Comments President Donald Trump made Wednesday at the White House during a Black History Month event left some people scratching their heads.
During a “listening session,” Trump praised abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who died in 1895.
He mentioned Douglass as “an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice,” Trump said.
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The way he couched his remarks made people wonder: Does Trump know who Frederick Douglass is, and does he know that he’s dead?
Chelsea Clinton tweeted the entirety of Trump’s remarks and seemed flummoxed.
At the daily press briefing, a reporter asked White House press secretary Sean Spicer about Trump’s comment that Douglass is being recognized “more and more.”
“Do you have any idea what specifically he was referring to?” the reporter asked.
“I think he wants to highlight the contributions that he has made,” Spicer said. “And I think through a lot of the actions and statements that he’s going to make, I think the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more.”
Paste pop culture magazine argued that Trump knows his history — and that he doesn’t.
“Everything about the quote, including the tenses, makes it sound like Trump sees Douglass as a tireless activist whose good work is being noticed more and more as his life goes on,” it wrote.
“The description makes him sound like a man who is just now emerging from obscurity, and is still fighting the good fight, and definitely didn’t die in 1895.”
On the other hand, it noted, “he mentions him in the same breath as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman, as one of the ‘black Americans who made America what it is today.’ Presumably, he knows that those other people are dead.”
Comedian Samantha Bee — no fan of the president — took the debate to her Twitter followers: Who does Trump think Douglass is? Some of the responses:
Some people argued that, on the off chance that the president is not familiar with Douglass’ story, he should be given a pass.
The National Park Service, which maintains the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, D.C., has plenty more information about his life here.