RNC takeaways night 2: Melania Trump speaks of 'harsh reality' of racial unrest, Pompeo stirs controversy
Donald Trump has cultivated an image as a man of tough words and quick action, someone who’s not afraid to bruise feelings. But Republicans Tuesday tried to portray a softer Trump, one who cares about the little guy: the lobsterman in Maine, the dairy farmer from Wisconsin, the police officer from New Mexico.
"More than any president in my lifetime, he's acknowledged the importance of farmers and agriculture," said Cris Peterson, a dairy farmer struggling until Trump's policies helped turn her business around.
It was a shift in tone from Monday when speeches were laced with dark imagery about what might happen if Joe Biden is elected president. Still,Tuesday had its negative moments – former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi going after Biden’s integrity and Eric Trump Jr. attacking the “radical Democrats” who want to destroy the nation.
RNC Live:Republicans sought to strike a hopeful tone on Day 2 of their convention
But this turned into an opportunity to portray the president as possessing the one quality his critics accuse him of lacking: empathy. One of the most notable moments came during a taped appearance from the White House where he signed a pardon to Jon Ponder, founder of Hope For Prisoners, a Las Vegas-based organization that helps ex-prisoners re-enter society.
"Today, I’m filled with hope," said Ponder, at one point appearing to choke up. "I have been given a second chance."
The closing speech of the evening was delivered by first lady Melania Trump, who talked about her "Be Best" anti-bullying campaign, weighed in on the issue of racial unrest and said her husband has "America .. in his heart."
Melania Trump describes her husband as an 'authentic person'
First lady Melania Trump rarely speaks publicly so her keynote address Tuesday was already going to be must-see TV.
Speaking at a White House Rose Garden whose renovation she oversaw, Trump’s speech came a little over a week after Michelle Obama’s searing rebuke of President Trump during the Democratic National Convention.
Melania Trump described her husband as an "authentic person" who loves the country and wants to make it better. The Slovenian-born first lady spoke confidently about the “freedoms and opportunities” her adopted country has afforded her, her "Be Best" initiative to prevent children from being bullied, and the importance of recognizing the power of women.
“We must make sure women are heard and the American dream continues to thrive,” she said to a crowd of supporters who gathered to listen to her speech.
She also offered her views on racial divisions in the country.
“Like all of you. I have reflected on the racial unrest in our country. It is a harsh reality that we are not proud of parts of our history,” she said.
The first lady urged the nation to come together, learn from one another and "work together for a better tomorrow for everyone.”
“I encourage people to focus on our future, while still learning from our past. We must remember that today we are all one community comprised of many races, religions and ethnicities. Our diverse and storied history is what makes our country strong, and yet we still have so much to learn from one another,” she said.
"I also ask people to stop the violence and looting being done in the name of justice and never make assumptions based on the color of a person's skin,” the first lady said.
Melania Trump also talked about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"My deepest sympathy goes out to all of you who have lost a loved one and my prayers are with those who are ill or suffering," she said. "I know many people are anxious and some feel helpless. I want you to know you are not alone."
And she praised her husband as a doer on issues including school choice, opioid addiction and race relations.
The president's not a traditional politician, she said, but “he loves this country and he knows how to get things done … He demands actions and he gets results.”
Eric, Tiffany Trump rally around the president
Two of the president's children rallied around their father Tuesday, offering remarks that sought to attract support from younger Americans and voters who backed Trump in 2016, saying their father's fight isn't over.
Tiffany Trump, a recent Georgetown Law School graduate who rarely makes public appearances, highlighted her father's criticisms of the media, censorship online and her father's "relentless" fighting spirit. She made a simple plea: "I urge you to make judgement based on results and not rhetoric," highlighting some of his accomplishments over his first term.
"If you tune into the media, you get one biased opinion or another," she said. "Rather than allowing Americans the right to form our own beliefs, this misinformation system keeps people mentally enslaved to the ideas they deem correct. This has fostered unnecessary fear and divisiveness amongst us."
Eric Trump, who helps manage his father's company – the Trump Organization – chronicled his father's campaign in 2016 and win. He highlighted the president's policies and culture divide between Republicans and Democrats.
"This is the fight that we are in right now and it is a fight that only my father can win," he said. "My father ran, not because he needed the job, but because he knew hardworking people across this great country were being left behind."
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He also delivered a personal message to his father, noting that while he missed working with him each day, "I’m damn proud to be on the front lines of this fight. I am proud of what you are doing for this country."
Eric Trump closed by acknowledging the recent loss of Robert Trump, the president's brother. "Dad, let’s make Uncle Robert very proud."
The embrace of Trump by family members at the convention comes in the aftermath of a scathing tell-all book written by Trump's niece, Mary Trump, and the release of secretly recorded conversations in which Trump's sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, criticized him as a "liar" with "no principles. None."
Covington teen Nick Sandmann bashes media 'war machine'
Nick Sandmann, the Kentucky teen who became part of a social media firestorm last year when he was filmed facing off with activist Nathan Phillips outside the Lincoln Memorial, delivered a scathing review of the news media – a frequent target of the Trump.
