Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States, has a history of speech and actions that have widely been viewed as racially charged or racist. Journalists, friends, and former employees have accused him of fueling racism in the United States. Trump, however, has repeatedly denied accusations of racism and stated to reporters in July 2019 that he was "the least racist person anywhere in the world."
In 1973, Trump and his company Trump Management were sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for housing discrimination against African-American renters: he settled the suit without any admission of wrongdoing. The Justice Department sued again in 1978, claiming continued racial discrimination and a breach of the original agreement, but that case expired in 1982 without resolution.
In 2011, Trump became the leading proponent of the already discredited "Birtherism" conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the US, repeating the claim for the following five years. In a notorious and racially charged case, Trump continued to insist, as late as 2019, that a group of black and Latino teenagers were guilty of the 1989 rape of a white woman in the Central Park jogger case, despite the fact that the five had been officially exonerated in 2002, following the confession of an imprisoned serial rapist, confirmed by DNA evidence.
Trump launched his 2016 presidential campaign with a speech in which he made a statement about Mexican immigrants: "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people". His claims that a judge should be disqualified from deciding a specific case due to his "Mexican heritage" were criticized as racist. He tweeted false statistics claiming that African Americans are responsible for the majority of murders of white Americans, and in some speeches he has repeatedly linked African Americans and Hispanics with violent crime. During his presidency, comments he made following a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, were perceived as implying a moral equivalence between white supremacist marchers and Antifa and Black Lives Matter protesters. 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. In July 2019, Trump tweeted about Democratic congresswomen saying "Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done". The statement was criticized by news outlets such as The Atlantic as a common racist trope.
Trump's controversial statements have been condemned by observers around the world, but excused by some of his supporters either as a rejection of political correctness or because they harbor similar racial sentiments. 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 the party allegiance of U.S. voters.
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. During the investigation four of Trump's agents admitted to using a "C" or "9" code to label Black applicants 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. 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.
Elyse Goldweber, the Justice Department lawyer tasked with taking Trump's deposition, has stated that during a coffee break Trump said to her directly, “You know, you don’t want to live with them either.”
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. In 1983 the Metropolitan Action Institute noted that two Trump Village properties were still over 95% White.
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. 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.
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." 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."
In 2002, an imprisoned serial rapist confessed to the jogger's rape, which was confirmed by DNA evidence, 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. 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."
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, attracting criticism from the Central Park Five themselves 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." 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. 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".
In June 2019 in response to Ken Burns' documentary and the Netflix miniseries When They See Us Donald Trump stood by his previous statements, saying "You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt. If you look at Linda Fairstein and if you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case. So we'll leave it at that."
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.
In his 1991 book Trumped! John O'Donnell quoted Trump as allegedly 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.
Trump told Playboy in an interview published in 1997 “The stuff O'Donnell wrote about me is probably true". Two years later, when seeking the nomination of the Reform Party for president, Trump denied having made the statement.
In 1991, when Trump was asked about Duke receiving a majority of white votes in Louisiana for governorship (Duke however lost the overall vote), Trump reacted: "I hate seeing what it represents, but I guess it just shows there’s a lot of hostility in this country ... People are angry about the jobs."
In 2000, Trump refused the Reform Party's nomination of him for President, because of other people who had joined the party. Trump pointed out "a neo-Nazi", "a communist", and in the case of Duke, "a Klansman". Trump also called Duke "a bigot, a racist, a problem."
In 2015, as a presidential candidate, Trump was asked about Duke's "quasi-endorsement" of him, to which Trump replied: "I certainly wouldn't want his endorsement". During the same interview, Trump was asked if he would "repudiate" Duke, Trump said: "I would do that, if it made you feel better. I don't know anything about him."
On February 25, 2016, Duke said that he did "support" a vote for Trump. On February 26, Trump said that he "didn't even know" Duke endorsed him: "I disavow, okay?"
On February 28, Trump was asked by CNN's Jake Tapper if he would "unequivocally condemn" Duke and reject votes from him and other white supremacists. Trump responded: "I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists." Tapper asked again if Trump would condemn white supremacists and reject their support; Trump refused to do that immediately, saying: "I have to look at the group ... You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about ... I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong." Tapper then specifically asked Trump about the Ku Klux Klan twice, with Trump replying: "But you may have groups in there that are totally fine, and it would be very unfair. So, give me a list of the groups, and I will let you know ... I don’t know any — honestly, I don’t know David Duke." PolitiFact gave Trump's February 28 claim that he knew nothing about Duke their worst rating, "Pants on Fire!" false, pointing to his statements two days earlier, and in previous years 1991, 2000 and 2015.
