The Smithsonian’s Secretary and the former founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Lonnie G. Bunch III, shared a story from his upcoming memoir with The Washington Post. Bunch offered an excerpt that details his experience giving Donald Trump a tour of the museum before he took office in 2017.
The story started off on a disappointing, yet unsurprising, foot, with Trump requesting to shut down public access to the museum on Martin Luther King Jr. Day so he could be given a private tour. Bunch turned down this absurd expectation: “The notion that we could shut out visitors on the first King holiday since the opening of the museum was not something I could accept.”
The downhill slide continues from there, as Trump arrives for his visit on another day, but his aides inform Bunch that he was in a “was in a foul mood and that he did not want to see anything ‘difficult.’ ” Once again, Bunch refused to compromise. As he explains in the memoir, “It was not my job to make the rough edges of history smooth, even for the president.”
This stomach-turning tale reaches a climax when Trump stared at a label in the exhibit on the Dutch slave trade and – after a period during which Bunch presumed Trump was pondering the information – then turned to say, “You know, they love me in the Netherlands.’” “There is little I remember about the rest of the hour we spent together,” Bunch then writes. “I was so disappointed in his response to one of the greatest crimes against humanity in history,” he continues. “Here was a chance to broaden the views and the understanding of the incoming president and I had been less successful than I had expected.”
After Trump’s narcissistic remark, Bunch was left biting his tongue again. “All I could say was let’s continue walking.”
Bunch’s memoir, “A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama and Trump”, comes out on September 24.