Sandmann, then 16, had taken a trip with his Covington Catholic High School class to Washington, D.C., for the Right to Life March in January 2019.
He and Phillips, who is Native American, were captured on videos that went viral in January when they stood facing each other on the National Mall. Sandmann stared at Phillips as Phillips participated in a song with other Native Americans.
Twitter exploded with accusations of racism and privilege. News outlets like the Washington Post, NBC, CNN and the USA TODAY Network began reporting the story.
He said the media's portrayal of footage of the incident, which showed him in a red Make America Great Again, turned him into "the latest poster child showing why Trump is bad."
"What I thought was a strange encounter, quickly developed into a major news story complete with video footage," Sandmann said. "My life changed forever in that one moment. The full war machine of the mainstream media revved up into attack mode. They did so without ever researching the full video of the incident; without ever investigating Mr. Philips’ motives; or without ever asking me for my side of the story."
RNC:Trump criticized for using White House as a backdrop for the convention
More:CNN confirms a settlement has been reached with Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann
After the incident, Nick sued several media outlets over their coverage of the incident, claiming they defamed him. He settled lawsuits with CNN and the Washington Post for undisclosed amounts. He has sued five other news companies, including Gannett, which owns USA TODAY.
Mike Pompeo speaks from Israel
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's appearance at the convention became a pivotal moment even before he spoke.
His address, breaking diplomatic protocol and perhaps the State Department's own policy on engaging in partisan political activity, was delivered from Jerusalem where he highlighted the president's work and promises kept on the world stage, including moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to the city. American support for Israel is a galvanizing issue for evangelical voters, a crucial base of support for the GOP.
"President Trump has put his America First vision into action. It may not have made him popular in every foreign capital, but it has worked," Pompeo said before listing off Trump's work with China, North Korea and in the Middle East over his term.
Pompeo under fire:Secretary of states criticized for speaking to RNC from Israel
The backlash over Pompeo's role in the convention is not likely to cease after Tuesday, even though he wasn't introduced as the secretary of state. The State Department said Pompeo was addressing the RNC in his "personal capacity" but his remarks revolved around policy and the very issues in which Pompeo has played a leading role.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, a top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, opened a probe into Pompeo's decision, saying he has "a gross disregard" for ethics rules and "a blatant willingness to violate federal law for political gain."
Faith and abortion take center stage
Republicans thrust faith and abortion into the spotlight Tuesday, portraying Democrats as a threat to freedom of religion.
Cissie Graham Lynch, the granddaughter of legendary evangelist Billy Graham, praised Trump's appointments of conservative judges to the federal bench and said he stood up for religious freedoms.
"Our Founders did not envision a quiet, hidden faith. They fought to ensure that voices of faith were always welcomed, not silenced. Not bullied," she said, saying under Democratic control, "whether you're a baker, a florist, or a football coach, they will force the choice between being obedient to God, or to Caesar."
Abby Johnson, an anti-abortion activist who formerly worked at Planned Parenthood, told of her time working for the women's reproductive heath care organization, telling the story of what led her to become a pro-life activist after helping with an abortion.
"For me, abortion’s real. I know what it sounds like, what it smells like. I’ve been the perpetrator to these babies, to these women," she said. "Life is a core tenet of who we are as Americans.".
Speaker removed from RNC lineup over QAnon tweet
Trump was expecting to get a heartfelt boost for his border security policies from the mother of a Mesa, Arizona, police officer killed by an undocumented immigrant six years ago.
But Mary Ann Mendoza sent an incendiary tweet earlier Tuesday promoting a debunked, anti-Semitic conspiracy from the right-wing movement QAnon.
The tweet, linking to a thread from @WarNuse, claimed that the Rothschilds, a wealthy Jewish banking family from Germany, were involved in global plots over centuries, including the sinking of the Titanic and the assassination of President John Kennedy, to prevent non-Jews from accumulating power and money.
As a result of the backlash, the Trump campaign removed the video featuring Mendoza's remarks from their convention lineup shortly before it was set to air.
QAnon is a baseless conspiracy theory that alleges that there is a "deep state" run by political elites, business leaders and Hollywood celebrities with ties to a child sex trafficking ring. In addition to claiming that "deep state" members are pedophiles, the theory insists that they are actively working against President Donald Trump.
The online movement started in the fall of 2017 on internet message boards, with posts from a self-proclaimed government insider who calls himself “Q.”
The episode highlighted what critics describe as an unsettling relationship between Trump and QAnon. Trump last week said he didn't know much about the movement but welcomed support from its followers, adding that he heard they "like me very much" and "love our country."
Trump has praised Marjorie Taylor Greene, a GOP House candidate in Georgia who is a QAnon supporter as a “future Republican Star."
Mendoza apologized for her tweet, saying she had not read the entire thread and it "does not reflect my feelings or personal thoughts whatsoever."
She founded Angel Families, an organization that advocates for tougher immigration policies. Her son, Mesa Police Sgt. Brandon Mendoza was killed by an illegal immigrant who was drunk on May 12, 2014, in a head-on collision on his way home from work.
Mendoza is a long-time Trump supporter, having spoken at his rallies in Phoenix, during the 2016 campaign. She also spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention.