The fourth night of the Republican National Convention was marked by more "be very afraid" rhetoric projecting an apocalyptic vision of life in a Joe Biden presidency, while providing a platform for prominent anti-LGBTQ+ types such as Franklin Graham and Ben Carson.
As on the three previous nights, speakers Thursday delivered numerous distortions and outright untruths, exaggerating Donald Trump's accomplishments and painting the Democratic presidential nominee as a dangerous radical, or at least the puppet of dangerous radicals.
In a break from tradition, Trump formally accepted his nomination and gave the closing speech on the south lawn of the White House to a crowd largely without masks or social distancing. The White House is generally not used for campaign events, at least not so extensively as Trump has; also, his wife, Melania Trump, gave a convention speech from the White House's Rose Garden two nights ago. And in an act that appears to violate federal law against government employees (except the president) from engaging in partisan politics, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a convention speech Tuesday from Jerusalem.
Donald Trump's speech, which lasted 70 minutes, contained many of the falsehoods that were heard from other speakers throughout the convention: that Biden supports defunding the police (he doesn't -- he is for reforms but would increase funding for community policing); that the military was depleted under President Obama's administration, in which Biden was vice president (it wasn't); that the U.S. has achieved energy independence (no); and that Trump's response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been appropriate and exemplary, when nearly 180,000 people have died.
And he returned again and again to the idea that Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, would allow rampant crime in the streets. "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."
"Joe Biden is weak," Trump said. "He takes his marching orders from liberal hypocrites. ... They want to defund the police while they have armed guards for themselves." Biden, the president said, would be a puppet of people such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
Trump repeated the baseless claim that Obama and Biden spied on his presidential campaign, something also touted Wednesday by Richard Grenell, the former ambassador and acting national security adviser who was Trump's highest-ranking openly gay appointee.
And in one of his most preposterous statements, Trump said, "I have done more for the African-American community than any president since Abraham Lincoln, our first Republican president." Not only has the Republican Party changed a great deal since Lincoln's time (the Democratic Party has as well), Trump's record does not support his boast.
"Historians say this claim is ridiculous," notes The Washington Post, which has been fact-checking the convention. "Trump has taken few actions specifically on behalf of African Americans. "Lincoln freed the enslaved people in the Confederacy and pressed for passage of constitutional amendments to give them equal status under the law. Lyndon B. Johnson [a Democrat] signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which also had lasting impact on the lives of African Americans. These legislative victories were not easy, requiring Johnson to build coalitions with moderate Republicans and liberal Democrats to defeat the powerful segregationists in his own party who dominated the South. Trump is never one to be modest, but this kind of bragging is simply ridiculous."
Among Trump's other assertions were that "cancel culture" is seeking to ruin the nation by silencing conservative views (when he has tried to silence many of his critics and called journalists enemies of the people); that Democrats are hostile to religion and take away Second Amendment rights to gun ownership and other constitutional rights (no); and that Biden supports abortion up till the moment of birth (he doesn't).
Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who is now Trump's personal lawyer, also struck the "law and order" theme, saying cities run by Democratic mayors, like current New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, have been overrun by crime.
"Murders, shootings, and violent crime are increasing at percentages unheard of in the past," he said, something the statistics don't bear out, according to The New York Times. "We are seeing the return of rioting and looting."
"Don't let Democrats do to America what they have done to New York!" he added.
He claimed the "antifa" movement, along with Black Lives Matter, has incited violence at protests over police brutality. Actually, "antifa," short for "antifascist," is a term for "a decentralized network of activists who don't coordinate -- and consequently, did not conspire with anyone on any kind of scale -- including Black Lives Matter," the Post notes. And the overwhelming majority of protesters have been peaceful, including those associated with BLM.
This week, Kenosha, Wis., has been the site of many protests after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot several times in the back by a police officer; he was seriously injured and remains hospitalized. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, appearing Thursday, was the first speaker at the convention to specifically mention Blake.
"Before I begin, I'd like to say that our hearts go out to the Blake family and the other families who have been impacted by the tragic events in Kenosha," Carson said. "As Jacob's mother has urged the country, let's use our hearts, our love, and our intelligence to work together to show the rest of the world how humans are supposed to treat each other. History reminds us that necessary change comes through hope and love, not senseless and destructive violence."
He also defended Trump against charges of racism, saying, "Many on the other side love to incite division by claiming that President Trump is a racist. They could not be more wrong."
Carson did not mention LGBTQ+ people or issues, but historically his love has not extended to them. He has long opposed marriage equality and has made many anti-transgender remarks, and HUD has released a rule allowing nonprofits that receive its funds to discriminate in admission to homeless shelters.
Another longtime anti-LGBTQ+ activist who received a platform was the Rev. Franklin Graham, who delivered the invocation, thanking God for Trump and for the "blessings" of the past four years. He also did not mention LGBTQ+ people, but his record is all too clear: He has said gay politician Pete Buttigieg should not take pride in his identity but repent of his "sin"; has praised Russia's "gay propaganda" law; and even, in 2005, said Hurricane Katrina was sent to bring spiritual revival to New Orleans, which he described as "a city that has strong ties to the gay and lesbian movement."
Graham's daughter Cissie Graham Lynch spoke to the convention Tuesday, misgendering trans people and painting them as predators, and praising Trump's efforts to see that adoption agencies don't have to "violate their deeply held beliefs" -- that is, he favors allowing them to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people while receiving taxpayer funds.
Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBTQ+ rights group, released this statement summing up the convention: "Throughout the week, the Republican Party has layered lies on top of lies in its attempt to create an alternate America. An America without COVID-19, without systemic racism and the racial reckoning our nation is facing -- an America without facts. They included 'Gaslight Grenell' but snubbed LGBTQ equality, and went so far as to include speakers spewing transphobia.
"But in 67 days, they will get a reality check. On and before November 3, Equality Voters across the nation will have their voices heard and cast their ballots for the most pro-equality ticket in history: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Together, we will turn the page on Donald Trump, Mike Pence and their administration of 'alternative facts' and take back the People's House for all the people."