WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump marked Independence Day by promising to defeat the "radical left" and boasting of his handling of the coronavirus, even as cases spike in the U.S.
Trump, speaking from the South Lawn of the White House, reprised themes from a speech he delivered in South Dakota the day before, by lashing out at those protesting statues of certain historical figures and other symbols they say celebrate racial injustice.
"We are now in the process of defeating the radical left: the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters and people who in many instances have absolutely no clue what they are doing," Trump said, echoing remarks he gave at Mount Rushmore. "We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children or trample on our freedoms."
Trump has spent weeks demonizing a movement to reexamine the racial record of historic figures after the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, while in Minneapolis police custody. Those efforts have led to the removal, or calls for the removal, of statues, including Confederate generals and slave owners, from public and private facilities.
Trump, lagging in national polls ahead of the November election, used the event to rally his supporters by reciting what he says are some of his achievements, stoking cultural wars and blaming China for the spread of the coronavirus.
"China's secrecy deceptions and cover-up allowed it to spread all over the world," Trump said in his 30-minute remarks. "China must be held fully accountable."
Trump, who has come under widespread criticism for his handling of the coronavirus, said the U.S. is doing "unbelievably well" in finding remedies for the virus and is doing "deep testing" on vaccines. He praised the numbers of virus tests being administered in the U.S.
"We've made a lot of progress, our strategy has moved along well," Trump said.
New coronavirus cases have set daily records in the U.S. recently while in Europe cases have fallen sharply in response to government-led measures to slow the spread.
Concern over the coronavirus pandemic caused many to stay away from the event, leaving the National Mall with a fraction of the audience that normally attends Washington's annual fireworks displays. New COVID-19 cases rose 1.7% in the U.S., surging in southern and western states, although cases have fallen off in the nation's capital and surrounding areas.