The president framed the 2020 election as a crossroads for America as he spoke amid unrest in Kenosha, Wis., and a hurricane in Louisiana and Texas. Rudy Giuliani, Tom Cotton, Ben Carson and Ivanka Trump also addressed the convention.
Addressing a maskless crowd of supporters seated close together on the South Lawn of the White House, President Trump on Thursday night accepted his party’s presidential nomination, telling his supporters that all of his achievements were “now in danger” because of the looming threat of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
In a long address that sounded in tone and delivery much like his State of the Union addresses, Mr. Trump ticked back and forth between touting his own achievements and maligning his opponent, relying on misleading claims to do both.
“We’re here and they’re not,” he said at one point, referencing the White House behind him, even though he has been widely criticized for using holding a partisan event on government property.
Mr. Trump began his remarks with an acknowledgment of “the wonderful people who have just come through the wrath of Hurricane Laura,” but notably made no mention of the 180,000 American lives lost to the coronavirus pandemic until much later in his address, when he used a racist term to refer to the virus and called the deaths it had caused “so unnecessary.”
He quickly diverged from the positive, optimistic vision that the convention planners had sought to project all week as he launched a direct attack on Mr. Biden and a defense of his own record.
“Everything we’ve achieved is now in danger,” he said. “This election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life or allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it.”
While Mr. Biden did not mention Mr. Trump by name in his nominating speech, Mr. Trump spoke directly about Mr. Biden in his, casting his opponent in dark and misleading terms.
“Joe Biden is not the savior of America’s soul,” he said. “He is the destroyer of America’s jobs, and if given the chance, he will be the destroyer of America’s greatness.”
Ignoring his own troubled history of bragging about sexual misconduct and the allegations of sexual assault against him, Mr. Trump made a dig referring to Mr. Biden’s handsy approach to politicking, which came under scrutiny last year.
The president claimed that during Mr. Biden’s career in public office, the former vice president “took the donations of blue-collar workers, gave them hugs, and even kisses.”
Mr. Trump paused for the audience to chuckle at the reference.
During a speech read from a teleprompter, with little of the free-wheeling, stream of consciousness style typically associated with Mr. Trump’s public remarks, he made little mention of the distress that has swept the country in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the more recent shooting of Jacob Blake, focusing instead on what he called the “anarchists, agitators, rioters, looters and flag-burners.”
And he tried to portray himself as the candidate whose policies are backed by science and designed for the working people of America. The president’s advisers have been trying to frame the potential for another widespread lockdown as something that only the upper middle class and coastal elites who can work from home would be able to handle, which Mr. Trump alluded to as he brought up Mr. Biden’s remark that he would be willing to shut down the country again if necessary.
“The cost of the Biden shutdown would be measured in increased drug overdoses, depression, alcohol addiction, suicides, heart attacks, economic devastation, job loss, into much more,” he said. “Joe Biden’s plan is not a solution to the virus, but rather it is a surrender to the virus.”
He claimed that he was basing his response on “the science, the facts, and the data,” even though the number of positive cases has risen where schools and businesses have reopened.
Mr. Trump also claimed that Mr. Biden, a moderate Democrat, was a pawn of the left, who would “demolish the suburbs, confiscate your guns, and appoint justices who will wipe away your Second Amendment and other Constitutional freedoms.”
Mr. Trump for the most part stuck to his prepared remarks. He did at one point ad-lib a line about the baseless theory he has been promoting for years — that President Barack Obama had spied on his campaign. “Remember this,” He said. “They spied on my campaign and they got caught. Let’s see now what happens.”
Mr. Trump’s address ended with fireworks just before midnight at the Washington Monument, another use of federal property for political purposes.