On February 29, 2016, Trump blamed his answers on Duke the previous day on "a very bad earpiece". He declared: "I don’t mind disavowing anybody and I disavowed David Duke ... I have no problem disavowing groups, but I’d at least like to know who they are. It would be very unfair to disavow a group if the group shouldn’t be disavowed." On March 1, Trump was asked if he was prepared to clearly state that he was "renouncing the support of all white supremacists", to which Trump replied: "I am."
During the early 1990s, competition from an expanding Native American casino industry threatened his Atlantic City investments. During this period Trump stated that "nobody likes Indians as much as Donald Trump" but then claimed without evidence that the mob had infiltrated Native American casinos, that there was no way "Indians" or an "Indian chief" could stand up to the mob, implied that the casinos were not in fact owned by Native Americans based on the owners' appearance, and depicted Native Americans as greedy.
In 2000, Trump and his associates were fined $250,000 and publicly apologized for failing to reveal that they had financed advertisements criticizing the proposal of building more Native American casinos in the Catskill Mountains, which alluded to Mohawk Indians doing cocaine and bringing violence, asking: "Are these the new neighbors we want?" The advertisements, claiming to be funded by "grass-roots, pro-family" donors, were actually designed by Roger Stone, while Trump approved and financed the million-dollar venture.
In April 2005, Trump appeared on Howard Stern's radio show, where Trump proposed that the fourth season of the television show The Apprentice would feature an exclusively white team of blondes competing against a team of only African-Americans. Stern asked Trump if that would start a "racial war", to which Trump replied: "it would be handled very beautifully by me ... I'm very diplomatic." The proposal was rejected by television executives at NBC. The actual fourth season of The Apprentice concluded with Trump asking the male African-American winner of the season, Randal Pinkett, to share the honor with the runners-up, a white woman. Pinkett said this was "racist".
In 2011, Trump revived the already discredited Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories that had been circulating since Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, and, for the following five years, he played a leading role in the so-called "birther movement". 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." After Obama released his long-form birth certificate in 2011, Trump claimed the certificate was a fraud. In September 2016, after Trump campaign surrogates falsely claimed that Trump had accepted Obama's citizenship in 2011, 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. In November 2017, The New York Times reported that Trump was "still privately asserting that Obama’s birth certificate may have been fraudulent."
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. Two class-action civil lawsuits were also filed naming Trump personally as well as his companies. 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. Trump said that Curiel would have "an absolute conflict" due to his Mexican heritage which led to accusations of racism. 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."
At a rally in Birmingham, Alabama on November 21, 2015, Trump falsely claimed that he had seen television reports about "thousands and thousands" of Arabs in New Jersey celebrating as the World Trade Center collapsed during the 9/11 attacks. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Trump doubled-down on the assertion, insisting that "there were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations".
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.
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."
Prior to and 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," that "there's killings on an hourly basis virtually in places like Baltimore and Chicago and many other places," 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 that 81% of white murder victims were killed by black people. 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. Trump also falsely claimed that, "African American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they've ever been in before. Ever, ever, ever," 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," and that "African Americans and Hispanics are living in hell. You walk down the street and you get shot."
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!" 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, suggested that Obama may not have attended courses, repeated on several occasions the conspiracy theory that Obama had Bill Ayers write his book for him, and stated, "Sadly, because president Obama has done such a poor job as president, you won't see another black president for generations!" 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.
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. These low rankings are attributed to Trump campaigning in support of a proposed Mexican border wall and his rhetoric against illegal immigration. Despite expectations of low Latino support, Trump received about 29% of the Hispanic vote, slightly more than Romney received in 2012.
In June 2016, at a rally in Redding, Calif., Trump pointed to a man in the audience—Gregory Cheadle, a real estate broker—and said, "Look at my African American over here. Look at him. Are you the greatest?" (Cheadle later declared in 2019 that he was so unhappy with Trump's "white superiority complex" and the "pro-white" Republican Party's usage of blacks as "political pawns" that he was leaving the Republican Party.)
