Before Lonnie G. Bunch III became the secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, he was the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. When Donald Trump first became president, Bunch gave him a private tour of the museum – and what happened that day disappointed the then-director enough that he wrote about it in his upcoming memoir.
The Washington Post reported that, in Bunch’s memoir, he describes how at first, the Trump administration requested that the president and Secretary of Housing and Development Ben Carson be given a private tour on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which would entail closing the museum to the public.
“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,” Bunch wrote in his memoir, the Post reported.
After choosing another day in Feburary 2017, Trump arrived at the museum, where Bunch was first advised by the president’s aides not to show off anything “difficult,” because Trump was in a “foul mood.” However, Bunch says the president greeted him warmly, and so the then-director took him into the history galleries, which begin with an exhibit on the global slave trade.
Trump paused in front of a display on Dutch involvement in the slave trade, at which point Bunch “felt that maybe he was paying attention to the work of the museum.” But then the president turned to his guide and said “You know, they love me in the Netherlands,” before continuing on.
“There is little I remember about the rest of the hour we spent together. I was so disappointed in his response to one of the greatest crimes against humanity in history,” Bunch wrote. “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.”
Bunch did note that he was enthusiastic when viewing a display about Carson’s career as a neuroscientist, along with a display about Muhammad Ali. The president later wrote on Twitter that the day had been “amazing.”
“Very much enjoyed my tour of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture…,” Trump tweeted on February 22, 2017. “A great job done by amazing people!”