President Donald Trump defended his intense focus on the NFL protest issue – insisting at a White House press conference Tuesday that the topic was ‘very important’ and that he was not ‘preoccupied’ with it.
The president said his administration was ‘doing a great job’ contending with the devastation in Puerto Rico and otherwise handling the duty of his office.
‘I have heard that before about was I preoccupied. Not at all. Not at all. I have plenty of time on my hands. All I do is work,’ Trump said.
He called kneeling during the National Anthem, as players have done during games, ‘disgraceful,’ and invoked grievously injured American troops who served their country to bolster his view.
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in the Rose Garden of the White House, Tuesday, where he said he wasn’t ‘preoccupied’ with NFL protests
‘I wasn’t preoccupied with the NFL. I was ashamed of what was taking place,’ he said, asked if the focus had come at the expense of the Puerto Rico response.
Trump brought up the issue at a Friday night rally, and kept up criticism on Twitter since.
‘Because to me that was a very important moment. I don’t think you can disrespect our country, our flag, our National Anthem. To me, the NFL situation is a very important situation,’ the president said.
‘I have plenty of time on my hands. All I do is work,’ the president said, defending his crusade. ‘And to be honest with you, that’s an important function of working. It’s called respect for our country.’
‘Many people have died, many, many people. Many people are so horribly injured. I was at Walter Reed hospital recently and I saw so many great young people and they’re missing legs and they’re missing arms and they’ve been so badly injured. And they were fighting for our country. They were fighting for our flag. They were fighting for our national anthem.’
President Donald Trump walks with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as they head to the Rose Garden for a news conference at the White House, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
He continued: ‘And for people to disrespect that by kneeling during the playing of our national anthem I think is disgraceful.
Trump then defended the Puerto Rico response, noting that Puerto Rico is an island, posing logistical challenges.
‘We did a great job in Texas, a great job in Florida, a great job in Louisiana. We hit little pieces of Georgia and Alabama. And frankly we’re doing — and it’s the most difficult job because it’s on the island. It’s on an island in the middle of the ocean.’
‘Out in the ocean. You can’t just drive your trucks there from other states. And the governor said we are doing a great job. In fact, he thanked me specifically for FEMA and all of the first responders in Puerto Rico,’ Trump said.
US President Donald Trump shakes hands during a joint press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, September 26, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
‘And we’re also mentioning with that, the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was devastated. So we are totally focused on that.’
‘But at the same time, it doesn’t take me long to put out a wrong and maybe we’ll get it right. I think it’s a very important thing for the NFL to not allow people to kneel during the playing of our national anthem, to respect our country and respect our flag. Okay? Thank you,’ he said.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and U.S.¬?President Donald Trump hold a joint news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 26, 2017
On Tuesday morning, Trump – yet again – waded into the NFL protest debate, this time calling attention to the moves of the Dallas Cowboys last night.
‘The booing at the NFL football game last night, when the entire Dallas team dropped to its knees, was loudest I have ever heard,’ the president said, adding, ‘Great anger.’
Trump then suggested that ratings for the games are ‘way down’ – ‘except before the game starts, when people tune in to see whether or not our country will be disrespected!’
‘But while Dallas dropped to its knees as a team, they all stood up for our National Anthem. Big progress being made-we all love our country!’ Trump noted.
At an away game in Arizona, the entire Dallas Cowboys NFL team, including owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett, dropped to their knees prior to the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, in a move that showed solidarity for the football players who have been kneeling to protest racial inequality.
Billionaire Jones, who gave $1million Trump’s inauguration festivities, had said nothing about the president’s comments over the weekend.
Trump has hammered players’ efforts in recent days.
President Trump has hammered the efforts of National Football League players who have taken a knee during the national anthem as a way to protest racial inequity. The White House has made the message about respecting the country, the flag and the military
The president was reportedly pleased with the reaction his comments were drawing, according to those who attended a White House dinner with Trump Monday night.
‘It’s really caught on. It’s really caught on,’ Trump said, according to a CNN source. ‘I said what millions of Americans were thinking.’