According to polling data during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Trump was receiving little support from African Americans. In a Morning Consult poll in August 2016, only 5% of black voters said they intend to vote for Trump. However, Trump ended up receiving 8% of the African-American vote (about 500,000 more votes than Mitt Romney received in 2012). Speaking in Virginia in August 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?"
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. Human rights activists described these actions as government-approved religious persecution. The order was stayed by Federal courts. The Trump White House would go on to issue revised versions of the ban on March 6, 2017 and September 24, 2017. The Supreme Court eventually upheld the third version in June 2018. Delivering the dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor compared the opinion to one made in 1944 which allowed the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. In a Guardian editorial writer Moustafa Bayoumi commented, "The Muslim ban ruling legitimates Trump's bigotry [...] and the racist view that Muslims are a unique national security threat because they are Muslims persists.
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?"
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. 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", the president replied, "Really? Then what are they?", although most welfare recipients are white. 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."
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.
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." 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.
The U.S. Department of Justice concluded that Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio oversaw the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history. The illegal tactics that he was using included "extreme racial profiling and sadistic punishments that involved the torture, humiliation, and degradation of Latino inmates". 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. House speaker Paul Ryan, and both Arizona senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, were critical of Trump's decision. 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".
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.”
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.” 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!" 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." Pence left after the anthem, an action that was seen by many as a publicity stunt. 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. 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.” 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.” 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. 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. Several commentators saw this move by the NFL as a decision to stand with Trump and against the Black protesters.
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, as in fact none of the players on that team had knelt during that season. 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 and have connected it to his public criticisms of Black NBA players, Black UCLA basketball players, and a Black anchor on ESPN.
A far-right rally called "Unite the Right" was held in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 11–12, 2017. Its stated goal was to oppose the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park. 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. 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. 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.
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. Trump later condemned racist and white supremacist groups saying "I'm not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally".
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." 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.” 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."
Five days after the rally, Trump returned 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!"
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."
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.
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. 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. 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. 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." 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."
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." 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." 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."
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. NBC News characterized this exchange as Trump having "seemed to suggest her ethnicity should determine her career path". 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."
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", and suggested that the US should instead increase immigration from "places like Norway" and Asian countries. The comments received widespread domestic and international condemnation; news anchors such as Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon called Trump a "racist".
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". 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."
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.
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". 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," 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". Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that Cotton and Perdue told the White House they heard "shithouse" rather than "shithole".
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". 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]." 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." Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said that the meeting participants had told him about Trump making those remarks before the account went public.
Conservative columnist Erick Erickson said Trump had privately bragged to friends about making the remarks, thinking "it would play well with the base." 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.
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." Some Republican lawmakers denounced Trump's comments, calling them "unfortunate" and "indefensible", while others sidestepped or did not respond to them. House speaker Paul Ryan said, "So, first thing that came to my mind was very unfortunate, unhelpful." Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who said she would 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".
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." 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." Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Erik Paulsen of Minnesota also denounced the comments.
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." Both House minority whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and civil rights leader Representative John Lewis of Georgia said Trump's remarks confirm his racism. 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." 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". 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." 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".
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."
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."
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."
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." 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." Mmusi Maimane, the leader of South Africa's opposition party, said "The hatred of Obama's roots now extends to an entire continent."
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."
Starting with his presidential run in 2016, Trump has often told the story of "The Snake," inspired by a song written by Oscar Brown Jr. In Trump's retelling, the story becomes an allegory used to warn of the danger posed by immigrants. In February 2018, Trump faced criticism after including the story during a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference. Maggie Brown, daughter of Oscar Brown Jr., stated that Trump's immigration agenda "deals with separatism, racism, sexism, and it's kind of thing that's polar opposite to what Oscar Brown Jr was about." Conservative communications and public affairs strategist Steve Schmidt said “Trump’s snake story is vicious, disgraceful, utterly racist and profoundly un-American." Austrian language researcher Kateryna Pilyarchuk claims that "Trump has used “The Snake” to whip up racist fervor at raucous rallies."
