Trump campaign communications staffers blasted cable news outlet CNN on Friday, alleging blatant hypocrisy in its coverage of visits to Mount Rushmore by Barack Obama and President Donald Trump.
Zach Parkinson, a Trump campaign researcher, tweeted:
"Fascinating how CNN called Mount Rushmore 'majestic' and 'quite a sight' in 2008 when Obama visited, but now its a symbol of slavery and stolen land"
The tweet linked to a 2008 transcript of a CNN broadcast where it reported: "Barack Obama is in South Dakota today. He arrived there last night. Take a look at this. He got a good glimpse of the majestic Mount Rushmore."
And later in the transcript about the then-candidate's visit: "Obama arrived there late last night and got a good look around Mt. Rushmore – it's quite a sight if you haven't seen it."
In the face of that content, many conservatives went on Twitter Friday to vent outrage. They said Trump's visit Friday night, timed to the Independence Day weekend and accompanied by a planned fireworks display, was ridiculed and Mount Rushmore denounced as a symbol of hate. (CNN and The New York Times have noted this week that among the presidents honored on Rushmore are histories of slave ownership and cruelty to Native Americans, while emphasizing that the land on which the granite monument sits was taken from regional tribes.)
That criticism has gained attention as a social justice movement has blossomed followed the Memorial Day slaying of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Amid mass protests both across the country and around the world, companies, institutions and governments are reexamining their histories in connection with race and prejudice.
But with that heightened attention to matters of race and prejudice has come claims that some are taking this reexamination too far.
Trump campaign Communications Director Tim Murtaugh tweeted a video of a CNN reporter ripping Mount Rushmore in connection with the president's visit:
"President Trump will be at Mount Rushmore, where he'll be standing in front of a monument of two slave owners and on land wrestled away from Native Americans."
Murtaugh also offered more evidence of pre-Trump administration praise for Mount Rushmore from CNN and the Obamas, offering these retweets:
"2013: First Lady Michelle Obama called Mount Rushmore one of the 'great American sites.'
2020: NYT decries Mount Rushmore and liberals call for it to be taken down."
Parkinson and Murtaugh even found that CNN's Jim Acosta, seen as a staunch critic of the current administration, had previously praised Mount Rushmore, calling it a "fitting campaign stop for a presidential contender."
"Jim Acosta's network would never alter its opinion of Mount Rushmore based on who was visiting, would it?"
Parkinson, in a similar vein, referenced a 2016 visit by Demnocratic socialist and two-time presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., where the landmark was again praised by CNN:
"In 2016, CNN's Jeff Zeleny called Mount Rushmore a 'monument to four great American Presidents'
Bernie Sanders said 'this is our country at its very best,' called it an 'incredible achievement,' and said it 'really does make one very proud to be an American.'"
Murtaugh said that CNN seems to have altered its opinion on the eight-decade-old monument only since the 2016 election won by Trump, tweeting, ".@CNN has had a change of heart on Mount Rushmore, for some reason, since 2016."
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