President Donald Trump defended the Christopher Columbus federal holiday and gave a shout-out to Mother Frances Cabrini during a reception celebrating Italian heritage with Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Wednesday night.
Trump said as long as he’s around, the national holiday honoring the Italian explorer will not be replaced by Indigenous Peoples Day, which Democratic presidential candidates including Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris support.
“On Monday, our nation commemorated the legendary achievements of an intrepid Italian explorer: Christopher Columbus,” Trump said to applause during the White House reception.
“And today, from Columbus Circle — and you know all about Columbus Circle. We love Columbus Circle in New York. And Columbus, Ohio — what a great place that is. To our nation’s capital, the District of Columbia, his memory stands as an enduring testament to the daring spirit that built our great civilization,” the president said.
“And as long as I have anything to say about this — and I hope that’s going to be a long time — it will always be Columbus Day,” Trump said to thunderous cheers.
The monument honoring the navigator in Columbus Circle — which survived an attempt to have it removed — was listed on the National Register of Historic Places last year.
Mayor Bill de Blasio had formed a committee to decide whether certain monuments and works of art in the city should stay or go after Confederate monuments were removed or relocated in the South.
The committee spared the Columbus statue, which critics said glorified the explorer whose “discovery” of North America contributed to deadly epidemics, genocide and the enslavement of indigenous people and Africans.
But the mayor said the statue of Columbus would be altered to include mention of the negative side of his exploits.
While rattling off the names of Italian-American icons and their contributions to the United States, Trump also mentioned Mother Frances Cabrini, the Catholic saint of immigrants. Italian-American activists in the city were outraged at First Lady Chirlane McCray’s decision not to include a Cabrini statue in a project honoring historically significant New York women.
Trump, a native New Yorker, may have been paying attention to the controversy — he rattled off a list of Italian-Americans “From Mother Cabrini, to the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia” who have contributed to US history.
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