(CNN)President Donald Trump was able to hold a Fox News interview at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday night only because of a directive from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt relaxing the rules around events inside the space, The New York Times reported Monday.
“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, I am exercising my authority to facilitate the opportunity for the President to conduct this address within the Lincoln Memorial,” Bernhardt wrote in an order issued Friday.
Two people familiar with the planning told the Times that the White House originally agreed to host the event on the steps of the memorial but later communicated that the interview would take place inside, where most events are prohibited.
A White House official told the newspaper it was a “joint decision” with Fox News to hold the interview inside the memorial — though three people involved in the planning process told the Times the decision had come from the White House.
During the Sunday night interview, Fox News anchor Bret Baier said the choice in venue had come from the White House and had created controversy, prompting the President to respond: “I thought it was your choice, not ours?”
“And I had not heard, what can you criticize? I don’t think it’s ever been done, what we’re doing tonight here, and I think it’s great for the American people to see,” Trump said.
But the Lincoln Memorial served as more than a backdrop during the interview. At one point, Trump compared his treatment as President to that of Lincoln, who was assassinated after emancipating the slaves during the Civil War.
“I am greeted with a hostile press the likes of which no president has ever seen,” he said.
“The closest would be that gentleman right up there,” Trump said, pointing to the 16th President’s statue. “They always said nobody got treated worse than Lincoln. I believe I am treated worse.”