Speaking at a rally in Billings, Montana, last night, President Donald Trump claimed that the media "excoriated" former President Abraham Lincoln when he gave the Gettysburg Address in 1863.
"You know when Abraham Lincoln made that Gettysburg Address speech, the great speech, you know he was ridiculed?" Trump said of the famous speech Lincoln gave on a battlefield near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, during the Civil War. "And he was excoriated by the fake news. They had fake news then. They said it was a terrible, terrible speech."
Trump claimed that the Gettysburg Address only came to be revered as one of Lincoln's finest hours 50 years after he gave it.
"Fifty years after his death they said it may have been the greatest speech ever made in America," Trump said. "I have a feeling that's going to happen with us. In different ways, that's going to happen with us."
Trump's claim that the speech was not highly regarded is also misleading. It was George Conway, the husband of presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway and one of Trump's harshest critics, who pointed out that the New York Times's coverage at the time of the speech was actually "quite favorable."
In an article dated November 21, 1863, a Times special correspondent wrote that:
President LINCOLN's brief address was delivered in a clear, loud tone of voice, which could be distinctly heard at the extreme limits of the large assemblage. It was delivered (or rather read from a sheet of paper which the speaker held in his hand) in a very deliberate manner, with strong emphasis, and with a most business-like air.
The Harrisburg Patriot & Union did criticize Lincoln's speech, to which it devoted just one brief paragraph:
We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them, and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of.
The newspaper issued a retraction 150 years later:
Seven score and ten years ago, the forefathers of this media institution brought forth to its audience a judgment so flawed, so tainted by hubris, so lacking in the perspective history would bring, that it cannot remain unaddressed in our archives. ...
In the fullness of time, we have come to a different conclusion. No mere utterance, then or now, could do justice to the soaring heights of language Mr. Lincoln reached that day. By today's words alone, we cannot exalt, we cannot hallow, we cannot venerate this sacred text, for a grateful nation long ago came to view those words with reverence, without guidance from this chagrined member of the mainstream media.
That Trump, a president who is under federal investigation and has continuously attacked many of the ideals of duty, patriotism, and equality that Lincoln espoused, would compare himself to perhaps the most highly regarded leader the United States has ever had irked people immediately.
Walter Shaub, the former head of the Office of Government Ethics, offered this sarcastic question:
Others were a bit more pointed in their criticisms.
Trump's comments were a part of a speech he gave in support for Matt Rosendale, the GOP Senate candidate who is challenging Democratic Senator Jon Tester.
“Jon Tester will never drain the swamp because he happens to live in the swamp and he loves the swamp,” Trump said.
Trump also slammed Tester for making public the allegations against Ronny Jackson, the White House physician accused of overprescribing drugs, drinking on the job, and creating a hostile work environment, whom the president nominated to be United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs to succeed David Shulkin.
Many, including Tester, raised questions about Jackson’s experience and qualifications, particularly after it emerged that the president nominated Jackson because he liked the way Jackson handled himself in January when speaking to reporters during an extended grilling about Trump’s health and cognitive fitness. (At the time, Jackson claimed Trump’s neurological functions are excellent and assured the press corps that he would be able to finish out his term. He added that Trump likely had “incredible genes” that allowed him to remain healthy despite a lack of exercise and a taste for fast food.)
"What Tester did to Admiral Jackson should never, ever be allowed," Trump said. "Ronny Jackson is a great man."
The president also railed against the senior administration official who published an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times calling themselves a member of the "Resistance" within the Trump administration.