In its latest attempt to tar US President Donald Trump’s event at Mt. Rushmore, CNN framed the iconic monument as a homage to slavery, despite previously dubbing it a salute to “four great presidents.”
Sat, 04 Jul 2020
CNN correspondent Leyla Santiago took to the airwaves on Friday to report on the president’s rally to mark Independence Day at the memorial later in the evening, putting heavy emphasis on its links to slavery and abuses of Native Americans while implying the site was chosen for those reasons.
“Kicking off the Independence Day weekend, President Trump will be at Mt. Rushmore, where he’ll be standing in front of a monument of two slave holders and on land wrestled away from Native Americans,” she said, noting Trump would focus on what he called “the effort to tear down our country’s history.”
While the broadcast was factually correct – former presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were indeed slave owners and the monument was built on land sacred to the Lakota – it stands in clear distinction to the network’s previous coverage of the memorial. When Vermont senator and two-time presidential candidate Bernie Sanders visited the site in 2016, CNN called the massive stone carving “a monument to four great presidents,” describing how Sanders took in “the majesty of the moment” as he deemed the site an example of “our country at its best.”
Similarly, when Barack Obama visited the monument on the campaign trail in 2008, the network characterized it as “quite a sight” and “majestic” – not a word about slave owners or the historical brutalization of natives by the US federal government.
For many netizens, the incident illustrated an ongoing double standard in corporate press coverage of the president, with reporters routinely manufacturing scandals out of events and actions previously deemed uncontroversial for other political figures.
“I used to be a Democrat. I voted for Barack Obama, but I say this [with] all due respect. F**k CNN!” one commenter said after Friday’s broadcast, comparing the network to “that kid in high school that no one liked because they always tried to instigate fights between other students.”
The row comes as anti-racism activists call for the removal of historical statues and monuments around the country, arguing they celebrate slavery, the Confederacy and abuses of Native Americans, among other things. Protesters have attempted, in some cases successfully, to topple a number of statues by force, prompting Trump to warn of 10-year prison terms and that “serious force” would be unleashed against vandals. Those threats culminated with an executive order signed last week setting out stronger penalties for those who deface statues, which will be enforced on Independence Day weekend by special anti-vandal units deployed by the Department of Homeland Security.