But the president told the Journal that for all the backlash, “I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous.”
Trump suggested that news coverage of the rally brought much-needed attention to the date, even though all but two U.S. states officially mark the day, also known as Emancipation Day.
“It’s actually an important event, an important time,” Trump argued, “But nobody had ever heard of it.”
Despite Trump’s claim that the holiday was not well-known, his White House has released a statement — attributed to the president and first lady — commemorating Juneteenth for each of the three years he’s been in office, a fact that surprised Trump when, according to the Journal, he paused Thursday’s interview to ask an aide if she had heard of Juneteenth.
“Oh really? We put out a statement? The Trump White House put out a statement?” he responded. “OK, OK. Good.”
Though the president’s rally has brought renewed attention to the date, weeks of unrest following a series of police killings of unarmed black men had already begun to fuel a new corporate, state and local government push to make Juneteenth a holiday for workers as part of the ensuing racial reckoning taking place in the United States.
More than three weeks of protests across the country have spurred momentum in Congress to enact new police reforms, and Trump signed an executive order Tuesday incentivizing a handful of reforms from the federal level.
But despite a past resistance to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism in the U.S., an underlying complaint of protesters, Trump conceded to the Journal that while “I’d like to think there is not” systemic racism, “unfortunately, there probably is some,” albeit, he said, “very substantially less than it used to be.”