Frederick Douglass' family said in a statement Wednesday night that they approved of President Trump honoring the long-dead icon in the "present tense"

By Tierney McAfee
Updated February 02, 2017 11:58 AM

President Donald Trump was ridiculed on social media on Wednesday after he referred to iconic slave-turned-abolitionist Frederick Douglass in the present tense during an event celebrating Black History Month at the White House.

But Douglass’ family said in a statement Wednesday night that they not only approved of the president’s usage of the “present tense” — they also use it themselves.

“Like the president, we use the present tense when referencing Douglass’ accomplishments because his spirit and legacy are still very much alive, not just during Black History Month, but every month,” the family said in a statement posted on The Huffington Post.

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While praising black icons in a “listening” session at the White House on Wednesday, Trump told a group that included some of his black aides and supporters: “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”

The Internet was quick to respond to Trump’s comments, with many questioning whether the president knew that Douglass is in fact dead. (He died in 1895.)

Asked about Trump’s comments during a press conference later on Wednesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer confounded some by also referring to Douglass in the present tense.

“I think [President Trump] wants to highlight the contributions that [Douglass] has made,” Spicer said. “And I think through a lot of the actions and statements that he’s going to make, I think the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more.”