(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
That was President Trump last night giving a divisive speech at Mount Rushmore on the eve of Independence Day. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith was there and joins us. Good morning, Tam.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Glad to be with you.
SIMON: And give us a sense, please, of what the president said.
KEITH: He delivered this speech in front of Mount Rushmore, setting up this current moment in our country with people protesting racism and pushing for change as an epic battle over the soul of America. He used over-the-top language reminiscent of his American carnage inaugural address. At one point, he set up the left as having the goal of not making America better, but trying to defeat America.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
TRUMP: Make no mistake. This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution.
KEITH: You know, the president and his White House and his campaign have been trying for a couple of weeks now to really make this story not about the protests in the streets but about the Confederate statues and others that have been torn down, trying to put attention on statues of people who are not Confederates who have been torn down. And this speech was really all about that.
SIMON: Remarks, of course, Tam, come after what's been a difficult month for the president and the country, with rising coronavirus infections and continually a discouraging economy and protests. Is the president trying to reset the agenda?
KEITH: He's not trying to reset his relationship with America, certainly. He is pushing his campaign narrative. And his campaign is going to a place of division and trying to say that these protests are about trying to set up a sort of a division between his America and the rest of America, talking about our heritage. In so many ways, you know, presidents typically try to unite the country, particularly, you know, on patriotic holidays. That's not what this was about.
SIMON: Tam, yesterday, the U.S. hit another coronavirus record - not a good one. Day after day, new records are set. Public health officials urge Americans to use common sense. What's the president's message on this?
KEITH: Well, in his speech there at Mount Rushmore, he had a full half-sentence that sort of referenced the coronavirus. And the doctors, nurses and scientists working tirelessly to kill the virus - that was it. His message seems to be, come on out; we're having a party. Certainly at Mount Rushmore, everyone was seated very close together. Very few people were wearing masks.
And I should note that Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. - she also sort of heads up fundraising for the Trump campaign and is part of a public - very public part of the Trump campaign - she was there for the event, tested positive for the coronavirus as part of some screening that was done. And they say that she did not come into contact with the president and that she and Donald Trump Jr. are now isolating. But it's just another sign that coronavirus isn't going away. It's there. It's even in the president's inner circle.
SIMON: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Thanks so much, Tam.
KEITH: You're welcome.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.