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Racial views of Donald Trump

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Donald Trump, the President of the United States, has a history of making racially controversial remarks and taking actions widely seen as playing upon racial anxieties in the United States.[1][2][3] Trump has denied accusations of racism by saying, "I am not a racist. I'm the least racist person you will ever interview".[4].

In 1973, Trump and his company Trump Management were sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for housing discrimination against black renters—a lawsuit which, according to Trump, he settled without an admission of guilt.[5][6][7]

In 2011, Trump became the leading proponent of the already discredited "Birtherism" conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the US, and he repeated the claim for the following five years.[8][9] He was accused of racism for maintaining, as late as 2016, that a group of black and Latino teenagers were guilty of raping a white woman in the Central Park jogger case, although an imprisoned serial rapist had confessed in 2002 to raping the jogger alone, and DNA evidence confirmed his guilt.[10][11][12]

Trump launched his 2016 presidential campaign with a speech in which he stated that some Mexican undocumented immigrants are criminals, rapists, or people who bring in drugs. He then stated "some, I assume, are good people". This speech was controversial and, as a result, Trump was accused of calling all Mexican immigrants "rapists" or "criminals".[13][14] Later, his comments about a Mexican-American judge were criticized as racist. He tweeted fake statistics claiming that black Americans are responsible for the majority of murders of whites, and in some speeches he linked African-Americans and Hispanics with violent crime.[15] During his presidency, comments he made following a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia were perceived as implying a moral equivalence between violence used by white supremacist marchers and violence used by those who protested against them. In 2018, during an Oval Office meeting about immigration reform, he referred to El Salvador, Haiti, and African countries as "shitholes"; this comment was internationally condemned as racist.[16][17][18]

Trump's controversial statements have been condemned by many observers in the U.S. and around the world,[6][19][20] but excused by his supporters either as a rejection of political correctness[21][22] or because they harbor similar racial sentiments.[23][24] Several studies and surveys have stated that racist attitudes and racial resentment have fueled Trump's political ascendance, and have become more significant than economic factors in determining party allegiance of voters.[24][25] According to an October 2017 Politico/Morning Consult poll, 45% of American voters view Trump as racist and 40% do not.[26]


Housing discrimination cases

In 1973 the U.S. Department of Justice sued Trump Management, Donald Trump and his father Fred, for discrimination against black people in their renting practices.[27][5] The impetus for the suit was the Trumps' alleged refusal to "rent apartments in one of his developments to African-Americans", violating the Fair Housing Act.

Testers from the New York City Human Rights Division had found that prospective black renters at Trump buildings were told there were no apartments available, while prospective White renters were offered apartments at the same buildings.[28] During the investigation four of Trump's agents admitted to using a "C" or "9" code to show which applicants were Black and stated that they were told their company "discouraged rental to blacks" or that they were "not allowed to rent to black tenants," and that prospective Black renters should be sent to the central office while White renters could have their applications accepted on site. Three doormen testified to being told to discourage prospective Black renters by lying about the rental prices or claiming no vacancies were available.[29][30] A settlement was reached in 1975 where Trump agreed to familiarize himself with the Fair Housing Act, take out ads stating that Black renters were welcome, give a list of vacancies to the Urban League on a weekly basis, and allow the Urban League to present qualified candidates for 20% of vacancies in properties that were less than 10% non-White.[31][32]

The Trump Organization was sued again in 1978 for violating terms of the 1975 settlement by continuing to refuse to rent to black tenants; Trump and his lawyer Roy Cohn denied the charges.[33][34][35] In 1983 the Metropolitan Action Institute noted that two Trump Village properties were still over 95% White.[36]

Central Park jogger case

On the night of April 19, 1989, Trisha Meili was assaulted, raped, and sodomized in Manhattan's Central Park. On the night of the attack, five juvenile males—four African Americans and one of Hispanic descent—were apprehended in connection with a number of attacks in Central Park committed by around 30 teenage perpetrators. The prosecution ignored evidence suggesting there was a single perpetrator whose DNA did not match any of the suspects, instead using confessions that the suspects said were coerced and false.[37] They were convicted in 1990 by juries in two separate trials, receiving sentences ranging from 5 to 15 years. The attacks were highly publicised in the media.[38]

On May 1, 1989, Trump called for the return of the death penalty by taking out a full-page advertisement in all four of the city's major newspapers. He said he wanted the "criminals of every age" who were accused of beating and raping a jogger in Central Park "to be afraid."[39] Trump told Larry King on CNN: "The problem with our society is the victim has absolutely no rights and the criminal has unbelievable rights" and, speaking of another case where a woman was raped and thrown out a window, "maybe hate is what we need if we're gonna get something done."[40]