In July 2018, while on a trip to Europe, Trump said in an interview with the Sun newspaper that “I think allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very, very sad, I think what has happened to Europe is a shame. I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way, I think you are losing your culture. Look around. You go through certain areas that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago,” On the same trip, during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump again commented on immigration in Europe: “I think it's been very bad for Europe. I think Europe is a place I know very well and I think what has happened is very tough. It's a very tough situation, I just think it's changing the culture. It's a very negative thing for Europe.” May responded by saying that "Over the years, overall immigration has been good for the UK. It brought people with different backgrounds and outlooks here to the UK and we've seen them contributing to our society and economy."
In August 2018, Trump sent a tweet stating that he had ordered 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. In fact, farming organisation AgriSA had recently reported that the murder rate on farms had declined to the lowest level in twenty years, one-third of the level recorded in 1998. 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.
At a rally in Houston in October 2018, Trump stated "You know, they have a word – it’s sort of became old-fashioned – it’s called a nationalist. And I say, really, we’re not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, okay? I’m a nationalist. Nationalist. Nothing wrong. Use that word. Use that word." Trump later denied that there was any racial connotation connected to his use of the word. Many others, however, suggested that his use of the word nationalist was dangerously close to the phrase white nationalist. Reformed neo-Nazi Christian Picciolini, for example, tweeted that "Trump's 'I'm a Nationalist' comment will likely represent the biggest boon for white supremacist recruitment since the film Birth of a Nation glorified the Klan in 1915 and gained the KKK 4 million members by 1925."
In November 2018, Facebook, NBC, and Fox News withdrew a controversial political campaign ad which was backed by Trump after critics described it as racist. Shown prior to the midterm elections, the ad focused on a migrant caravan currently traveling through Mexico with hopes of immigration to the U.S., and Luis Bracamontes, an undocumented immigrant who was convicted of killing two sheriff's deputies in California in 2014.
In May 2019, the Trump administration announced that there was no plan to replace the portrait of Andrew Jackson on the twenty-dollar bill with that of Harriet Tubman, as had been planned by the Obama administration. Some critics viewed this decision as a reflection of Trump's racism, including Representative Ayanna Pressley, who said “Secretary Mnuchin has allowed Trump’s racism and misogyny to prevent him from carrying out the will of the people.”
On July 14, 2019, Trump tweeted about four Democratic congresswomen of color, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib. This group, known collectively as the Squad, had verbally sparred with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi a week earlier:
So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) specifically cites the phrase "Go back to where you came from" as the type of language that may violate anti-discrimination employment laws. "Ethnic slurs and other verbal or physical conduct because of nationality are illegal if they are severe or pervasive and create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment, interfere with work performance, or negatively affect job opportunities." The EEOC's website states: "Examples of potentially unlawful conduct include insults, taunting, or ethnic epithets, such as making fun of a person's foreign accent or comments like, 'Go back to where you came from,' whether made by supervisors or by co-workers."
Only one of those congresswomen is an immigrant; the other three were born in the United States, making Trump's comments an example of the false attribution of foreignness to members of minorities. Nancy Pelosi labelled Trump's comments as "xenophobic" and commented: "When @realDonaldTrump tells four American congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to 'Make America Great Again' has always been about making America white again." Among the 2020 presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders said Trump was a racist, while Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Beto O'Rourke called his statements racist. Justin Amash, a U.S. Representative who had recently left the Republican Party, called the statements "racist and disgusting". Republican lawmakers were initially mostly silent on Trump's statements, with those in leadership positions at first declining to comment. By July 20, around 20 Republican lawmakers had criticized Trump's statements, around 60 Republican lawmakers either supported Trump or instead criticized Democratic lawmakers, around 60 Republican lawmakers criticized both Trump and Democratic lawmakers, and around 110 were silent or offered vague answers. White nationalist publications and social media sites praised Trump's remarks; "This is the kind of WHITE NATIONALISM we elected him for," wrote Andrew Anglin on his Daily Stormer neo-Nazi website.
New York Times news analyst Peter Baker drew controversy for writing an article on the tweets but avoiding to directly call the tweets "racist". The direct application of the term "racist" is typically controversial and avoided in journalism, with euphemisms such as "racially-charged" or "racially-infused" typically used instead. However, many publications directly called Trump's tweets and language as racist, including The Washington Post, Vox, and CNN, as well as the Associated Press. NPR has had a policy imposed since January 2018 to generally avoid using the word "racist" when describing the Trump administration, but the news room agreed on an editorial decision to describe Trump's tweets as racist.
