President Trump, who has railed against the "cancel culture," refused to let the coronavirus pandemic close down a grand Fourth of July celebration in Washington, despite objections from local officials over rising infection rates.
Four flyovers over East Coast cities, a D.C. military air show, music and fireworks are all on tap for the "Salute to America" celebration to honor America's 244th birthday Saturday. Trump is expected to speak at 7 p.m. from the White House lawn.
Trump will give patriotic remarks that celebrate America's founding and the triumphs of American history. He'll honor the military and inspire people to love their country by evoking its greatest virtues, heroes and accomplishments, according to a White House aide briefing on the president's speech.
"He is appealing to the very best in the American character, which is a logical extension of last night’s speech. The Salute to America is one of the best things President Trump does," the aide told Fox News. "He wants to give Americans a worthy show on the Fourth of July — and today's event will be even more grand than last year's in terms of the number of flyovers!"
Trump already kicked off the Independence Day weekend with a defiant speech at Mount Rushmore Friday where he stood up to the "cancel culture" of racial justice activists and those who are trying to wipe out American history, tear down statues and defame heroes.
Just hours before his White House address Saturday, Trump retweeted a post from a conservative author pointing out the hypocrisy from the "PC Coronavirus Police" that protesting America is safe, but celebrating America is unsafe.
Trump seeks to make a sharp contrast to presumptive White House opponent Joe Biden, who put out an Independence Day message saying America has never lived up to the founding idea of equality — evoking slavery and George Floyd's death — and called on the country to address "systemic racism." The Trump aide called Biden's message to Americans on the Fourth of July "truly shocking."
"Biden opens by saying that America has 'NEVER lived up to' our ideals, then goes on to denigrate Thomas Jefferson, evoke a series of the very worst moments of our history, accuse the country of systemic racism, cast us as a bad people whose conscience is 'gnawed at' by principles he says we have 'never' embodied, and then go on to say 'American history is no fairy tale,' and suggest that only by voting for him can America redeem itself from this terrible story," the Trump aide said.
As the coronavirus is far from contained — with more than 50,000 new cases daily — public health officials have warned against large-scale gatherings and cities have minimized celebrations by canceling fireworks, closing beaches and even banning spectators at Nathan’s Famous July Fourth hot dog-eating contest.
COVID-19 cases have grown at a rate not experienced even during the deadliest phase of the pandemic in the spring, with Florida health officials recording another record-breaking day.
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser raised objections about the fireworks celebration at the nation's capital, but noted she doesn't control the federal land. She warned the federal government about the dangers of such a large crowd and told her constituents: “Just because someone invites you to a party doesn’t mean you have to go."
The Department of Interior has planned a major celebration with more than 10,000 fireworks that are expected to light up the National Mall. The fireworks will kick off around 9 p.m. and last about 35 minutes.
Officials said they would hand out 300,000 face coverings to spectators at the National Mall. Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt said visitors would be encouraged to wear masks and keep a six-foot distance from one another. But there was no indication masks would be mandatory.
Kicking off the celebration, military flyovers saluted the skies in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore. The military planes will then join the larger air show in Washington, D.C., that will begin around 6:30 p.m. with a demonstration by the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team and a 21-gun salute by the military’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, known as The Old Guard
The White House says this year's celebration will have a "different look than 2019" due to the coronavirus concerns.
Last year, Trump held a big Independence Day event on the National Mall with armored military vehicles on display and gave a speech from the Lincoln Memorial — to the dismay of Democrats who accused Trump of trying to politicize the holiday.
This year, Trump and the First Lady Melania Trump invited front line workers and their families to the White House to watch the airshows and fireworks. Police, doctors, nurses, and members of the military are invited.
"The American people have shown tremendous courage and spirit, particularly our amazing frontline workers, in the fight against this global pandemic just as our forefathers did in the fight to secure our independence, and both deserve celebration on America’s birthday this year," White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.
The White House stressed that social distancing will be observed and facial coverings and personal hand sanitizer will be provided.
Fox News' John Roberts and the Associated Press contributed to this report.