In 2002, an imprisoned serial rapist confessed to the jogger's rape, which was confirmed by DNA evidence,[41] and the convictions of the five men were vacated. They sued New York City in 2003 for malicious prosecution, racial discrimination, and emotional distress. Lawyers for the five defendants said that Trump's advertisement had inflamed public opinion.[39] The city settled the case for $41 million in 2014. In June of that year, Trump called the settlement "a disgrace" and said that the group's guilt was still likely: "Settling doesn't mean innocence. [...] These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels."[42][43]

In October 2016, when Trump campaigned to be president, he said that Central Park Five were guilty and that their convictions should never have been vacated,[44] attracting criticism from the Central Park Five themselves[45] and others. Republican Senator John McCain retracted his endorsement of Trump, citing in part "outrageous statements about the innocent men in the Central Park Five case."[46] Yusuf Salaam, one of the five defendants, said that he had falsely confessed out of coercion, after having been mistreated by police while in custody.[47] Filmmaker Ken Burns, who directed the documentary The Central Park Five that helped clear the names of the accused, called Trump's comments "the height of vulgarity" and "out and out racism".[10]

Black professionals

In a 1989 interview with Bryant Gumbel, Trump stated: "A well-educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market." Fortune Magazine reported that Trump's statement was not confirmed by studies of factual evidence concerning the impact of an applicant's race on their job prospects.[2]

In his 1991 book Trumped! John O'Donnell quoted Trump as saying:

I've got black accountants at Trump Castle and at Trump Plaza. Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys wearing yarmulkes.... Those are the only kind of people I want counting my money. Nobody else... Besides that, I tell you something else. I think that's guy's lazy. And it's probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks.

In an interview in 1997, he admitted that the information in the book was "probably true". Two years later, when seeking the nomination of the Reform Party for president, he denied having made the statement.[2]


Trump speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2011

In 2011, Trump revived the already discredited Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories that had been circulating since Obama's 2008 presidential campaign,[8][48] and, for the following five years, he played a leading role in the so-called "birther movement".[49][50] In Trump's first speech at CPAC in February 2011, credited with launching his political career within the Republican Party, he claimed that Obama "came out of nowhere. In fact, I'll take it even further: The people who went to school with him, they never saw him. They don't know who he is. It's crazy."[51] After Obama released his long-form birth certificate in 2011, Trump claimed the certificate was a fraud.[8] In September 2016, after Trump campaign surrogates falsely claimed that Trump had accepted Obama's citizenship in 2011,[48] Trump acknowledged that Obama was born in the US, while falsely claiming that it was Hillary Clinton who originally raised questions about Obama's place of birth.[52]

2016 campaign

Mexican immigrants

Proposed Muslim immigration ban

Hispanic judge

In 2013, the State of New York filed a $40 million civil suit against Trump University alleging that the company had made false statements and defrauded consumers.[53][54] Two class-action civil lawsuits were also filed naming Trump personally as well as his companies.[55] During the presidential campaign, Trump criticized Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel who oversaw those two cases, alleging bias in his rulings because of his Mexican heritage.[56][57] Trump said that Curiel would have "an absolute conflict" due to his Mexican heritage which led to accusations of racism.[58] Speaker of the House and a Trump supporter, Republican Paul Ryan commented, "I disavow these comments. Claiming a person can't do the job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment. I think that should be absolutely disavowed. It's absolutely unacceptable."[59]

Somali refugees

In August 2016 Trump campaigned in Maine, which has a large immigrant Somali population. At a rally he said, "We've just seen many, many crimes getting worse all the time, and as Maine knows — a major destination for Somali refugees — right, am I right?" Trump also alluded to risks of terrorism, referring to an incident in June 2016 when three young Somali men were found guilty of planning to join the Islamic State in Syria.[60]

In Lewiston, home to the largest population of Maine Somalis, the police chief said Somalis have integrated into the city and they have not caused an increase in crime; crime is actually going down, not up. The mayor said Lewiston is safe and they all get along. At a Somali support rally following Trump's comments the Portland mayor welcomed the city's Somali residents, saying, "We need you here." Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins commented, "Mr. Trump's statements disparaging immigrants who have come to this country legally are particularly unhelpful. Maine has benefited from people from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and, increasingly, Africa — including our friends from Somalia."[60][61]

Racial accusations on Twitter and in debates

During the 2016 campaign, Trump used his political platform to spread disparaging messages against various racial groups. Trump claimed, "the overwhelming amount of violent crime in our cities is committed by blacks and Hispanics,"[62] that "there's killings on an hourly basis virtually in places like Baltimore and Chicago and many other places,"[63] that "There are places in America that are among the most dangerous in the world. You go to places like Oakland. Or Ferguson. The crime numbers are worse. Seriously," and retweeted a false claim by White nationalists that 81% of White murder victims were killed by Black people.[64] During the campaign Trump was found to have retweeted the main influencers of the #WhiteGenocide movement over 75 times, including twice that he retweeted a user with the handle @WhiteGenocideTM.[65] Trump also falsely claimed that, "African American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they've ever been in before. Ever, ever, ever,"[66] that "You go into the inner cities and you see it's 45 percent poverty, African Americans now 45 percent poverty in the inner cities,"[67] and that "African Americans and Hispanics are living in hell. You walk down the street and you get shot."[68]

