Video of the incident, which became a flash point in the national debate over racial inequality, showed that the protesters at no point physically threatened the couple.
The president’s remarks were the latest example of his refusal to acknowledge the racial discrimination that even many in his own party have said must be addressed. But Mr. Trump, who recently retweeted a video of a supporter shouting “white power” and said he would oppose a bipartisan effort in Congress to remove Confederate names from military bases, has displayed no intention of trying to bridge the country’s racial divide.
Asked in the CBS interview how he felt about the use of the Confederate battle flag in public settings like NASCAR races, the president said: “With me, it’s freedom of speech. Very simple. Like it, don’t like it, it’s freedom of speech.”
Asked if he understood that the flag was a painful symbol to many people as a reminder of slavery, Mr. Trump said, “Well, people love it and I don’t view — I know people that like the Confederate flag and they’re not thinking about slavery.” He added, “I just think it’s freedom of speech, whether it’s Confederate flags or Black Lives Matter or anything else you want to talk about.”
Four months into a pandemic that has cost more than 136,000 lives in the United States, and nearly two months after the killing of a Black man by a Minneapolis police officer sparked a nationwide outpouring of anger over racial injustice, Mr. Trump still only rarely mentions the pain that both crises have caused many Americans. Rather than offer sympathy and compassion, he provokes and attacks.
His comments in the interviews on Tuesday — a day when Florida again surpassed its previous record for coronavirus deaths while Republicans pressed ahead with plans to hold their convention in Jacksonville next month — came as he used a news conference that was ostensibly for announcing new legislation targeting China to thrash his opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
“His agenda is the most extreme platform of any major party nominee, by far, in American history,” Mr. Trump said, calling Mr. Biden’s career a “gift to the Chinese Communist Party.”