February is Black History Month, in which our country honors the history and achievements of black Americans. Commemorating the start of this annual observance, our nation's new president, former TV show host Donald Trump, remarked on the "tremendous history" of African American people and their great "sacrifice" to this country.
But, for the bulk his statement, he focused on himself: his own achievements, and his ongoing fight with the media. His reflection on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., for example, quickly turned into an attack on the press: "You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office. It turned out that that was fake news. Fake news," he said. "I think it was a disgrace, but that's the way the press is. Very unfortunate."
"Fox has treated me very nice," he later noted.
Despite his preoccupation with his own issues, President Trump did manage to acknowledge the tremendousness of black history, though some have called into question how much he actually knows about the subject. Most notable were his comments on American hero Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist from the 19th century who escaped slavery and campaigned against it while writing multiple books about his life.
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who's done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed," Trump said, prompting many people to wonder whether he has any idea who Frederick Douglass is—or that he's not alive anymore, having died in 1895. (In a subsequent press conference, Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended Trump: "I think he wants to highlight the contributions that [Douglass] has made. And I think through a lot of the actions and statements that he's going to make, I think the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more," Spicer said, leading to speculation that he, too, has no idea who the extremely famous author is.)
Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who's done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed
The reaction on Twitter, as always, was swift. "This defies comment," wrote former National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Chelsea Clinton, similarly, was left speechless. A slew of celebrities, from Don Cheadle to Cher, publicly mocked and condemned his comments. But the Yale University Press, which publishes many of Douglass' writings, opted for a subtweet: "He's being recognized more and more, so read up on #FrederickDouglass and the amazing job he's done," their account tweeted, linking to a page where one can purchase Douglass' landmark Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave.
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for the Yale University Press confirmed that sales had increased since Trump's statement. "We do confirm that we have seen an increase of sales for Frederick Douglass' titles since yesterday's comments," they said.
Ironically, Trump's inane remark may have come true—though, of course, not in the way he expected.
Mitchell Sunderland contributed reporting to this story.