Other claims were directed towards President Barack Obama. Trump blamed Obama for protests in Ferguson with "President Obama has absolutely no control (or respect) over the African American community" as well as riots in Baltimore in "Our great African American President hasn't exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore!"[69] Trump also made unsourced claims stating that Obama "wasn't a very good student" who needed some sort of ambiguous help to get into college,[70] suggested that Obama may not have attended courses,[71] repeated on several occasions the conspiracy theory that Obama had Bill Ayers write his book for him,[72] and stated, "Sadly, because president Obama has done such a poor job as president, you won't see another black president for generations!"[73] Trump claimed that Putin used "the N-word" to describe Obama, stating that this showed that Putin has no respect for Obama and that Trump himself would do a better job in such a position.[74]

Trump also suggested that evangelicals shouldn't trust Ted Cruz because Cruz is Cuban and that Jeb Bush "has to like the Mexican illegals because of his wife," who is Mexican American.[69]

Minority outreach during 2016 campaign

According to some polling data during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Trump was receiving little support from African Americans. In a Morning Consult national poll in August 2016, only five percent of black voters said they intend to vote for Trump.[75] However, Trump ended up receiving 8% of the African-American vote (about half a million more votes than Mitt Romney received in 2012).[76] Starting in July and August, in an effort to improve his appeal to black Americans and make a direct appeal for their votes, Trump was vocal in expressing concern for their situations. Speaking in Virginia on August 23, 2016, Trump said, "You're living in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed – what the hell do you have to lose by trying something new, like Trump?" He further said, "Look. It is a disaster the way African-Americans are living...We'll get rid of the crime...You'll be able to walk down the street without getting shot."[77]

Trump's popularity among Hispanic and Latino Americans was low according to polling data; a nationwide survey conducted in February 2016 showed that some 80 percent of Hispanic voters had an unfavorable view of Trump (including 70 percent who had a "very unfavorable" view), more than double the percentage of any other Republican candidate.[78] These low rankings are attributed to Trump campaigning in support of a proposed Mexican border wall and his rhetoric against illegal immigration.[78][79][80] Despite expectations of low Latino support, Trump received about 29% of the Hispanic vote, slightly more than Romney received in 2012.[81]


Immigration policy

On January 27, 2017, via executive order, which he titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, President Trump ordered the U.S border indefinitely closed to Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war. He also abruptly temporarily halted (for 90 days) immigration from six other Muslim-majority nations: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. A religious test would give immigration priority to Christians over Muslims. Human rights activists described these actions as government-approved religious persecution. The order was stayed by Federal courts.[82][83] The Trump White House would go on to issue revised versions of the ban on March 6, 2017 and September 24, 2017.

Black Caucus

In a February 2017 presidential press conference, White House press correspondent April Ryan asked Trump if he would involve the Congressional Black Caucus when making plans for executive orders affecting inner city areas. Trump replied, "Well, I would. I tell you what. Do you want to set up the meeting?" When Ryan said she was just a reporter, Trump pursued, "Are they friends of yours?" The New York Times wrote that Trump was "apparently oblivious to the racial undertones of posing such a query to a black journalist". Journalist Jonathan Capehart commented, "Does he think that all black people know each other and she's going to go run off and set up a meeting for him?"[84]

In March 2017, six members of the Congressional Black Caucus met with President Trump to discuss the caucus's reply to Trump's campaign-rally question to African Americans, "What do you have to lose?" (by voting for him). The question was part of Trump's campaign rhetoric that was seen as characterizing all African Americans in terms of helpless poverty and inner-city violence.[85] According to two people who attended the March meeting, Trump asked caucus members if they personally knew new cabinet member Ben Carson and appeared surprised when no one said they knew him. Also, when a caucus member told Trump that cuts to welfare programs would hurt her constituents, "not all of whom are black",[86] the president replied, "Really? Then what are they?", although most welfare recipients are white.[86] The caucus chairman, Rep. Cedric Richmond, later said the meeting was productive and that the goals of the caucus and the administration were more similar than different: "The route to get there is where you may see differences. Part of that is just education and life experiences."[87]

Derogatory statements towards Haiti and Nigeria

In June 2017, Trump called together a staff meeting to complain about the number of immigrants who had entered the country since his inauguration. The New York Times reported that two officials at the meeting state that when Trump read off a sheet stating that 15,000 persons had visited from Haiti, he commented, "They all have AIDS," and when reading that 40,000 persons had visited from Nigeria, he said that after seeing America the Nigerians would never “go back to their huts." Both officials who heard Trump's statements relayed them to other staff members at the time, but the White House has denied that Trump used those words and some of the other officials present claim not to remember them being used.[88]

