President visiting Arlington and Baltimore on Memorial Day despite insulting city and mayor advising him to stay at home
Today, Trump has booked back-to-back Memorial Day appearances despite the coronavirus pandemic, at Arlington National Cemetery and at a historic fort in Baltimore, ignoring the controversy he created last year when he called the Maryland port city a “rat and rodent infested mess” and its mayor’s suggestion he stay home.
Presidents typically honour fallen military members by laying a wreath and delivering a speech at the hallowed burial ground in Virginia. But the pandemic, which is expected to claim its 100,000th American this week, has led to changes this year. Trump will only lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
He is expected to speak later at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. It’s where a poem, written after a huge American flag was hoisted to celebrate an important victory over the British during the War of 1812, became “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
Trump has been steadily ramping up his schedule in an effort to portray the nation as returning to its pre-pandemic ways as it emerges from a devastating economic shutdown intended to slow the virus.
So far this month, Trump has toured factories in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Michigan that make pandemic supplies. He also plans to be in Florida on Wednesday to watch two NASA astronauts rocket into space.
Baltimore Mayor Bernard C “Jack” Young has criticised Trump’s visit, saying the trip sends the wrong message about stay-at-home directives and that the city cannot afford the added cost of a presidential visit at a time when it is losing $20m (£16.4m) a month because of the pandemic.
“The brave men and women who have preserved our freedoms for generations did not stay home and the president will not either as he honors their sacrifice by visiting such a historic landmark in our nation’s history,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in an emailed statement to the AP on Sunday.
Trump will visit Baltimore just over a week after Maryland began to lift some of the restrictions it had put in place for the coronavirus, though they remain in effect in Baltimore. Baltimore and the Washington, DC, area have the nation’s highest percentages of positive cases, according to Dr Birx.
Trump last summer described a congressional district that includes Baltimore as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live” in a dig at the state’s late congressman Elijah Cummings.
He visited Baltimore months later to address a meeting of congressional Republicans, and a giant inflatable rat adorned with Trump-style hair and a red necktie taunted him from a few blocks away.