Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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    Trump says Black voters like him because he has been indicted and has a mug shot

    COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former President Trump sought to appeal to Black voters on Friday night in South Carolina by repeatedly citing the 91 felony charges he faces and comparing them to unfair treatment from the criminal justice system toward minorities in America.

    “A lot of people said that’s why the Black people liked me, because they had been hurt so badly and discriminated against. And they actually viewed me as I’m being discriminated against … Maybe there’s something to it,” he said, right after talking about the charges.

    He also cited his mug shot in Georgia — taken last summer after he was charged for trying to overturn the state’s election results — as a reason that Black voters would gravitate toward him in November. Trump said he now saw Black Americans wearing mug shots on their T-shirts.

    “When I did the mug shot in Atlanta, that mug shot is number one,” Trump said. He added that the Black population “embraced it more than anyone else.”

    He also said: “I’m being indicted for you, the Black population.”

    Trump faces 91 felony counts in four separate cases for allegedly mishandling classified information, obstructing justice, conspiring to overturn the 2020 election and falsifying business records in connection to hush money paid to an adult-film star.

    The former president spoke for about 90 minutes to a room of about 500 Republicans at the Conservative Black Federation’s annual awards gala at a convention center here. The crowd cheered and laughed at some of his more inflammatory lines and many of the attendees defended Trump vigorously. He was flanked onstage by five prominent Black leaders, including former Housing and Urban Development secretary Ben Carson and Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), and was praised by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) in a speech before he arrived.

    The speech is part of his campaign’s effort to increase support among Black voters, which has been higher recently in recent polling than some past Republicans but remains small compared to Black support for President Biden.

    Trump has frequently been criticized by Democrats and some Republicans for his positions on race, including when he dined with a white supremacist, Nick Fuentes, at his Mar-a-Lago Club; said there were “many fine people” on both sides after a deadly white supremacist riot in Charlottesville; and called countries like Haiti “shithole countries” while in the White House. For years he amplified the false conspiracy theory that former president Barack Obama, who was born in Hawaii, was actually born in Kenya.

    In Friday’s address, Trump said Black voters should prefer him over Obama as part of a story he told about alleged airplane negotiations during his presidency. “Would you rather have the Black president or the white president who got $1.7 billion off the price,” he said, adding that he repeatedly called Obama “Barack Hussein Obama,” raising his inflection on the middle name.

    Trump did not mention the Black Lives Matter protests and riots that occurred under his presidency in the summer of June 2020. At the time, he tweeted: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

    “The audacity of Donald Trump to speak to a room full of Black voters during Black History Month as if he isn’t the proud poster boy for modern racism. This is the same man who falsely accused the Central Park 5, questioned George Floyd’s humanity, compared his own impeachment trial to being lynched, and ensured the unemployment gap for Black workers spiked during his presidency,” said Biden campaign spokeswoman Jasmine Harris. “Donald Trump has been showing Black Americans his true colors for years: An incompetent, anti-Black tyrant who holds us to such low regard that he publicly dined with white nationalists a week after declaring his 2024 candidacy.”

    The most recent Quinnipiac poll from this month found Biden leading among Black voters 79 percent to 19 percent for Trump, little changed from a January Quinnipiac poll. In 2020, according to network exit polls, Black voters supported Biden by a wider margin, 87 percent to 12 percent.

    But Trump advisers say they see a major opportunity, particularly with Black men.

    “Does anyone know Romney? He got 4 percent,” Trump said, referring to the percentage of Black voters who supported the 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, who was supported by 6 percent of Black voters according to exit polling.

    In totality, the message to Black voters Friday night was an economic and public safety message. Trump told the crowd that unemployment, crime and border crossings would all be lower under his presidency and he cited a range of stats that he claimed showed Black voters should abandon Biden. “You want to be able to go get a loaf of bread and not be shot,” he said.

    “Joe Biden and the radical left have abandoned everything Black Americans care about,” Trump said, calling Biden a “racist” and attacking him for the 1994 crime bill. Trump repeatedly attacked Democrats for crime in cities, such as Baltimore, Chicago and New York.

    He told the crowd about pardoning many people in office, including Alice Johnson, a Black woman who was convicted on drug charges. Trump said that pardoning people was a highlight of his presidency because people were so grateful to him for the pardons and said he’d pardoned many people in the room, but it was unclear whom. He said that one Black TV host was not grateful enough for him passing the First Step Act, which reduced sentences for some crimes, and cited the law as another reason Black Americans should support him.

    “I let a lot of people out,” Trump said.

    Trump repeatedly told the crowd that illegal immigrants were going to take their jobs, and they should support his candidacy because he is protecting their jobs by deporting illegal immigrants and blocking migration.

    But workers coming in, he said, would take “your jobs and they’re taking Hispanic jobs and they’re taking union jobs.”

    Trump said his personal experience made him believe Black workers deserved high-paying jobs, bragging about his time as a New York developer.

    “I’ve built a lot of buildings, and Black workers are great workers. They’ve done an incredible job,” he said.

    Repeatedly, he asked Black supporters to be acknowledged in the crowd by name. When one Black supporter stood up, Trump said could he not see him.

    “The lights are so bright in my eyes and I can’t see too many people out there. But I can only see the Black ones. I can’t see any white ones. That’s how far I’ve come,” he said, to cheers and laughs.

    At one point onstage, he went on a tangent to discuss whether Barry Bonds or Babe Ruth held the home run record in baseball. When the other Black men on the stage said it was Bonds, who is Black, Trump turned to the crowd and said he would agree that it was Bonds.

    But he admitted it was because of the audience.

    “In front of another group, I may be with the Babe,” he said, again to laughs.

    Isaac Arnsdorf in Washington contributed to this report.

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