Hurricane Maria

In September 2017 after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico and decimated services across the island, the Mayor of San Juan Carmen Yulín Cruz went on television to plea for help and accused the federal response of fatal inefficiency. Trump responded with a series of tweets claiming that the Puerto Rican leadership were "not able to get their workers to help" because "They want everything to be done for them" while claiming that federal workers were doing a "fantastic job."[89] As the death toll on the island reached into the thousands, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and others criticized the federal government and suggested that racism was partially to blame for the insufficient response.[90]

Pardon of Joe Arpaio

The U.S. Department of Justice concluded that Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio oversaw the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history.[91] The illegal tactics that he was using included "extreme racial profiling and sadistic punishments that involved the torture, humiliation, and degradation of Latino inmates".[92] The DoJ filed suit against him for unlawful discriminatory police conduct. He ignored their orders and was subsequently convicted of contempt of court for continuing to racially profile Hispanics. Calling him "a great American patriot", President Trump pardoned him soon afterwards, even before sentencing took place.[93][94][95] House Speaker Paul Ryan, and both Arizona Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, were critical of Trump's decision.[96][97][98] Constitutional scholars also opposed the decision to grant the pardon, which according to Harvard law professor Noah Feldman was "an assault on the federal judiciary, the constitution and the rule of law itself". The American Civil Liberties Union, which was involved in the case resulting in Arpaio's conviction, tweeted: "By pardoning Joe Arpaio, Donald Trump has sent another disturbing signal to an emboldened white nationalist movement that this White House supports racism and bigotry." According to ACLU deputy legal director Cecilia Wang, the pardon was "a presidential endorsement of racism".[99][100]

NFL racial inequality protests

In August 2016 Colin Kaepernick, an NFL quarterback, began sitting (later kneeling) during the playing of the U.S. national anthem before games as a protest of police brutality and racial inequality suffered by Black Americans. Then-candidate Trump entered into the debate within days, stating of Kaepernick, “I think it’s personally not a good thing, I think it’s a terrible thing. And, you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him. Let him try, it won’t happen.”[101]

Shortly after the start of the next NFL season in September 2017, President Trump commented extensively on the protests during a rally for Alabama Senate candidate Luther Strange, stating, “Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he's fired. He's fired.' You know, some owner is going to do that. He's going to say, 'That guy that disrespects our flag, he's fired.' And that owner, they don't know it they'll be the most popular person in this country. Because that's a total disrespect of our heritage.”[102] Trump later pushed back against the players' concerns regarding racial inequality via Twitter, stating, "The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!"[103] In October of that year, Trump had Vice President Mike Pence attend an NFL game in Indianapolis, telling him "to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country."[104] Pence left after the anthem, an action that was seen by many as a publicity stunt.[105] Trump's public criticisms of the player protests continued throughout the year.

In October 2017 Trump publicly praised Dallas Cowboys's owner Jerry Jones after he announced that he would bench players who failed to stand during the anthem.[103] That month Colin Kaepernick filed a collusion case against the NFL, charging that NFL owners, under the influence of Trump, had colluded to agree not to hire Kaepernick as punishment for his protests. In a player-owner meeting several owners expressed reluctance to continue allowing players to protest as they feared Trump. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a public supporter of Trump, stated “The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America. It's divisive and it’s horrible.”[106] Kaepernick lawyer Mark Geragos stated, “They were clearly colluding because they were intimidated by the president. The only reason — and the owners will admit this — that they haven’t signed him is because of Trump, and they’ve colluded because of Trump.”[107] Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross admitted in a deposition that he had originally supported the players' protest but then changed his position due to Trump, and several other owners testified that Trump had contacted them directly regarding the protests.[107] Trump later praised NFL owners when they voted to allow protesters to be penalized or dismissed for their actions, taking the occasion to suggest that players who didn't want to stand for the anthem didn't belong in the country.[108] Several commentators saw this move by the NFL as a decision to stand with Trump and against the Black protesters.[109]

In June 2018 Trump dis-invited the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles from their White House visit after finding that only a minority of the players were planning on attending due to their general disagreement with Trump's policies. Trump claimed that the players' motivation for not coming was his insistence on standing during the anthem, a claim that was refuted by several Eagles players,[110] as in fact none of the players on that team had knelt during that season.[111] Commentators noted that Trump's redirection of the issue towards the anthem controversy was an attempt to play on social and racial issues in order to fire up his base[110] and have connected it to his public criticisms of Black NBA players, Black UCLA basketball players, and a Black anchor on ESPN.[103]

Charlottesville rally

A far-right rally called "Unite the Right" was held in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 11–12, 2017.[112][113] Its stated goal was to oppose the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park.[114][115] Protesters included white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and various militias. Some chanted racist and antisemitic slogans, and carried Nazi flags, Confederate battle flags, anti-Muslim and antisemitic banners, and semi-automatic rifles.[115][116][117] Some of the protesters and counterprotestors carried shields and sticks, and both groups were "swinging sticks, punching and spraying chemicals", forcing police to declare unlawful assembly and disperse the crowds.[118] Two hours after the dispersal order, a woman was killed and 35 other people injured at a nearby mall, when a self-professed neo-Nazi drove his car into a group of people who had been protesting against the rally.[119]