The Washington Post, after interviews with 26 involved sources, reported that after the backlash, Trump defended his statements to his advisers. Trump said that he had been watching Fox & Friends, that his statements were aimed at bringing more attention to the four congresswomen because he believed they were 'good foils'.
Later on July 14, Trump tweeted: "So sad to see the Democrats sticking up for people who speak so badly of our Country and who, in addition, hate Israel with a true and unbridled passion. Whenever confronted, they call their adversaries, including Nancy Pelosi, "RACIST."" The next day, Trump demanded that "the Radical Left Congresswomen" apologize to him, as well as the people of the United States and Israel, for "the terrible things they have said". He also accused them of propagating "racist hatred". In response to a journalist, Trump said he wasn't concerned if white nationalists agreed with him, "because many people agree with me."
On July 16, the House of Representatives rebuked his remarks, passing H.Res. 489 which says the House "strongly condemns President Donald Trump's racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color." Four Republican representatives (Brian Fitzpatrick, Fred Upton, Will Hurd and Susan Brooks) joined the Democratic majority and independent Justin Amash in a 240-to-187 vote. Before the vote, Trump continued his insults towards the congresswomen and top Republicans accused the four congresswomen of being socialists. After the vote, Trump praised the Republican Party for being unified in rejecting the House resolution, while acknowledging that the resolution was regarding his comments on "four Democrat Congresswomen".
Also on July 16, Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Republican House minority leader Kevin McCarthy commented on Trump's statements. McConnell was asked if Trump's initial statements were racist. McConnell replied: "The president's not a racist." McConnell also said it was a "mistake" to "single out any segment" of widespread "incendiary rhetoric" in American politics. McCarthy was also asked if Trump's initial statements were racist; McCarthy replied: "No." Republican Lindsey Graham, chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, tweeted "We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists. They hate Israel. They hate our own country. They’re calling the guards along our border — Border Patrol agents — concentration camp guards. They accuse people who support Israel of doing it for the Benjamins. They’re anti-Semitic. They’re anti-America." On July 18 he said that he did not think Trump's initial statements were racist because: "I don't think a Somali refugee embracing Trump would be asked to go back. If you're racist, you want everybody to go back because they are black or Muslim." Previously in 2015, Graham had called Trump a "race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot".
At a presidential campaign rally on July 17 in North Carolina, Trump continued to attack the four congresswomen: "They never have anything good to say. That's why I say, 'Hey if you don’t like it, let 'em leave' ... if they don't love it, tell them to leave it." "Love it or leave it" is a slogan often directed toward critics of the government or anyone who is perceived as not being sufficiently patriotic, particularly if they are non-white; it was commonly used against Vietnam War protesters in the 1960s. In his speech, Trump referenced Rashida Tlaib calling him a 'motherfucker', stating: "that's not somebody that loves our country". Trump also named Ilhan Omar and misrepresented comments Omar made in 2013, falsely claiming that Omar had praised al-Qaeda. As Trump continued that Omar "looks down with contempt" on Americans, the crowd of Trump supporters reacted by chanting: "Send her back, Send her back." After the rally, Trump tweeted: "What a crowd, and what great people". Asked about the chants on July 18, Trump said he disagreed with the chants from the crowd. He falsely claimed that he tried to stop the chant by "speaking very quickly". In reality, Trump stopped speaking for 13 seconds while the chant was occurring, and did not discourage the crowd. He continued criticizing Omar after resuming his speech. On July 19, Trump praised the North Carolina crowd as "incredible people" and "incredible patriots".
Foreign media has widely covered the incident. The social media hashtag #IStandWithIlhanOmar was soon trending in the United States and other countries. Many foreign politicians commented, condemning Trump. On July 19, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, considered by many[who?] to be the leader of the Free World, commented, “I reject [Trump’s comments] and stand in solidarity with the congresswomen he targeted.” Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said, "The comments made were hurtful, wrong and completely unacceptable. I want everyone in Canada to know that those comments are completely unacceptable and should not be allowed or encouraged in Canada". British Prime Minister Theresa May also condemned Trump's remarks, calling them "completely unacceptable." Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, commented "I've been, for many years, one of the most pro-American politicians in Europe.... (but) sometimes if you feel that something is totally unacceptable you have to react despite business, despite interests.
