Trump Denounces Media Coverage In Coast Guard Academy Commencement

May 17, 2017
Originally published on May 17, 2017 8:31 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The Coast Guard is famous for rescues at sea. President Trump used a graduation speech at the Coast Guard Academy today to try to write his own listing administration. Trump pushed back defiantly against news reports that have dogged the White House for the past week. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

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SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: For the first 20 minutes of his speech, Trump stuck to a traditional script - praising the proud parents, saluting public service and offering some advice to the uniformed graduates that adversity makes you stronger.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight. Never ever, ever give up.

HORSLEY: The president offered similar words of wisdom over the weekend to graduates at Liberty University, but today's remarks were weighted down by a greater sense of grievance. For the last 48 hours, the administration's been pummeled by negative news stories.

First, that Trump revealed classified information to the Russians, and later, that he tried to stop an FBI investigation into his former national security adviser. The White House has disputed both stories. Trump complains he's the victim of unfair media coverage.

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TRUMP: No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can't let them get you down. You can't let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams.

HORSLEY: The tag-team crises come at a critical time for the White House. Trump is just about to set off on his first foreign trip, an eight-day marathon that will test the new president's stamina and his America-first agenda. In his speech, Trump boasted of his early successes in the White House - appointing a conservative Supreme Court justice, for example, and sharply curtailing illegal border crossings. Despite the distractions of recent days, Trump insists he's pressing ahead with efforts to cut taxes and overhaul the health care system.

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TRUMP: And that people understand what I'm doing, and that's the most important thing. I didn't get elected to serve the Washington media or special interests. I got elected to serve the forgotten men and women of our country, and that's what I'm doing.

HORSLEY: The president gave this speech in a decidedly blue state. Connecticut, where the Coast Guard Academy's located, went for Hillary Clinton in November by 13 points. As Trump was speaking, about 250 protesters gathered in a park just outside the academy.

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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Donald Trump has got to go. Hey, hey. Ho (ph), ho.

HORSLEY: Beck Jordan-Young was one of the demonstrators. She's concerned about relatives who are serving in the Coast Guard on the president's watch.

BECK JORDAN-YOUNG: He's uninformed. He obviously puts his own ego above the safety of our country. And I'm really scared about what that means for my nieces and nephews who are out there serving this country.

HORSLEY: Trump got a warmer reception inside the Academy football stadium where the ceremony was held. Melanie Cade's son Tyler is one of the graduates.

MELANIE CADE: I loved his speech. I mean, his speech was very strong. It's something that'll stick with me forever. It means a lot.

HORSLEY: As commander in chief, Trump offered graduating cadets the customary forgiveness for all their minor infractions.

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TRUMP: From this day forward, we want everyone to have a clean slate in life.

HORSLEY: After the last few days, the administration would undoubtedly like to have its own fresh start, but it may take more than one Coast Guard speech to beat back the political waves now breaking over the White House. Scott Horsley, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.