In his initial statement on the rally, Trump did not denounce white nationalists but instead condemned "hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides". His statement and his subsequent defenses of it, in which he also referred to "very fine people on both sides", suggested a moral equivalence between the white supremacist marchers and those who protested against them, leading some observers to state that he was sympathetic to white supremacy.[116]

Two days later, following a wave of disapproval that met his initial remarks, Trump delivered a prepared statement, saying "Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs."[120] However, the next day he defended the original rally, stating, “You had people in that group who were protesting the taking down of what to them is a very, very important statue...You're changing history; you're changing culture," and again placed blame on the counterprotesters in affirming, "I think there's blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it. You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. No one wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now: You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.”[121] Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke praised Trump's remarks in a tweet: "Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa."[121]

Five days after the rally Trump again turned to twitter to express sympathy with the original rally and their defense of Confederate statues, writing, "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments" and "the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!"[122]

Ten days after the rally, in prepared remarks at an American Legion conference, Trump called for the country to unite. He said: "We are not defined by the color of our skin, the figure on our paycheck or the party of our politics. Rather, we are defined by our shared humanity, our citizenship in this magnificent nation and by the love that fills our hearts." The remarks came a day after further racially divisive remarks he had made at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, where he had said of those who wish to take down Confederate statues, "They’re trying to take away our culture. They’re trying to take away our history."[123][124]

In a tweet to mark the first anniversary, Trump stated "The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division. We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!" Critics contended that the wording "all types of racism" could be seen as a veiled defense of white nationalists, similarly to his "both sides" remarks on the rally.[125]

Elizabeth Warren

In 2012, controversy arose when it was charged that Senator Elizabeth Warren had used a claim of Native American ancestry early in her career to gain hiring preference.[126] Warren denies that she ever claimed to be a minority to secure employment, and a review of her employment history and interviews of her past employers has been unable to find anything that supports the charge.[127] Picking up on the controversy, Trump has frequently referred to her as "Pocahontas", including at a White House event where he addressed Native American veterans who served in the US military during World War II.[128] Warren responded: "It was deeply unfortunate that the President of the United States cannot even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without throwing out a racial slur."[128] Speaking on PBS NewsHour, Mark Shields commented, "It's one thing when Donald Trump uses Pocahontas to attack or taunt one senator, Elizabeth Warren. This, quite frankly, is beyond that. I mean, this is racial. It's racist. It is."[129]

The General Secretary of the Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes, John Norwood, said Trump's nickname for Warren is "insulting to all American Indians" and "smacks of racism", adding that Trump should "stop using our historical people of significance as a racial slur against one of his opponents."[128] The president of the National Congress of American Indians said: "We regret that the president's use of the name Pocahontas as a slur to insult a political adversary is overshadowing the true purpose of today's White House ceremony."[128] White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that complaints that the nickname is a racial slur are "ridiculous", and that "What most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career."[128][130]

"Pretty Korean lady"

In an intelligence briefing on hostages held by a terrorist group in Pakistan, Trump repeatedly interrupted the briefing to ask an Asian-American intelligence analyst who specializes in hostage situations "where are you from?" After she told him she was from New York he asked again and she clarified that she was from Manhattan. He pressed with the question until she finally told him that her parents were Korean. Trump then asked one of his advisers why "the pretty Korean lady" was not negotiating for him with North Korea.[131][132][133] NBC News characterized this exchange as Trump having "seemed to suggest her ethnicity should determine her career path".[134] Vox suggested that when Trump refused to accept New York as an answer he is "saying that children of Asian immigrants can never truly be 'from' America. This isn't just simple bigotry; it feels like a rejection of the classic American 'melting pot' ideal altogether."[16]

"Shithole countries"

On January 11, 2018, during an Oval Office meeting about immigration reform, commenting on immigration figures from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and African countries, Trump reportedly said: "Those shitholes send us the people that they don't want",[135] and suggested that the US should instead increase immigration from "places like Norway"[136] and Asian countries.[137] The comments received widespread domestic and international condemnation;[138][139][17] news anchors such as Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon called Trump a "racist".[8]

In a statement issued the same day, the White House did not deny that the president made the remarks, but on the following day Trump did tweet out a partial denial, saying that he "never said anything derogatory about Haitians", and denied using "shithole" specifically to refer to those countries but did admit to using "tough language".[140][138] Senate minority whip Dick Durbin, the only Democrat present at the Oval Office meeting, stated that Trump did use racist language and referred to African countries as "shitholes" and that "he said these hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly."[141]