In a CBS News and YouGov poll of almost 2,100 American adults conducted from July 17 to 19, it was found that 34% felt that Trump's initial tweets were not racist, and 48% felt that they were racist. 70% of Republican respondents felt that the tweets were not racist. 84% of Democrat respondents felt that the tweets were racist. 59% of respondents disagreed with Trump's initial tweets, while 40% agreed.
On July 27, 2019, Trump used Twitter to criticize Representative Elijah Cummings, the Maryland district he represents, and the city of Baltimore. Cummings, who is black, was Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, which was heading investigations of the Trump administration, including of its migrant detentions. The district Cummings represents is over 50% black according to the U.S. Census. It includes parts of Baltimore as well as suburban areas. Trump's tweets came less than an hour after a Fox & Friends segment by Kimberly Klacik criticizing Cummings and his district. Klacik reacted positively, believing that Trump had watched her segment.
Rep, Elijah Cummings has been a brutal bully, shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous. His district is considered the Worst in the USA...... As proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded. Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place ... Why is so much money sent to the Elijah Cummings district when it is considered the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States. No human being would want to live there. Where is all this money going? How much is stolen? Investigate this corrupt mess immediately!
Trump has a history of describing largely black populated areas as being "infested", including African nations in 2014, Atlanta in 2017, sanctuary cities in 2018, and the places he decided the "Squad" should "go back" to in 2019. When Representative John Lewis refused to attend Trump's inauguration in 2017, Trump said that Lewis "should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested)".
Cummings responded that it was his "moral duty to fight for [his] constituents", pointing out that to do so, he had previously asked for Trump's support in passing laws to lower prescription drug prices, while linking to a 2017 article from Democratic representatives lamenting that Trump did not offer support on such issues. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who was born in Baltimore, and Senator Elizabeth Warren condemned his remarks as racist.
Trump continued his attacks hours later: "Elijah Cummings spends all of his time trying to hurt innocent people through "Oversight." He does NOTHING for his very poor, very dangerous and very badly run district!" Cummings' Maryland district's median income is above the average for American districts.
On July 27, the editorial board of The Baltimore Sun responded to Trump's statements. They argued that Trump also has a responsibility to solve Baltimore's problems, since the White House has more power than any single congressman. They concluded: "Better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one."
On July 28, Trump wrote "There is nothing racist in stating plainly what most people already know, that Elijah Cummings has done a terrible job for the people of his district, and of Baltimore itself. Dems always play the race card when they are unable to win with facts. Shame!". Trump's Acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, defended the comments in television interviews, saying that he understood why some people think Trump's comments are racist, "but that doesn’t mean that it is racist." Trump also called Cummings a "racist", without explanation, and retweeted a British right-wing commentator that labelled Baltimore as a "proper sh*thole".
On July 29, Al Sharpton, a black activist for civil rights, tweeted: "Arrived in DC from Atlanta, headed to Baltimore. Long day but can’t stop." Trump quoted and responded to that tweet of Sharpton's, declaring: "I have known Al for 25 years. Went to fights with him & Don King, always got along well. He 'loved Trump!' He would ask me for favors often. Al is a con man, a troublemaker, always looking for a score. Just doing his thing. Must have intimidated Comcast/NBC. Hates Whites & Cops!" This led Sharpton to reply: "I do make trouble for bigots. If he really thought I was a con man he would want me in his cabinet."
On July 30, Trump said that "thousands" of people have told his administration they were "thankful" for his comments on Baltimore, in particular the black majority of the residents of Baltimore, who he said were "living in hell". On August 2, he said that a poll showing that 80% of black Americans think he is racist was "fake news".
Regarding Trump's rhetoric, the Washington National Cathedral issued a statement from its leaders Mariann Budde, Randolph Hollerith and Kelly Douglas. They condemned Trump's statements as "dangerous", because "violent words lead to violent actions". They asked when would Americans declare that they "have had enough" of Trump's words and actions, which both attract and shield "white supremacists who consider people of color a sub-human 'infestation' in America ... The question is less about the president's sense of decency, but of" Americans'.
