There was just one catch: While Mr. Trump and many other
presidents have hosted inauguration concerts and gatherings on the
memorial’s steps, any event meant to draw an audience inside the
interior near Daniel Chester French’s sculpture of a seated
Lincoln is prohibited. The area beginning with the marble
staircase where the columns start constitutes a boundary
protected by federal law.
So on Sunday, when the president sat down with two Fox News
anchors at Lincoln’s marbled feet during a coronavirus-focused
virtual “town hall,” it was because a directive issued by
David Bernhardt, the secretary of the interior, had allowed
them to do so.
Mr. Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist whose Senate nomination was
contested by Democrats who pointed to multiple accusations of
conflicts of interest and ethical violations, ordered the
memorial temporarily closed for the event, citing the coronavirus.
“Given the extraordinary crisis that the American people have
endured, and the need for the president to exercise a core
governmental function to address the nation about an ongoing
public-health crisis,” Mr. Bernhardt wrote in an order issued
Friday, “I am exercising my authority to facilitate the
opportunity for the president to conduct this address within the
This was a campaign event, no more, no less. We could argue about it if there had been reporters from even a single legitimate non-state media outlet, but even then we should be opposed — and there were in fact no real reporters. The mere idea of holding this event inside the Lincoln Memorial is disgraceful, let alone that it went through. Our national memorials are sacred ground — not in any religious sense, but in a civic sense. Their symbolism is meaningful.