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified under oath to the Senate regarding the incident. She said she did not "specifically remember a categorization of countries from Africa." Asked about the President's language, Nielsen said, "I don't remember specific words", while remembering "the general profanity that was used in the room by almost everyone" but not Dick Durbin. Later on during the questioning, Nielsen said, "I remember specific cuss words being used by a variety of members," without elaborating on what was said or by whom.[142]

Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, also present at the meeting, initially issued a joint statement stating that they "do not recall the President saying those comments specifically".[143] Later, both senators denied that Trump had said "shithole". Perdue said Trump "did not use that word ... The gross misrepresentation was that language was used in there that was not used,"[144] and Cotton said, "I didn't hear it, and I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin". Cotton elaborated that he "did not hear derogatory comments about individuals or persons", and went on to affirm with the interviewer that the "sentiment [attributed to Trump] is totally phony".[145] Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that Cotton and Perdue told the White House they heard "shithouse" rather than "shithole".[146]

Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) stated that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), present at the meeting, had confirmed that Trump indeed called El Salvador, Haiti and some African nations "shithole countries".[147] Graham refused to confirm or deny hearing Trump's words, but rather released a statement in which he said, "[I] said my piece directly to [Trump]."[148] In what was interpreted as a response to Cotton and Purdue, Graham later said, "My memory hasn't evolved. I know what was said and I know what I said," while also asserting "It's not where you come from that matters, it's what you're willing to do once you get here."[149] Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said that the meeting participants had told him about Trump making those remarks before the account went public.[150]

Conservative columnist Erick Erickson said Trump had privately bragged to friends about making the remarks, thinking "it would play well with the base."[151] The Washington Post quoted Trump's aides as saying Trump had called friends to ask how his political supporters would react to the coverage of the incident, and that he was "not particularly upset" by its publication.[146]

In April 2018, after President of Nigeria Muhammad Buhari said that he was unsure whether Trump had made the controversial comment, former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault told Buhari that "he said it".[152]

Response from Republicans

Vice President Mike Pence stated that he "knows the president's heart", and that Trump's goal is to reform the immigration system so that it is merit-based regardless of race, creed or country of origin, encouraging immigration by those who want to "contribute to a growing American economy and thriving communities."[153][154] Some Republican lawmakers denounced Trump's comments, calling them "unfortunate" and "indefensible", while others sidestepped or did not respond to them.[155] House Speaker Paul Ryan said, "So, first thing that came to my mind was very unfortunate, unhelpful." Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who did not vote for Trump and has been very critical of him, said: "These comments are highly inappropriate and out of bounds and could hurt efforts for a bipartisan immigration agreement. The president should not denigrate other countries." Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only African-American Republican in the Senate, and Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, called the comments "disappointing".[156]

Representative Mia Love of Utah, who is of Haitian descent, tweeted that the comments were "unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation's values". She later stated they were "really difficult to hear, especially because my [Haitian immigrant] parents were such big supporters of the president.... there are countries that struggle out there but ... their people are good people and they're part of us."[157][158] Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona wrote "The words used by the President, as related to me directly following the meeting by those in attendance were not 'tough', they were abhorrent and repulsive."[159] Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Erik Paulsen of Minnesota also denounced the comments.[159]

Response from Democrats

When asked if he believed Senator Durbin's reporting of the incident, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer replied, "I have no doubts. First, Donald Trump has lied so many times, it's hard to believe him on anything, let alone this."[160] Both House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and civil rights leader Representative John Lewis of Georgia said Trump's remarks confirm his racism.[161][162][163] Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts said, "America's president is a racist and this is the proof. His hateful rhetoric has no place in the White House."[156] Representative Tim Walz of Minnesota said, "This is racism, plain and simple, and we need to call it that. My Republican colleagues need to call it that too." Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said that Trump's comments "smack of blatant racism – odious and insidious racism masquerading poorly as immigration policy".[164] Representative Karen Bass of California said: "You would never call a predominantly white country a 'shithole' because you are unable to see people of color, American or otherwise, as equals."[156] Representative Bill Pascrell of New Jersey tweeted that Trump is "showing his bigoted tendencies in ways that would make Archie Bunker blush", and called him a "national disgrace".[156]

International response

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said at a news briefing, "There is no other word one can use but racist. You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as 'shitholes', whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome."[165]

The African Union issued a statement strongly condemning the remarks and demanding a retraction and apology; an AU spokeswoman said, "Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, [Trump's statement] flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice. This is particularly surprising as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity."[166]

The president of Uganda Yoweri Museveni praised Trump saying "I love Trump because he talks to Africans frankly. I don't know if he's misquoted or whatever, but when he speaks I like him because he speaks frankly."[167][168]

The Ministry of International Affairs of Botswana summoned the US ambassador, and said in a statement "We view the utterances by the current American President as highly irresponsible, reprehensible, and racist."[166] The African National Congress, the ruling party in South Africa, tweeted "its offensive for President Trump to make derogatory statements about countries that do not share policy positions with the US. Developing countries experience difficulties. The US also faces difficulties."[169] Mmusi Maimane, the leader of South Africa's opposition party, said "The hatred of Obama's roots now extends to an entire continent."[159]

