Donald Trump Jr. — the president’s son — on Thursday wished Utahns and Latter-day Saints a happy Pioneer Day while trumpeting that is father is a pioneer, too.
“While in Washington, D.C., they may call people like my father and myself outsiders, here in the West they actually call them pioneers,” he said in a call to regional reporters. “Pioneers are people who embody the innovative spirit, curiosity and optimism that is uniquely American.”
While he honored pioneers briefly, Trump Jr. also made clear that his media call aimed mostly to seek national support from members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“My father really especially recognizes the enormous contribution Latter-day Saints have made to make America the greatest nation in the world,” he said, “and is committed to uplifting and empowering all communities of faith.”
How important are Utah — where the president won just a 45.5% plurality four years ago — and Latter-day Saints to success of his campaign this year?
“I think they’re going to be important,” Trump Jr. said responding to a question from The Salt Lake Tribune. “I’m not so concerned about [winning] Utah as a state. I mean, I think it’s a very conservative state. But I do think it’s important to sort of energize the LDS community. I think that’s going to be important.”
Trump Jr. — who was fishing in Utah on Thursday, and often visits the state for recreation — adds that he understands why some Latter-day Saints have been skeptical about his father.
“I spoke with many of you in 2016. Would Donald Trump deliver for religious liberty? Would Donald Trump be as pro-life as he said he’s going to be? If your children are off on their missions and something happens, is Donald Trump going to bring them back?” he said.
“Guess what? He’s delivered on all of those promises — probably more so than any conservative, any president in modern history,” Trump said. “So I would imagine the community is much more in sync with Donald Trump right now.”
He ticked off several reasons why his says Latter-day Saints should support his father, as well as predicting that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden might undermine many of their values.
“Courting the LDS community has always been a priority of the Trump administration that started really in December 2017. My father visited the great state of Utah after the historic Bear’s Ears announcement” to shrink that national monument created by former President Barack Obama.
The president then toured Welfare Square and met with some church leaders, and “was really impressed by the church’s dedication to serving the most vulnerable among us worldwide,” Trump Jr. said.
He noted the president invited LDS General Relief Society President Jean B. Bingham to offer a prayer at the White House during the national day of prayer in 2018, and later the same day “signed an executive order to ensure that faith based organizations have strong advocates in the White House.”
Also in 2018, he said then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke attended the Days of ’47 Rodeo and read a proclamation from the president celebrating the efforts of the first men and women to make their way to the new frontier.”
The younger Trump said those are some examples of how the president has “stood hand-in-hand with the LDS community while protecting religious liberties for all. This is in stark contrast to Joe Biden’s campaign, where his priorities seem to lie very, very far off.”
He added, “Because of Joe Biden’s total embrace of counterculture, they’ve canceled the police. They’ve canceled historic monuments, the national anthem and the list goes on and on. What’s next? Dare I say it be our Christian faith?”
Trump also said Biden “can’t remember where he is 50% of the time,” and “he confuses his wife and his sister. That would get me in a lot of trouble.”
Trump praised work by LDS members to protect religious freedom and embrace the American dream and said, “Protecting those freedoms is at stake this Election Day.”
Scott Howell, a former Utah Senate minority leader who is a surrogate for the Biden campaign, bristled at Trump’s comments.
“Taking pot shots at the vice president, negative campaigning, has never won over Utahns in the past nor will it work in the future,” he wrote in an email. “Utah families won’t forget Trump’s inability to lead our country during this pandemic.”
Howell noted that some polls have shown Biden within 3 points of Trump in Utah, and said Biden will “continue to garner great support among all political parties and individuals who want stability and predictability in their commander in chief, not what we have been receiving the past 3½ years.”
Trump Jr. was also scheduled to appear at an event Thursday for Burgess Owens, the GOP nominee in the 4th Congressional District running against Rep. Ben McAdams. “We need more pioneers and outsiders, like Burgess, in Washington, D.C.,” he said.