President Donald Trump spoke to a reporter on Tuesday about the controversy over NASCAR’s ban of the Confederate flag and claimed his comments on the issue and the surrounding debate are about “freedom of speech” as opposed to the symbol itself.
“I was just talking about the fact that NASCAR chose to go a certain way, and that’s gonna be up to them, that is up to them,” he said. “I’m very friendly with NASCAR, I know the people there. I know drivers, I know a lot of them. But I view it as freedom of speech.”
Later in the interview, Trump reiterated his position.
“My stance is very simple — its freedom of speech. You do what you do, it’s freedom of speech. NASCAR can do whatever they want and they’ve chosen to go a certain way. Other people choose to go a different route, but it’s freedom of speech.”
President Trump has suggested NASCAR made a mistake in banning the Confederate flag. When I asked him about the flag's place in our society, President Trump reiterated: "It's freedom of speech." #NexstarDC pic.twitter.com/imdRKrNrO0
— Jessi Turnure (@JessiTurnure) July 7, 2020
As reported by Breitbart, Trump has threatened to veto a defense spending bill due to the inclusion of legislation to rename United States Army bases named after Confederate generals — a move that has been supported by Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley. The bill also reportedly calls for the removal of such statues in U.S. military cemeteries and military buildings.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Fox News that Trump is not opposed to or in favor of NASCAR’s decision and is instead supportive of preserving American history, NBC News reported. She also claimed that Trump is opposed to the demonization of men and women in NASCAR, who he believes are being labeled as racist.
According to Bloomberg, Trump’s stance on the Confederate symbol reflects his campaign’s new emphasis on an issue intended to galvanize his political base ahead of the November election. The publication noted that this purported strategy comes as the president faces declining poll numbers amid the coronavirus pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests.
Despite Trump’s views on the issue, Bloomberg pointed out that some Republicans have broken with him on the matter. According to ABC political analyst Matthew Dowd, Trump’s attitude stands in opposition to the forces of cultural change in the United States, and if he wants to win re-election, he must change the current focus of his campaign.
Writer Mara Liasson recently noted that NASCAR and NFL, who appear to be shifting their stance along with the cultural tide, were previously Trump’s allies.