Following the mass shooting that took place in El Paso, Texas during the first week of August 2019, Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric was widely criticized, especially remarks regarding Hispanics and his repeated warnings about an immigrant "invasion", the same wording used by the El Paso shooter in his anti-immigrant manifesto in which he wrote, "this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas." Representative Veronica Escobar, whose district includes a large part of the city, said "Words have consequences. The president has made my community and my people the enemy. He has told the country that we are people to be feared, people to be hated." Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, who is from El Paso, stated: "Anyone who is surprised is part of this problem right now — including members of the media who ask, ‘Hey Beto, do you think the president is racist?' Well, Jesus Christ, of course he’s racist. He’s been racist from day one."
In a speech on August 5 commenting on the recent shootings, Trump strongly condemned racism and white supremacy, stating "These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America."
On August 20, 2019 after a reporter asked "Should there be any change in U.S. aid to Israel?", Donald Trump stated within his answer, "And I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty." The quote caused outrage, shock and disdain from Jewish leaders and citizens in the United States that the president was perpetuating anti-Semitic stereotypes. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders responded at a campaign rally in Iowa City: "“I am a proud Jewish person, and I have no concerns about voting Democratic. And in fact, I intend to vote for a Jewish man to become the next president of the United States."
Donald Trump has been accused of "inflaming racial, ethnic and religious tensions across the United States." 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."
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."
Between 2014 and 2018, the number of hate groups skyrocketed 30%, reaching 892 in 2015; 917 in 2016; 954 in 2017; and to a record number 1,020 in 2018. According to Mark Potok at the SPLC, Donald Trump's presidential campaign speeches "demonizing statements about Latinos and Muslims have electrified the radical right, leading to glowing endorsements from white nationalist leaders such as Jared Taylor and former Klansman David Duke".
The Ku Klux Klan held a rally at the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally in 2017. Former grand wizard David Duke spoke calling the demonstrations a "turning point" saying, "We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back."
A 2018 study found that Trump's anti-establishment campaign positions, for example his frequent "drain the swamp" rhetoric, was less of a draw for voters than were his negative attitudes towards ethnic minorities and sexism. One study found that "Trump’s rhetoric and rallies served to heighten white identity and increase the perceived threat facing white Americans [and found] that counties which hosted a Trump rally saw a 226% increase in hate-motivated incidents." In 2019, the Brookings Institution reported that statistics show that Trump's racist rhetoric has resulted in an increase in violence in America. Their study found "substantial evidence that Trump has encouraged racism and benefitted politically from it." Looking at hate crime figures in which Trump had won the election they found a jump of hate crimes, the second largest jump in 25 years, the first being September 11, 2001.
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." 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."
Sociologist Margaret Hagerman studies and writes about young people's views on racism and current events in America. In her latest work, published in 2018, she reports on her conversations with young people as related to the election of Trump as president. She writes:
Comparing the children of color to white children she writes:
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) have criticized Trump for "repeatedly stirring racial controversies." 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."
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, 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." Other black lawmakers attended the address wearing kente stoles as a show of support following Trump's "shithole" comments about African and other countries.
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".
Trump has repeatedly denied claims that he is racist, often stating that he is "the least racist person". 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."
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."
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. 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." 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"), Charles M. Blow ("Trump Is a Racist. Period."), and David Leonhardt ("Donald Trump is a racist"). Additionally, John Cassidy of The New Yorker concluded, "we have a racist in the Oval Office."
Conservative pundit and former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, when asked in an interview in January 2018 if he thought Trump was a racist replied, "Yeah, I do. At this point the evidence is incontrovertible." 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."
Australian political commentator and former Liberal party leader John Hewson writes in January 2018 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."
In July 2019, five New York Times writers stated that Trump has "decades" of history where he exploited "America's racial, ethnic and religious divisions" for personal gains of "ratings, fame, money or power", while ignoring negative consequences.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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. According to an October 2017 Politico/Morning Consult poll, 45% of voters thought Trump was a racist, a plurality.
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.
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.
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. According to a July 2019 Politico/Morning Consult poll, 54% of American voters viewed Trump as racist and 38% did not. A Quinnipiac University poll released in July found that 51% of voters believed that Trump is a racist while 45% said that he is not a racist.
The president, according to a White House official, also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt that they help the United States economically.