Trump says June 19 rally date not chosen on purpose

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district MORE on Thursday claimed that the decision to hold his first rally in three months on June 19, an annual holiday that marks the end of slavery, was not purposeful.

Trump said that the Tulsa, Okla., campaign rally would be a “celebration” in an interview with Fox News’s Harris Faulkner taped in Dallas, portions of which aired Friday morning. His remarks came after the campaign experienced blowback for selecting Juneteenth and the Tulsa location for the rally. 

“No, but I know exactly what you’re going to say,” Trump replied when asked by Faulkner, who is black, if the date of the rally was chosen on purpose.

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Faulkner replied that she was “just asking” and didn’t have “anything to say.” 

“Think about it as a celebration. They’re always a celebration,” Trump continued. “In the history of politics, I think I can say there’s never been any group or any person that’s had rallies like I do.”

“I go and I just say get me the biggest stadium and we fill it up every time. We’ve never had a vacant seat,” the president said.

Trump did not elaborate on the significance of the date during the interview clip. 

When Faulkner noted the historical significance of the day, Trump repeated that the rally would be a “celebration” and should be viewed positively.

“The fact that I’m having a rally on that day, you can really think about that very positively as a celebration,” Trump said. “It’s an interesting date. It wasn’t done for that reason, but it’s an interesting date, but it’s a celebration.”

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The president announced on Wednesday that he planned to hold the rally in Tulsa a week from Friday, marking his first campaign rally in three months amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The White House and Trump’s campaign have defended Trump's plan to resume rallies on June 19 in Tulsa, a city that was the site of one of the worst incidents of racial violence in the country's history in 1921.

June 19 or Juneteenth is the annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

Trump's campaign and the White House have also touted Trump's record as one that has benefited African Americans.

“The African American community is very near and dear to his heart. At these rallies, he often shares the great work he has done for minority communities,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters on Thursday, adding the rally would represent a “meaningful day” for Trump.

Katrina Pierson, senior adviser to the Trump campaign, said in a statement that "as the party of Lincoln, Republicans are proud of the history of Juneteenth, which is the anniversary of the last reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. President Trump has built a record of success for Black Americans, including unprecedented low unemployment prior to the global pandemic, all-time high funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and criminal justice reform." 

The Associated Press reported that campaign officials were aware in advance the rally would be scheduled on Juneteenth, but discussed it and noted that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenNAACP seeks to boost Black voter turnout in six states Biden touts Trump saying Harris would be 'fine choice' for VP pick Kamala Harris: The conventional (and predictable) pick all along MORE held a fundraiser on the date last year before deciding to move forward. 

The announcement immediately ushered in accusations of racial insensitivity from Trump’s critics, with Democrats expressing outrage over the decision given Trump’s history of controversial comments on race and particularly his response to protests over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in police custody.

Updated: 1:40 p.m.