FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP –Donald Trump Jr. attacked targets from Democratic nominee Joe Biden to the media while also making the case for his father’s re-election Thursday afternoon during a campaign address at the Houghton County Memorial Airport.
A boisterous crowd of more than 800 cheered on Trump Jr., who sometimes had to pause his speech to accommodate chants of “Trump!” or “Four more years!” About 250 were seated. An overflow crowd stood outside, some on a flatbed truck.
Trump Jr. touted Trump’s accomplishments, calling him “the most pro-life president in the history of America.” Also lauded by Trump Jr. were peace deals in the Middle East and a trade deal with China, comparing it to Biden’s record.
“Joe spent 47 years pushing for deals like NAFTA and TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and China’s permanent status in the World Trade Organization,” he said. “Joe Biden took your American dream and shipped it abroad. He took your good-paying job and shipped it abroad.”
Trump Jr. also credited President Trump for an economy that had delivered record-low unemployment to many groups before the COVID-19 epidemic set in, as well as withdrawing from wars abroad. A Trump cease-fire agreement reached with the Taliban earlier this year that called for the 13,600 troops stationed in Afghanistan to pull out by mid-2021.
Trump Jr. spent most of the speech targeting Joe Biden — “47 years of abject failure” — and his son Hunter Biden.
Despite Joe Biden’s reputation as a moderate, Trump Jr. said, if elected he’d be subservient to vice-presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris, who he called the “most liberal senator,” using a 2019 ranking from the non-partisan GovTrack, which follows proposed bills.
He also linked Biden to former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, who has called for a mandatory buyback of assault weapons such as AR-15s. Biden’s plan would require owners of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines to either sell them back or register them under the National Firearms Act, according to his website. Trump decried other parts of Biden’s gun plan, including ending online sales of firearms, ammunition, kits and gun parts.
The media’s treatment of unverified allegations of corruption against Hunter Biden involving Ukraine and China, including calling them “unverified” represents a double standard, Trump Jr. said.
“They spent three years trying to throw me in jail, accusing me of doing about a fraction, a tiny fraction of what Hunter is actually doing,” he said.
Last week, the New York Post began posting portions of unconfirmed emails purporting to show Hunter Biden’s business ties in the Ukraine and Joe Biden’s knowledge of them; the Biden campaign has not commented on the authenticity of the emails but has denied Joe Biden met with Hunter Biden’s business partners. Thursday, reporters from the Wall Street Journal and Fox News said records they had reviewed indicated no involvement for Joe Biden in Hunter’s Chinese business dealings, contrary to what an ex-business associate of Biden’s had alleged to a Journal opinion writer.
On top of the traditional media, Trump Jr. said he also now is worried about social media after sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become more aggressive on hiding posts they deem to be disinformation, such as those connected to the Post story and claims about COVID-19. Twitter has flagged several of President Trump’s tweets as potentially harmful, including one where he incorrectly likened COVID-19 to the flu.
“If the Democrats win, if their buddies in social media continue to have that unchecked power to censor what you see, what you hear, to censor your voice, it’s gone and you don’t get it back,” Trump Jr. said.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic came up only twice, both in terms of grievances. Trump Jr. criticized the media for not being harder on China, and Biden for not giving credit to Trump for his partial February shutdown of travel from China.
“Why do you think Joe Biden took the stance that shutting down travel from the epicenter of a deadly viral outbreak was racist and xenophobic?” he said. “Because the Chinese own him and he’s not gonna do anything to cross them.”
The Biden comment references a speech Biden gave the same day the travel restrictions were announced in which he called Trump xenophobic. Biden has said several times, including during Thursday’s debate, that the comments were not about the China restrictions.
Spacing in the seated area was minimal, and shoulder-to-shoulder in the standing areas. The vast majority of the crowd was unmasked.
After the speech, Trump Jr. remained for about 10 minutes talking with the crowd.
One of those who shook Trump Jr.’s hand was Pamela Lowney of South Range. She said she was backing Trump because of his pledge to ‚“drain the swamp.” She was a fan of Trump Jr.’s speech.
“I’m really excited that he chose to come up and see us in our small town,” she said.
The crowd started lining up hours in advance for the event, which opened to the public 90 minutes before the rally began.
Leanne Black of Hancock said she was backing Trump for his anti-abortion views, and policies she said had improved life for all Americans. She came for the experience, and to hear what Trump Jr. had to say.
“It’s something that doesn’t happen up here very often,” she said. “And it’s something we want our kids to see, the process of elections.”
The Trump visit is a rarity for the Copper Country. While data on First Family members is not available, only four presidents have visited the Upper Peninsula during their administration.
Trump Jr. also made an appearance in Calumet, where photos posted on social media by his campaign staff showed him walking through downtown and posing in selfies with supporters.
A small group also protested Trump Jr. near the turn to the airport.
Trump Jr.’s Michigan speech was the first of two campaign events Thursday. Later in the day, he spoke at an event in Steubenville, Ohio. A stop scheduled earlier Thursday for Dubuque, Iowa, was postponed. The postponement was made to assure Trump could arrive in Michigan before an oncoming storm, U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman spokesperson James Hogge said in a statement.
Bergman, R-Watersmeet, introduced Trump at the event. Other dignitaries included state Rep. Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock, who led the crowd in a prayer.
Dana Ferguson, Bergman’s Democratic challenger in the Nov. 3 election, said the event did not follow CDC guidelines in a location where COVID-19 cases are rising at alarming rates.
“Our leaders should be doing the right thing, and that means following the guidelines set in place by health professionals to keep our communities safe,” he said.
Ferguson termed the rhetoric and tone of the event as “extraordinarily disappointing and potentially dangerous.”