President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN demands Trump campaign stop using ‘distorted’ clip from network in ad Schumer: Fauci may testify before Senate next week Fauci dismisses ‘circular argument’ coronavirus originated in Chinese lab MORE‘s Sunday Fox News interview at the Lincoln Memorial was permitted due to a directive from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt ordering the iconic monument closed for the event, The New York Times reported.
“Given the extraordinary crisis that the American people have endured, and the need for the president to exercise a core governmental function to address the nation about an ongoing public-health crisis,” Bernhardt wrote in an order issued Friday highlighted by the newspaper. “I am exercising my authority to facilitate the opportunity for the president to conduct this address within the Lincoln Memorial.”
Events on its steps are permitted, but events within the memorial itself intended to draw an audience are normally prohibited.
Two people familiar with the planning of the town hall event told the Times that the White House initially agreed to hold the event on the steps of the memorial. However, the interview was moved inside the memorial itself by last Wednesday.
A White House official called the move a “joint decision” with Fox News, the newspaper reported. Three anonymous people involved in the planning said the choice was made by the White House, it added.
A spokesperson for Fox News told the Times that anchor Bret Baier mentioned during the interview that the venue was Trump’s choice and that it had spurred criticism.
“And I did say this would be nice, but I thought it was your choice, not ours?” Trump responded. “And I had not heard, what can you criticize? I don’t think it’s ever been done, what we’re doing tonight, here, and I think it’s great for the American people to see, this is a great work of art, aside from the fact that that was a great man, this is a great work of art.”
Democratic lawmakers and other critics blasted the choice of venue, complaining that the backdrop was used for a partisan event amid the ongoing pandemic, the Times noted.
But Trump and aides reportedly believed the memorial provided a meaningful backdrop to the interview.
White House spokesperson Judd Deere told the Times that “President Trump spoke to millions of Americans on television from the Lincoln Memorial, one of the most iconic and unifying symbols in the world, with a message of hope and optimism about the American dream,” calling the interview a “moment of national unity.”
The Times also reported that National Park Service officials were surprised by the order.
Trump during the town hall compared his treatment as president to Lincoln.
“Look, I am greeted with a hostile press the likes of which no president has ever seen,” Trump said. “The closest would be that gentleman right up there. They always said Lincoln — nobody got treated worse than Lincoln. I believe I am treated worse.”
The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.