Haiti's ambassador to the US said Haiti "vehemently condemn[ed]" Trump's comments, saying they were "based on stereotypes". Haiti's former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said, "It shows a lack of respect and ignorance never seen before in the recent history of the US by any President."[166]

White Farmers in South Africa

In August 2018, Trump sent a tweet stating that he had ordered the Secretary of state Mike Pompeo to look into land seizures and the mass killing of White farmers in South Africa, acting on a racist conspiracy theory.[170][171] In fact, farming organisation AgriSA had recently reported that the murder rate on farms had declined to the lowest level in twenty years,[172] one-third of the level recorded in 1998.[173] In response, the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement:

It is extremely disturbing that the President of the United States echoed a long-standing and false white supremacist claim that South Africa’s white farmers are targets of large-scale, racially-motivated killings by South Africa’s black majority. We would hope that the President would try to understand the facts and realities of the situation in South Africa, rather than repeat disturbing, racially divisive talking points used most frequently by white supremacists.[174]


Donald Trump has been accused of "inflaming racial, ethnic and religious tensions across the United States."[175] The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded 867 "hate incidents" in the 10 days after the US election, a phenomenon it partly blamed on Trump's rhetoric. They consider the actual number of incidents to be much higher because most hate crimes go unreported. SPLC president Richard Cohen blamed the recent surge on the divisive language used by Trump throughout his campaign. In a statement he said:

Mr Trump claims he's surprised his election has unleashed a barrage of hate across the country. But he shouldn't be. It's the predictable result of the campaign he waged. Rather than feign surprise, Mr Trump should take responsibility for what's occurring, forcefully reject hate and bigotry, reach out to the communities he's injured, and follow his words with actions to heal the wounds his words have opened.[176]

In 2016, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said FBI statistics for 2015 showed a 67% increase in hate crimes against Muslim Americans; hate crimes against Jewish people, African Americans and LGBT individuals increased as well. Lynch reported a 6% overall increase, though she said the number could be higher because many incidents go unreported. In New York City the number of hate crimes increased 31.5% in the year from 2015 to 2016. Mayor Bill de Blasio commented, "A lot of us are very concerned that a lot of divisive speech was used during the campaign by the President-elect, and we do not yet know what the impact of that will be on our country."[177]

Effects on students

A survey of over 10,000 teachers conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance project after the 2016 presidential election showed that "the results of the election are having a profoundly negative impact on schools and students." Most respondents believe the impact will be long-lasting. Respondents reported an increase in "verbal harassment, the use of slurs and derogatory language, and disturbing incidents involving swastikas, Nazi salutes and Confederate flags". "Nearly a third of the incidents were motivated by anti-immigrant sentiment and anti-black incidents were the second-most common, with frequent references to lynching. Antisemitic and anti-Muslim attacks were common as well. SPLC believes "the dynamics and incidents these educators reported are nothing short of a crisis and should be treated as such."[178][179][176] Southern Poverty president Richard Cohen commented, "We've seen Donald Trump behave like a 12 year old, and now we're seeing 12 year olds behave like Donald Trump."[179][180]

Reactions by the Congressional Black Caucus

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) have criticized Trump for "repeatedly stirring racial controversies."[181] Emanuel Cleaver, former head of the CBC, voiced concerns when Trump began raising doubts about President Obama's birthplace: "I don't know if the people around the country understand that he has launched ... an assault against African-American people starting with his refusal to accept the first African-American president, by continuing to declare that he was from Kenya. No other president in history has had to face that kind of criticism. We've come to conclude that this is a part of his belief system."[181]

Some lawmakers protested by refusing to attend Trump's 2018 State of the Union Address. John Lewis said "I've got to be moved by my conscience," and Barbara Lee said "This president does not respect the office, he dishonors it." Frederica Wilson, whom Trump called "wacky" after she supported the wife of a soldier killed in Niger,[182] also skipped the address. Maxine Waters released a video response wherein she said, "He claims that he's bringing people together but make no mistake, he is a dangerous, unprincipled, divisive, and shameful racist."[183] Other black lawmakers attended the address wearing kente stoles as a show of support following Trump's "shithole" comments about African and other countries.[181]

Almost two-thirds of the CBC have backed efforts to impeach Donald Trump in House floor votes forced by Representative Al Green. Green's articles of impeachment assert that Trump has "brought the high office of president of the United States in contempt, ridicule, disgrace and disrepute" and "has sown discord among the people of the United States".[181]

Defenses of Donald Trump

Trump has repeatedly denied claims that he is racist, often stating that he is "the least racist person".[184][185] During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Trump defended himself and his campaign from Hillary Clinton's accusations of racism, arguing that his immigration policies were not racist and stating "I will never apologize for pledging to enforce and uphold every single law of the United States, and to make my immigration priority defending and protecting American citizens above every other single consideration."[186]

