Donald Trump kicked off Black History Month with a "listening session" at the White House. But the list of "attendees" that was given to the press did not tell the full story, and in one case, was an outright lie.
Donald Trump’s “African American History Month listening session” in the Roosevelt Room of the White House was an odd spectacle to begin with, coming from this particular administration and on the heels of David Duke’s effusive and repulsive endorsement of Trump’s Supreme Court pick.
The meeting featured Trump “honoring” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by reviving, in typically petty fashion, his feud with the media, and listing the bust of Dr. King among “favorite” works, which also included one depicting slave-owning President Thomas Jefferson:
You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago, when somebody said I took the statue out of my office. And it turned out that that was fake news. [laughter] Fake news. The statue is cherished, it’s one of the favorite things in the — and we have some good ones, we have Lincoln and we have Jefferson, and we have Dr. Martin Luther King, and we have — but they said the statue, the bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, was taken out of the office. And it was never even touched. So I think it was a disgrace. But that’s the way the press is. Very unfortunate.
As the meeting progressed, it became clear from the introductions that this was not a representative group of Black leaders. And the list of attendees that was released by the White House to the pool reporters did not really tell the full story of just how unrepresentative this group was, including at least one entry that qualifies as “fake news” (from a pool report via email from The White House, emphasis mine, links added mine):
Full list of attendees, per the White House:
Mr. Armstrong Williams, Howard Stirk Holding Broadcast Group
Mr. Darrell Scott, Pastor, New Spirit Revival Council
Ms. Belinda Scott, Wife of Darrel Scott
Mr. James Davis, National Diversity Coalition
Mr. Gerard T. Robinson, American Enterprise Institute
Mr. Earl Matthews, Lt. Col US Army (Retired)
Mr. Paris Dennard, Thurgood Marshall’s College Fund/ CNN Contributor
The Honorable Bill Cleveland, Former Vice Mayor of Alexandria, VA, Retired Capitol Hill Police Officer
Dr. Ben Carson, HUD Secretary-designee
African American Members of the Trump Administration
Ms. Omarosa Manigault, Director of Communications, OPL
Mr. Landon Davis, Department of the Interior
Mr. Ashley Bell, Department of State
Ms. Lynne Martine Patton, Department of Housing and Urban Development
Mr. Daris Meeks, Director of Domestic Policy, OVP
Mr. Ja’Ron Smith, Domestic Policy, Urban Development and Revitalization
Ms. Mary Elizabeth Wells, Political Affairs
Ms. Leah LeVell, Communications
Ms. Monica Alexander, OPL
Ms. Kara McKee
The White House, however, also fed the reporters an outright deception, because the “National Diversity Coalition” is an actual thing, and James Davis is not a member of it. Mr. Davis is, however, a member of the “National Diversity Coalition for Trump,” as are several of the other attendees. The group was formed by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and Pastor Darrell Scott in order to demonstrate, in Cohen’s words, that Trump is “not racist, misogynist, sexist or Islamophobic.”
In reporting on the event, CNN also failed to point out the makeup of the group, and ran the false “National Diversity Coalition” graphic based on the information that was furnished by the White House.
If Trump wants to hold a miniature pep rally, that is his prerogative. But the White House and the news media owe it to the American people to be honest about that — particularly the 92% of Black voters who did not vote for Trump, and who were completely shut out of this meeting ostensibly about Black History Month.