he made this comment,” White House senior communications advisor Ben Williamson wrote on Twitter.
Trump brought up this theme before speaking about Floyd: “Equal justice under the law must mean that every American receives equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement regardless of race, color, gender or creed,” he said.
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