President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE on Sunday mocked efforts to rename Fort Bragg, a military base in North Carolina named after Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg, amid continued protests against racism in the nation, asking at one point, “We’re going to name it after the Rev. Al Sharpton?”
The moment, which immediately prompted viral backlash on social media, came shortly after Trump was pressed by Fox News anchor Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceYarmuth and Clyburn suggest .5T package may be slimmed Budget chairman: Debt ceiling fight 'a ridiculous position to be in' NIH director expects booster shots to be expanded, despite recommendation MORE about the matter on early Sunday after he vowed to veto a defense spending bill if it required bases like Fort Bragg and others named after Confederate leaders to be renamed.
In the interview, Trump said he doesn’t “care what the military says” with regards to the matter, after Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperMilley and China — what the Senate really needs to know Biden, Trump battle over who's to blame for Afghanistan Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief defends Milley after Trump book criticism | Addresses critical race theory | Top general says Taliban has 'strategic momentum' in war MORE and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthyRyan McCarthyTwo-star general at Fort Hood cleared after internal investigation Vice News promotes Micheal Learmonth to editor-in-chief Trump appointee endorses Christine Wormuth as Army secretary MORE said they’re open to discussion on the topic.
“I’m supposed to make the decision,” he continued. “Fort Bragg is a big deal. We won two World Wars. No one even knows General Bragg. We won two World Wars. Go to that community where Fort Bragg is, in a great state, I love that state, go to the community, say how do you like the idea of renaming Fort Bragg, and then what are we going to name it?”
"I don't care what the military says" -- Trump dismisses military's support for renaming bases named after Confederate generals pic.twitter.com/ICGy2GTnXn— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 19, 2020
“We’re going to name it after the Rev. Al Sharpton? What are you going to name it, Chris, tell me what you’re going to name it?” he continued.
His remarks about Sharpton sparked criticism online and prompted the civil rights leader and political commentator’s name to trend on Twitter.
Sharpton addressed Trump's remarks in a broadcast on MSNBC hours later, saying he "appreciated the boost."
"But let me say this," Sharpton went on, "why not name it after people that served in the military for this country rather than traitors? Name it after Crispus Attucks, the first person in the American Revolution to die to make the country free? He was a Black man."
"Name it after one of the Tuskegee Airmen, Percy Sutton, who you knew in New York, who served in the armed forces when it was still segregated. Why not take seriously the contributions of people that those that have these military bases named after them fought to either keep them enslaved and in free servitude and treated them as less than human?”
“That’s what Mr. Bragg and Mr. Lee stood for,” he continued, appearing to refer to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. “They were military officers that fought to overthrow a government that you now lead.”
The comments by Trump come as a number of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have voiced support for the inclusion of a provision to have the names of Confederate leaders removed from military bases in the National Defense Authorization Act.
When discussing the possibility of Trump vetoing the bill, which includes language requiring the Pentagon to remove the names in legislation from the House and Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money — Democrats rush to finish off infrastructure Biden employs flurry of meetings to unite warring factions GOP senators say Biden COVID-19 strategy has 'exacerbated vaccine hesitancy' MORE said earlier this month that he “would hope the president really wouldn't veto the bill over this issue.”
“I hope the president will reconsider vetoing the entire defense bill, which includes pay raises for our troops, over a provision in there that could lead to changing the names,” he continued.
Wallace brought up a similar point during his interview with Trump on Sunday.
“Now, this a bill that funds military operations, it gives soldiers a pay raise. You’re going to veto that?” he asked.
“Hey, look. Don’t tell me this. I got soldiers the biggest pay raises in the history of our military … I did more for the military than any president that’s ever had this office,” Trump claimed in response.
After going on to repeatedly tout the history of Fort Bragg and other bases named after leaders of the pro-slavery Civil War-era cause, Trump then goes on to say that he is still against the renaming of military bases.
“I’m not going to go changing them,” Trump told Wallace.
“So you’ll veto it,” he asked.
“I might, yeah,” the president answered.