On Tuesday morning, President Trump once again waded into the NFL protest debate by suggesting that the Dallas Cowboys team had created ‘great anger’ by kneeling before the national anthem, only to make ‘big progress’ for standing during the song
The entire Dallas Cowboys franchise, including team owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett took a knee before the national anthem and then stood during it
A person in the room told the cable network, ‘You could really tell he was satisfied.’
Hours earlier, Trump had angrily tweeted that CNN was showing ‘fake news’ for saying that his Chief of Staff John Kelly is frustrated with Trump for warring with the NFL.
The report cited two administration officials as having said that, although Kelly himself declined to comment.
The Trump aide said he was ‘appalled’ by disrespect for the flag. But he refused to talk to CNN about the president’s fight with the National Football League.
Trump immediately disputed the report on his personal Twitter account. ‘Just reported COS (John Kelly) was opposed to my stance on NFL players disrespecting FLAG, ANTHEM, COUNTRY. Total lie!’ he said.
In a second tweet Trump said Kelly ‘totally agrees’ with his stance. ‘They should not be disrespecting our FLAG or GREAT COUNTRY!’ he contended.
CNN claimed that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (pictured) is frustrated that Trump has been throwing bombs at the National Football League
The Trump aide said he was ‘appalled’ by disrespect for the flag. But he refused to talk to CNN about the president’s fight with the National Football League
Trump responded almost immediately on Twitter, assaulting CNN for what he described as ‘fake news’
CNN never said that Kelly disagreed with Trump on respect for the flag, or the lack thereof, in an online version of report the president appeared to be responding to.
It quoted the retired general as having said: ‘I believe every American, when the national anthem is played, should cover their hearts and think about all the men and women who have been maimed and killed.
‘Every American should stand up and think for three lousy minutes.’
Kelly, the network said in the online report, is angry that Trump is waging a full-scale war against the NFL. The president’s tirades, it suggested, show a lack of discipline.
Trump said in tweets this evening that ‘General John Kelly totally agrees w/ my stance on NFL players and the fact that they should not be disrespecting our FLAG or GREAT COUNTRY!’
‘Tremendous backlash against the NFL and its players for disrespect of our Country. #StandForOurAnthem’ he said.
He has repeatedly fanned the flames on Twitter, sending out a myriad of tweets about the NFL and its players over the last three days
The president’s spokeswoman insisted the president’s assault on the NFL was all about defending the American flag today as she beat back criticism of his controversial comments.
‘The President is not talking about race. The President is talking about pride in our country,’ White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during a press conference.
Sanders backed up Trump’s use of the term SOB’s to describe football players refusing to stand at games during the national anthem, saying it’s ‘always appropriate’ for the president to go to bat for the military, the flag and the national anthem.
She contended that Trump’s remarks on Friday evening, that he revisited several times throughout the weekend, were not a distraction.
The White House official further argued that ‘it’s a priority’ for the U.S. president to defend the nation’s flag.
‘This should be something that every American can get behind.’
Donald Trump ‘s spokeswoman insisted the president’s assault on the NFL was all about defending the American flag today as she beat back criticism of his controversial comments
Sanders spent the bulk of her briefing backing her boss up on his NFL comments.
She followed in the footsteps of Trump’s Treasury secretary and his director of legislative affairs, the administration’s designated representatives on yesterday’s news programs.
‘Look, this isn’t about the President being against anyone. This is about the President and millions of Americans being for something; being for honoring our flag, honoring our national anthem, and honoring the men and women who fought to defend it,’ Sanders sated.
This morning Trump fanned the flames when he tweeted: ‘The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!’
Another early morning post to the social media platform said, ‘Many people booed the players who kneeled yesterday (which was a small percentage of total). These are fans who demand respect for our Flag!’
Last season, San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner as a quiet way to protest racial inequality. This season Kaepernick wasn’t picked up to play for a team, though other players have taken up his mantle.
Trump accused the players of ‘disrespecting the flag’ in a Friday speech, setting off a nationwide conversation about the protests and racial injustice.
His aides offered a number of reasons why the president was right and his critics were wrong when the topic came up on Sunday.
