When blaring truck horns intruded on President Donald Trump's Friday speech in the White House Rose Garden about the search for a coronavirus vaccine, Trump claimed that this was the sound of a pro-Trump protest.
"And you hear that outside, that beautiful sound -- those are truckers that are with us all the way. They are protesting in favor of President Trump, as opposed to against," Trump said. "There's hundreds of trucks out there, and that's the sign of love. Not the sign of your typical protest. So I want to thank our great truckers. They like me and I like them."
At another Rose Garden speech later in the day, Trump said, "Those are friendly truckers. They're on our side. It's almost a celebration, in a way."
Trump had made a similar claim about the protesters in an interview he taped Wednesday with Fox Business's Maria Bartiromo. When Trump asked Bartiromo if she knew what the sound in the background was, she correctly said, "Trucking protesters, right?" Trump responded, "Well, they're not protesters. They're supporters of me."
Facts First: All three of Trump's claims were false. The truckers who have lined streets near the White House since May 1 are indeed protesters, not people holding any kind of celebration -- and they are protesting a variety of issues affecting their jobs, not protesting in favor of Trump. In fact, one of their complaints is about what they say is lax federal enforcement of a regulation requiring more transparency from freight brokers.
The truckers' grievances are numerous and varied. They include what they say are unfairly low freight rates during the coronavirus pandemic, price-gouging by the brokers, ill-conceived safety regulations and permissive federal attitudes toward the autonomous vehicles that threaten their occupation.
Greg Anderson, who said he has been in the trucking business for 33 years, told CNN earlier on Friday that Trump had "lied on national television" with his remark to Bartiromo about how the protesters are not protesters at all.
"This is a protest," Anderson said. "Mr. Trump elaborated that we were here to support him. Our message to him would be this is a protest against bad regulation, broker transparency, truck insurance, so on and so forth. This is not here to support Trump. We're here to get resolution and bring awareness to our problem and fix our problems."
Recent trucker protests in other cities have raised issues similar to the ones being discussed in Washington.
There were pro-Trump messages visible on some of the trucks that lined Constitution Avenue on Friday morning. But participating truckers, many of whom are independent owner-operators, emphasized that they were not there for the purpose of praising the President.
"There are people here that in fact love Trump, there are people here that in fact do not," Michael Landis, chief executive of the United States Transportation Alliance advocacy non-profit and a truck owner-operator who is part of the protest, told CNN on Friday afternoon. "This is about trying to get his attention so we can speak directly with him about a lot of issues we're having here in the trucking industry, because we've tried other avenues and have been unsuccessful."
Trucker and protester Brian Brase echoed those comments in an interview with CNN before Trump's Friday comments.
"This is not a protest in support of Donald Trump or a rally for Trump. Not that we're against him by any means. Most of these guys here actually probably voted for him, honestly. But we've been let down by the administration, by (Transportation) Secretary Elaine Chao, by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration)," he said.
Trump expressed support for truckers in a May 3 tweet, and he had some red hats handed out to protest participants. He endorsed one of the protest's chief complaints in a Fox News interview on May 8, saying truckers are being "price gouged." (Brokers deny the gouging accusation, saying prices are so low because there are too many truckers chasing too little freight during the pandemic.)
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows came out to meet with the protesters on Wednesday, the industry website The Trucker reported -- asking Landis about their concerns and telling them, "The President has heard you, and he wants us to get something done." Meadows also promised to speak to Attorney General William Barr about the broker transparency issues, The Trucker reported.
The administration announced Thursday that it was changing a federal rule to give drivers more flexibility over their rest and hours of service. Landis described this as a step forward but insufficient.