A number of prominent political reporters misrepresented comments President Trump made about George Floyd during his Friday press statement, falsely claiming that the president suggested Floyd would be happy with the May job numbers that had been released hours earlier.
Trump spoke at length about the release of May’s unexpectedly positive job numbers, which showed 2.5 million jobs added and a dip in the unemployment rate, calling it “probably . . . the greatest comeback in American history.” He then pivoted to a discussion of the importance of equality in policing, and it was in this context that he mentioned Floyd, an African American man whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police last week set off a wave of riots across the country.
“Equal justice under the law must mean that every American receives equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement regardless of race, color, gender or creed. They have to receive fair treatment from law enforcement,” Trump said. “We can’t let that happen. Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying, ‘this is a great thing that’s happening for our country.’ This is a great day for him, it’s a great day for everybody. This is a great day for everybody, this is a great, great day in terms of equality.”
While some reporters quoted Trump’s comments verbatim, others immediately cast Trump’s reference to Floyd as part of his celebration of the positive economic outlook, rather than as a suggestion that Floyd would be pleased with the country’s focus on progress toward a more equitable law enforcement environment.
During his press conference on the jobs numbers, Trump says, “Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying there’s a great thing happening for our country. It’s a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody.”
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) June 5, 2020
Trump says he hopes George Floyd is “looking down” and seeing today’s jobs numbers as “a great day for him” pic.twitter.com/CnNfYeYpOW
— David Pakman (@dpakman) June 5, 2020
Trump invokes #GeorgeFlyod while touting job numbers: “Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying, ‘This is a great thing that’s happening for our country.’ This is a great day for him … this is a great great day in terms of equality.”
— Will Steakin (@wsteaks) June 5, 2020
Trump imagining George Floyd’s reaction to the jobs numbers: “Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. This is a great day for him, it’s a great day for everybody.” pic.twitter.com/YLBSkk9Wk7
— Adam Cancryn (@adamcancryn) June 5, 2020
The conflation led to a false headline in ABC News — “Trump calls improved jobs numbers ‘great day’ for George Floyd” — and other outlets.
While heralding Friday’s strong jobs data, Trump said “it’s a great day for” George Floyd, the black man whose death in police custody has sparked massive protests https://t.co/Ai88IXQfjs
— Bloomberg (@business) June 5, 2020
Trump suggests George Floyd is ‘looking down’ from heaven and appreciating the US’ strong May jobs report: ‘It’s a great day for him’ https://t.co/NeN9HX0dfG
— Business Insider (@businessinsider) June 5, 2020
President Trump said at a news conference about improved job numbers that he hoped George Floyd was “looking down right now and saying, ‘This is a great thing that’s happening for our country.'” https://t.co/640ZsaGAyr pic.twitter.com/lsfgUpILwG
— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 5, 2020
Peter Baker of the New York Times originally tweeted, “Trump suggests that George Floyd would be happy about the jobs numbers,” but later deleted the tweet. Politico’s Gabby Orr also tweeted that Trump said “Floyd is marveling at today’s jobs numbers from Heaven,” but appears to have deleted the comment.
Trump also touched on a variety of other topics during the Friday address, including his administration’s response to coronavirus and the use of the National Guard to keep the peace amid ongoing protests over Floyd’s death. “Don’t be proud. Get the job done. You’ll end up looking much better in the end. Call in the National Guard. Call me. We’ll have so many people,” he said, apparently addressing the nation’s governors.