President Trump called Black Lives Matter a 'Marxist group', questioned its credibility and made fun of athletes for taking a knee in a rambling interview with Fox and Friends on Wednesday.
The president phoned into his favorite morning show to discuss the anti-police brutality movement and how it had affected sport around the country.
He also said that no other president had done more for the black community than he had, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln.
'Black Lives Matter, when did it start? Marching down the street screaming "pigs in a blanket, fry them like bacon,"' Trump said in reference to a single 2015 protest in Minneapolis which sparked tensions in the town.
'They were talking about policemen and women. All of sudden, this is taking on this air of great respectability. Well, how does it start there? It’s a Marxist group.
'It’s a Marxist group that is not looking for good things for our country and now I see these leagues all kneeling down,' Trump fumed.
'Nobody has done for the black community what I have done, I'll give the one exception, Abraham Lincoln, but even that - I'll be honest with you...' he tailed off.
Trump then said that everything was a 'great success' until 'we got hit with the plague from China' - a reference to COVID-19.
He went on to say that whenever he saw athletes taking a knee during the national anthem, he turned off the TV.
'I think it's disgraceful. We work with them, we worked with them very hard trying to get them open I was pushing for them to get open and then I see everyone kneeling...
'It's not acceptable to me, when I see them kneeling I just turn off the game and let me tell you this, a lot of people feel the same way.
'The ratings for basketball are way down.
'I hear some others are way down too, including baseball.
'All of a sudden now baseball is in the act. We have to stand up for our flag, we have to stand up for our country, we have to stand up for our anthem and a lot of people agree with me.
'Hey, if I am wrong, then I am going to lose an election and that’s OK with me. I am always going to stand for our country and flag.'
Trump had been asked for his comments on Oklahoma lawmaker Rep. Sean Roberts telling Oklahoma City Thunder that they faced tax penalties if players kneel for the anthem.
'By kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, the NBA and its players are showing disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for.
'This anti-patriotic act makes clear the NBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter group and its goal of defunding our nation’s police, its ties to Marxism and its efforts to destroy nuclear families,' Roberts said.
It comes amid ongoing tension between the federal government and protesters around the country who are calling for traditional policing to change and for police departments to be stripped of their large budgets to trigger that change.
Elsewhere in the interview, he called Barack Obama's eulogy for the late Congressman John Lewis 'ridiculous' and a sign of anger from the former president.
'It showed anger there that people don't see. He lost control and he's been really hit very hard by both sides for that speech. That speech was ridiculous,' he said.
In his 40-minute eulogy last week, given at the same pulpit where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to preach, Obama outlined a dramatic new plan for voting reform that was seen as a call to arms for Democrats to battle President Trump, who has railed against mail-in voting and complained the system is 'rigged.'
Obama did not mention Trump by name but it was clear who he was referring to as he railed against the oppression of voting rights.
'Few elections have been as urgent on so many levels as this one,' Obama said of the 2020 contest. 'We can't treat voting as an errand to run if we have some time. We have to treat it as the most important action we can take. On behalf of democracy. Like John, we have to give it all we have.'
Trump, meanwhile, has dismissed Lewis' legacy and said the civil rights icon made a 'big mistake' not coming to his inauguration.
Longtime Congressman Lewis, whose bloody beating at Selma helped galvanize opposition to racial segregation, died on July 17 and was laid to rest last Thursday. Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also eulogized him at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
But Trump stayed away and instead refused to say whether he thought Lewis' life was impressive in an interview with Axios. He also did not visit the late Congressman's body as he lay in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.