Trump's son, Eric Trump, defended his father against allegations of racism, remarking that his father is concerned with the economy, citing improved economic conditions for African Americans. Eric Trump called his father "the least racist person" he has ever met.[187][188]

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump from accusations of racism, by referring to his time as host of The Apprentice and saying, "Frankly, if the critics of the president were who he said he was, why did NBC give him a show for a decade on TV?"[189][190] In 2016 and 2018, the retired NFL player Herschel Walker has defended Trump, saying, "He's not a racist."[191][192]

Reuters suggests Trump's criticism of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel was based on a misunderstanding of Curiel's association with the pro-immigrant origination La Raza.[193]


Journalists and pundits

CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta said the Washington Post report combined with statements made in 2016 and 2017 shows "the president seems to harbor racist feelings about people of color from other parts of the world."[194][195]

Following the incident in which Trump referred to several nations as "shithole countries", some media commentators moved from describing certain words and actions of Trump as manifesting racism, to calling Trump racist.[196] David Brooks, speaking on PBS NewsHour, called the president's statements "pretty clearly racist" and said, "It fits into a pattern that we have seen since the beginning of his career, maybe through his father's career, frankly. There's been a consistency, pattern of harsh judgment against black and brown people."[129] Trump has been called a racist by a number of New York Times columnists including Nicholas Kristof ("I don't see what else we can call him but a racist"),[197] Charles M. Blow ("Trump Is a Racist. Period."),[198] and David Leonhardt ("Donald Trump is a racist").[199] Additionally, John Cassidy of The New Yorker concluded, "we have a racist in the Oval Office."[200]

Conservative pundit and former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, when asked in an interview if he thought Trump was a racist replied, "Yeah, I do. At this point the evidence is incontrovertible."[201] Speaking on MSNBC, Steele said, "There are a whole lot of folks like Donald Trump. White folks in this country who have a problem with the browning of America. When they talk about [wanting] their country back, they are talking about a country that was very safely white, less brown and less committed to that browning process."[202]

Australian political commentator and former Liberal party leader John Hewson writes that he believes the recent global movements against traditional politics and politicians are based on racism and prejudice. He comments: "There should be little doubt about US President Donald Trump's views on race, despite his occasional 'denials', assertions of 'fake news', and/or his semantic distinctions. His election campaign theme was effectively a promise to 'Make America Great Again; America First and Only' and – nod, nod, wink, wink – to Make America White Again."[203]


Doug McAdam writes that Trump "is just giving unusually loud and frank voice to views already typical among large numbers of Republicans" and "has pushed the GOP toward ever further racist and nativist extremes." McAdam believes that the Republican Party shift away from more liberal views on matters of racial equality began with Richard Nixon's presidency in 1968.[204]

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said "What Trump is doing has popped up periodically, but in modern times, no president has been so racially insensitive and shown outright disdain for people who aren't white."[205]

George Yancy, a professor at Emory University known for his work on racial issues, concluded that Trump is racist, describing his outlook as "a case of unabashed white supremacist ideas."[1]

Speaking shortly after Trump's election, John Mcwhorter discussed the fact that 8% of black voters and around 25% of Latinos voted for Donald Trump, saying "many would see it as 'conservative' for a person of color to vote for a racist, as if it were still a time when racism was socially acceptable." In his view, people of color who voted for Trump were willing to look beyond Trump's racism to the promise of economic improvement.[206]

David P. Bryden, a Professor of Law Emeritus at the University of Minnesota, suggested that Trump was willing to "vilif[y] all those of any race whom he regards as obstacles to his ambitions." According to Bryden, Trump's targets are largely from minority groups because he wants to appeal to white working class voters who believe that progressives resent them.[207]

Opinion polling

According to an August 2016 Suffolk University poll, 7% of those planning to vote for Trump thought he was racist. A November 2016 Post-ABC poll found that 50% of Americans thought Trump was biased against black people; the figure was 75% among black Americans.[208] According to an October 2017 Politico/Morning Consult poll, 45% of voters think Trump is racist, a plurality.[26]

A Quinnipiac poll asking the question, "Since the election of Donald Trump, do you believe the level of hatred and prejudice in the U.S. has increased, the level of hatred and prejudice has decreased, or hasn't it changed either way" was conducted in December 2017. Of the respondents, 62% believed that the level had increased, 4% felt that it had decreased, and 31% felt it was without change.[209]

A Quinnipiac poll conducted in January 2018 after Trump's Oval Office comments about immigration showed that 58 percent of American voters found the comments to be racist, while 59 percent said that he does not respect people of color as much as he respects white people.[210][211]

Analysis of pre- and post-election surveys from the American National Election Studies, as well as numerous other surveys and studies, show that since the rise of Trump in the Republican Party, attitudes towards racism have become a more significant factor than economic issues in determining voters' party allegiance.[24][25]


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