‘I think the reality is that there are high school coaches across America today who are punished for leading their players in prayer. And, yet, when an NFL player takes a knee, somehow that player is presumed to be a martyr for a social cause,’ Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, told NBC’s Chuck Todd.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, speaking to Jake Tapper on CNN, pointed out that the professional football league has ‘different types of rules’ for nearly everything, so why not this.
‘What the president is saying –and I think the owners should meet and they should vote on a rule – this is about respect for our military, this is about respect for our first responders, this is not about Republicans or Democrats,’ Mnuchin told Tapper.
On the Sunday shows, White House and cabinet officials defended President Trump’s position on NFL players taking the knee during the national anthem
President Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (left) and Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short (right) defended the content and timing of Trump’s comments this weekend on NFL players taking the knee during the National Anthem
President Trump doubled down on remarks he made by dashing off two tweets Sunday morning suggesting players should be fired for taking the knee – and the American public should boycott NFL games
‘Players have the right for free speech off the field,’ the Treasury secretary added.
Mnuchin said he didn’t understand why the NFL would bar a team from, say, decorating their helmets, yet not step in on this issue.
‘But now the NFL is saying people should be able to decide what they want to do and disrespect the United States flag,’ the treasury secretary scoffed.
Tapper interjected and said he was playing ‘devil’s advocate,’ pointing out the players don’t believe they’re dishonoring the American flag, but instead engaging in peaceful protest.
On CNN, the State of the Union host noted to Mnuchin that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had sided with the players, calling the president’s comments ‘divisive,’ as had New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who’s a personal friend of Trump’s.
‘Why is this a fight that the president wants to have?’ the CNN newsman asked.
On Sunday morning, Trump had doubled down on previous comments he made about athletes and taking the knee by suggested Americans should boycott football games to punish those who are protesting.
The president also advised that the players participating be axed.
‘If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!’ Trump tweeted.
‘NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.,’ the president added.
Despite the president’s fresh tweets, Mnuchin answered Tapper by saying, ‘I don’t think it’s a question of a fight the president wants to have.’
‘He thinks this is about respect for the military and so many people who put their lives at risk and what the country stands for,’ Mnuchin said.
The Treasury secretary repeated his idea for the owners to come together and make a rule on whether players can take the knee.
‘Again, for as long as I can remember, people have stood in honor of this country, this isn’t about politics,’ Mnuchin said. ‘If people want to talk politics off the field when they’re not working for the NFL, they have the absolute right to do that.’
On NBC, Todd asked Short if Trump was harping on the athletes to distract from the bad news on the Republican health care vote.
‘I think you’re probably reading much more into it than there is,’ Short told Todd. ‘I think the president has felt this way on this position for awhile. Friday night was a forum in which he could express it.’
‘I don’t think it has anything to do with the health care vote coming up,’ Short added.
On Friday night, Trump took the stage in Huntsville, Alabama, at a rally to support incumbent Republican Sen. Luther Strange, who is facing a tough run-off against another GOP candidate.
There, Trump said it would be great if an NFL owner responded to a player protesting by saying, ‘Get that son of a b***h off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!’
On Saturday morning, Trump had refocused his ire on basketball instead, lashing out at Golden State Warriors player Steph Curry, who had said the day before that he didn’t want to go to the White House to celebrate his team’s championship win.
The Warriors point guard said he and his teammates could ‘inspire some change’ by refusing the president’s invite.
‘Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team,’ Trump wrote Saturday morning. ‘Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!’
On Meet the Press, Todd had pointed out to Short that only 26 percent of Americans thought race relations were good, and asked if Trump’s Twitter battles with athletes like Curry, who is of mixed race, were helpful.
‘I think the president believes it is his role to improve race relations,’ Short responded. ‘But it’s also important to note that we had an historic election in 2008, electing the first African American president. But race relations didn’t improve under his tenure, either,’ Short added, referencing Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama.
Short called Curry an ‘amazing shot.’
‘But why the Warriors chose to politicize an invitation to the White House, I think, is unfortunate,’ Short added.
‘Chuck, I think the reality is that the White House is something special. And if they don’t want to come to the White House, then the president says to them, ‘Don’t come,” he added.
Trump has so far hosted the Clemson Tigers, New England Patriots and Chicago Cubs at the White House since taking office in January.
On Sunday, hockey’s Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, said they accepted Trump’s invitation as well.