By Monica Chen
GREENVILLE – Former President Donald Trump returned to North Carolina on Saturday and gave a rousing speech at the N.C. Republican Party Convention, where he blasted President Joe Biden, said critical race theory should be banned, slammed China on COVID-19, spoke on election fraud and his team’s continued legal efforts, and touted his accomplishments in office.
Trump also endorsed Rep. Ted Budd, R-N.C., for Richard Burr’s senate seat.
Daughter-in-law Lara Trump announced she will not run this year.
It was the former president’s first major appearance since leaving office,
and he delivered the speech in a more low-key manner than at his campaign
rallies. However, Trump did not hold back in criticizing Democrats and in
particular the Far Left.
“It’s great to be back in Greenville with so many proud North Carolina
patriots who love our country, support our military, respect our police, honor
our flag and always put America first. We don’t put America second,” Trump said in kicking off his speech.
And Trump immediately criticized the Left. “They stick together. They don’t
have some of the people like we have where they go on their own and they do
what they have to,” he said. “They stick together, and that’s the one thing
“Joe Biden and the socialist Democrats are the most radical left-wing
administration in history. Even Bernie Sanders can’t believe it,” he added,
drawing laughter from the audience. “The survival of America depends upon our ability to elect Republicans at every level, starting with the mid-terms next year. We have to get it done.”
The event, held at the Greenville Convention Center, also featured other big names on the political stage, in North Carolina and nationally. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem spoke in the morning. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., and former Gov. Pat McCrory spoke in smaller sessions. Foxx, Noem and Trump’s speeches were open to the press.
The event drew an estimated 1,250 attendees, according to the NCGOP. The energy was high at the convention center and around Greenville as delegates, organizations, political hopefuls, and vendors decked out with Trump signs and T-shirts all flocked to the event. Vendors and demonstrators carrying signs and flags also gathered outside, staying for most of the hot and humid day.
“We weren’t able to get tickets, but maybe we will get to see Trump in the motorcade,” said Ashley Heath, who held up a flag with her family across from the convention center. Heath had traveled from Pikeville.
Heath said she liked that Trump supports the military. On President Joe Biden, she said, “You have to keep your word with me. And he hasn’t kept his word in really anything.”
Other attendees and demonstrators held similar views on Biden.
Dale Woodlief, carrying a flag for 2nd Amendment rights, said of Trump, “He made America great again.” When asked if he liked any of Biden’s policies, Woodlief said, “Zero. Nothing.”
“We want the truth to come out. The election and everything, COVID, controlling the population,” he added.
Saturday was Trump’s third trip to Greenville in as many years. In July 2019, his rally made headlines worldwide when the crowd chanted, “Send her back!” about Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.
In 2020, Trump held a campaign rally in Greenville in October and the event was decidedly less controversial, drawing an audience that wanted to hear more about his ideas in the run-up to the election.
On Saturday, Trump made headlines again by endorsing Ted Budd, who had announced in April that he will run for the Senate. The Congressman represents North Carolina’s 13th district, which includes Randolph, Alamance, Davidson counties and part of Chatham County.
The endorsement boosts Budd in a crowded field with McCrory and Democrat Cheri Beasley, former chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court, having already announced they are running.
Budd thanked Trump and Lara Trump. “In 2016, I was in a 17-way race. I was the business guy that never ran for office. … Lara, your father-in-law and you, you fought for me in 2018,” he said. “We got a lot of hard work ahead.”
Highlights from Trump’s speech
Trump said 2022 and 2024 will be banner years for Republicans in North Carolina.
Touting his administration’s accomplishments, he said, “Before the pandemic came into our shores, we were doing numbers that, in history, there’s never been anything like it. Unemployment for every group was the best it’s ever been.”
“The Biden administration seems to be putting America last,” Trump said. “48,000 jobs were lost by President Biden’s day one rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. Why?”
“They’re going back more rapidly than anyone ever thought possible. Nobody ever thought that they could do this kind of destruction to our country so quickly. Some of those executive orders that are signed are absolutely insane,” Trump said.
Trump did not hold back on his thoughts on Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the president. “Not a great doctor, but a great promoter,” Trump said. “He likes television.” At this, the audience laughed.
Trump called the Paris Climate Accord “a terrible deal that is pro-China, pro-Russia, and anti-American.” “It will cost America trillions of dollars over the years,” he said.
One of the biggest applauses Trump received on Saturday was when he spoke about China. “The time has come for America and the world to demand reparations and accountability from the Communist Party of China,” he said. “We should all declare within one unified voice that China must pay. The United States should immediately take steps to phase in a firm 100 percent tariff on all goods made in China.”
At this, the audience gave him a standing ovation.
Trump also laid into Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “Zuckerberg broke the law spending millions of dollars. Don’t you think he broke the law?” he said. “They say they may allow me back in two years. I’m not too interested in that.”
On fraud during the 2020 elections and Trump’s team’s continued legal battles, he said, “Between the impeachment hoax number one, impeachment hoax number two, they said, ‘Ah sh–, we failed. Let’s send it to the radical left prosecutors in New York, maybe they can have more luck’,” Trump said. “They’ll never stop until November of 2024. There’s no better example of the Democrat and media corruption than the 2020 election hoax.”
“I’m not the one trying to undermine Democracy,” Trump said. “I’m the one trying to save it, please remember that.”
“Our movement is far from over. In fact, it is just getting started,” Trump said toward the end of his speech.
Noem: “We need you to say, ‘Yes’”
The NCGOP Convention kicked off with speeches by Foxx and Noem.
“We’re not going to let the Far Left take this country from us,” Foxx said. “We’ve got to double down in 2022.”
Noem spoke about keeping South Dakota free from lockdowns amid COVID-19, praised the state’s high gross domestic product, and of her experiences rising from being a farmer to governor.
Some of the biggest cheers she received were she sniped at Gov. Roy Cooper. “You send amazing people to Washington in your delegation. Not governors,” she said, to applause and laughter.
“I’m going to help you get a new governor,” she added.
Noem described her disappointment at reactions to lockdown orders and media bans. “The media used fear to control people. And the Left used fear to promote their agenda,” she said. “I watched people across this country just roll over and give up their freedom of assembly. Government tells me I can’t be with people? OK.”
As she ended her speech, Noem urged the audience to get more involved, support candidates and talk about their own experiences. “We need you to say, ‘Yes,’” she said. “You may find you have a gift or a talent that you didn’t know you had.”