President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE on Friday declared it a "great day for equality" and a "great day" for George Floyd following a jobs report that showed unemployment falling, except for African Americans, and days of unrest sparked by Floyd's death.
The president delivered lengthy and often rambling remarks in the Rose Garden that were ostensibly meant to highlight a new jobs report that showed unemployment falling after weeks of the country being shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic.
But Trump veered frequently from topic to topic, at times addressing the nationwide protests spurred by Floyd's death. Floyd died last week after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest.
"Equal justice under the law must mean every American receives equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement regardless of race, color, gender or creed," Trump said. "They have to receive fair treatment from law enforcement."
"We all saw what happened last week. We can’t let that happen," he continued, referencing Floyd's death.
"Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. This is a great day for him, it’s a great day for everybody. This is a great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality."
Protests have convulsed the nation for almost 10 days after Floyd's death, including large-scale protests near the White House. Law enforcement has erected fencing around the White House complex in recent days, and the area is expected to remain closed to the public until June 10.
Trump, who has called for governors to "dominate" the streets to quell protests related to police brutality and systemic racism, took no questions on Friday in the Rose Garden. When reporters shouted as he signed legislation to inquire what his plan is to address the issues protesters are raising, Trump held a finger to his lips to quiet them.
"By the way, what’s happened to our country and what you now see, it’s been happening, is the greatest thing that can happen for race relations," he said. "For the African American community, for the Asian American, for the Hispanic American community, for women, for everything. Because our country is so strong. And that's what my plan is. We’re going to have the strongest economy in the world."
Trump touted a better-than-expected jobs report, which showed unemployment at 13.3 in May after hitting a post-World War II high of 14.7 percent the previous month. Economists had predicted the jobless rate in May would rise as high as 19 percent as many states remained at least partially locked down to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
But for black workers, the unemployment rate was 16.8 percent, a slight uptick from the 16.7 unemployment rate in April and the highest in more than a decade, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The jobless rate for white workers declined to 12.4 percent last month.
Friday's Rose Garden event gave Trump an opportunity to focus on the broader jobs report and spin a positive narrative even as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, the protests and ongoing economic woes.
During his remarks, in which he spoke without a teleprompter, the president touched on China's role in the origins of the pandemic, compared the economic crisis to a hurricane, praised the Secret Service for its handling of protests near the White House and also referenced Floyd's death.
The president has not spoken at length about Floyd's death or the demonstrations since Monday, when he declared himself the "president of law and order" and condemned individuals who looted and vandalized businesses. As he spoke earlier in the week, law enforcement cleared out peaceful protesters using smoke canisters and chemical agents similar to tear gas.
Trump and White House aides have repeatedly called Floyd's death a tragedy and condemned the officers in the case, but said little about the larger reforms called for by community leaders and some lawmakers.
The president will travel to Maine on Friday afternoon to tour a swab manufacturing site, his latest trip to highlight the private sector's involvement in the coronavirus response.
Trump is not expected to attend one of the memorial services for Floyd in the coming days. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race On The Money: Democrats get to the hard part Health Care — GOP attorneys general warn of legal battle over Biden's vaccine mandate MORE may attend one of the events, an attorney for the Floyd family said this week.
While Trump’s comments came amid comments about the need for equal treatment under the law for all Americans, they were widely criticized given the broader remarks were about the jobs numbers.
Biden rebuked Trump in prepared remarks of his own for trying to put words in Floyd’s mouth, calling it "despicable."
"And, the fact that he did so on a day when Black unemployment rose and black youth unemployment skyrocketed — tells you everything you need to know about who this man is and what he cares about," Biden said.
The Trump campaign chastised journalists, politicians and others who it said incorrectly framed the president's comments as Floyd being happy about the jobs report.
"The sentences that preceded and followed the President’s sentiments about Mr. Floyd made the context crystal clear," communications director Tim Murtaugh said. "Media claims that the President said that Mr. Floyd would be praising the economic news are wrong, purposefully misrepresented, and maliciously crafted.”
Updated at 4:24 p.m.