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Trump on Juneteenth: 'Nobody had ever heard of it'

Just because Trump didn't know what Juneteenth was before last week doesn't mean the rest of us were equally lost.
Image: President Donald Trump attends a roundtable at the Gateway Church in Dallas, Texas, on June 11, 2020.
President Donald Trump attends a roundtable at the Gateway Church in Dallas, Texas, on Wednesday.Alex Brandon / AP

There are a handful of phrases Donald Trump uses when describing things he's recently learned, but which many others were already well aware of. For example, the president is clearly a big fan of "A lot of people don't know that" -- a phrase he uses to effectively say, "I recently learned some new detail, and since I wasn't aware of it, I'm going to assume most people didn't know it, either."

Trump also has a long track record of throwing around its rhetorical cousin: "People don't realize." He tends to apply the phrase to things plenty of people did realize, but which only recently came to his attention.

And there's the third unfortunate phrase of the trio: "Nobody had ever heard of" something.

The president has argued, for example, that "nobody ever heard of" Osama bin Laden before Trump referenced him in a book. On the campaign trail in 2016, the Republican also claimed that "nobody ever heard of" presidential executive orders before Barack Obama took office. (Both claims are ridiculously false.)

And when speaking with the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Trump used the phrase again when speaking about Juneteenth, which honors the end of slavery in the United States. Referencing his decision to delay a scheduled campaign rally in Tulsa, the president was a little too eager to pat himself on the back.

"I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous," Mr. Trump said, referring to news coverage of the rally date. "It's actually an important event, an important time. But nobody had ever heard of it."

The article added that it was at roughly this point in the interview that Trump paused to ask an aide if she'd heard of Juneteenth. She replied that the White House had issued an official statement commemorating the day each year of his presidency.

"Oh really? We put out a statement? The Trump White House put out a statement?" Trump said. "Ok, ok. Good."

To the extent that reality still has any meaning, Donald Trump was not personally responsible for making Juneteenth "famous." It's been recognized in most states for many years.

As for the idea that "nobody had ever heard of it," just because the president didn't know what it was before last week doesn't mean the rest of us were equally lost.