Trump’s Presidency of Inflaming Racial Division

At a time when America has been facing a deep soul-searching on racial justice, President Trump has not been part of the solution. He has deliberately been part of the problem. Since becoming a presidential candidate in 2015, he has viewed inflaming racial tensions as a central political strategy, at terrible cost to the country, including everybody from Black Lives Matter protesters to police themselves, who suffer from this division.

Below is a list, which does not include the time before he became a presidential candidate (for example: being sued in 1973 for housing discrimination, his role in the Central Park Five in 1989, dancing around David Duke, pushing birtherism) of some of the worst reported examples of Trump’s racism:


Trump’s campaign announcement called Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best — they’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” [New York Times, 6/16/15]

Trump said in a statement that ‘infectious disease is pouring’ over the Mexican border. “The largest suppliers of heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs are Mexican cartels that arrange to have Mexican immigrants trying to cross the borders and smuggle in the drugs. The Border Patrol knows this. Likewise, tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border. The United States has become a dumping ground for Mexico and, in fact, for many other parts of the world.” [Business Insider, Trump statement, 7/6/15]

Trump said two men who beat a Mexican homeless man were ‘passionate’ supporters. “Two Boston men were charged Wednesday in the beating of a homeless Mexican man. The victim was allegedly sleeping outside a subway station when brothers Scott and Steve Leader rummaged through his things, then started beating him around the face and neck and hitting him with a metal pole. One witness heard the brothers laughing as they walked away. Here’s what police say Scott Leader told them to justify the assault: ‘Donald Trump was right — all these illegals need to be deported.’ Here’s what Donald Trump said when told about the alleged assault (according to the Boston Globe) at a Wednesday press conference in New Hampshire: ‘I haven’t heard about that. It would be a shame, but I haven’t heard about that.’ Then the crowd buzzed, and Trump added: ‘I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate. I will say that, and everybody here has reported it.’” [Vox, 8/21/15]


Trump said a judge couldn’t be impartial because of his ‘Mexican heritage.’ Until Donald Trump’s comments about the ethnicity of Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the judge overseeing the fraud case against Trump University in San Diego, Curiel was anything but a household name. Then Trump began calling Curiel a ‘hater’ who was being unfair to him because the judge is ‘Hispanic,’ because he is ‘Mexican’ and because Trump is building a wall.” [NPR, 6/7/16]

Trump asks Black voters, ‘what the hell do you have to lose.’ “Donald Trump on Friday continued his outreach to African-American voters, presenting them with a stark question: ‘What the hell do you have to lose?’ Speaking in Dimondale, Michigan — a predominantly white suburb of Lansing — Trump lamented the collapse of American manufacturing and criticized free trade deals as he laced into Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, saying they are taking black voters for granted. ‘You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed — what the hell do you have to lose?’ Trump asked the audience in an unscripted moment from a speech in which he otherwise stuck to his teleprompter.” [CNN, 8/19/16]


Trump asked April Ryan to set up a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus. “President Donald Trump on Thursday asked April Ryan, an African-American reporter and longtime White House correspondent, if she would arrange for him a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus. Late in a rollicking and unexpected news conference, Trump took a question from Ryan, who asked about his campaign promise to revitalize the American urban centers he frequently described in bleak terms. … When questioned on whether he planned to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus, a group of African-American lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Trump asked Ryan if she would organize it herself. ‘I’ll tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting?’ he said. ‘Do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours?’ Ryan replied: ‘No,’ adding that she was ‘just a reporter.’ ‘Set up the meeting,’ Trump continued. ‘Let’s go, set up a meeting. I would love to meet with the black caucus. I think it’s great. The Congressional Black Caucus.’” [CNN, 2/16/17]

Trump says Charlottesville protests had hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.’ “On August 12, a black man named DeAndre Harris was beaten by at least four white supremacists. At about 1:45 p.m. that day, James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old white supremacist from Ohio, drove his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 35 others. Fields was convicted in December 2018 of first-degree murder. In March, he pleaded guilty to 29 of 30 federal hate-crime charges in a separate trial. Speaking on the afternoon of the attack from his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, Trump denounced ‘this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.’ He paused, then repeated: ‘On many sides.’” [The Atlantic, 8/12/17]

Trump lamented the removal of ‘beautiful’ Confederate monuments. “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.” [Twitter, 8/17/17]

Trump administration cut federal grant to organization helping people escape white nationalist organizations. “Former skinhead and Life After Hate co-founder Christian Picciolini says that an Obama-era federal grant his organization received to help combat ‘far-right’ extremism was rescinded under the Trump administration shortly after President Donald Trump took office.‘Under President Obama, my organization, Life After Hate, was awarded a $400,000 grant to help combat far-right extremism. And when President Trump took office, immediately that grant was rescinded,’ Picciolini told CBS News’ John Dickerson on ‘Face the Nation’ Sunday. ‘We were the only organization of the pool of grantees that was focused on white supremacist, extremists and disengaging people from that movement,’ he said.” [CBS News, 8/20/17]

Trump attacked NFL players for protesting for racial justice, fantasizing that a team owner would say ‘get that son of a bitch off the field.’ “Trump changed that Friday night at a rally in Alabama. He was there to support the campaign of Sen. Luther Strange, until recently the state’s attorney general, who was appointed to fill the vacancy left by Jeff Sessions’s elevation to the Cabinet. Strange is the universal pick of the Republican establishment, including Trump, but he’s being challenged by former Judge Roy Moore (yes, the guy from the 10 Commandments controversy), who is very much running on appeals to the Trump base. Perhaps in order to appeal to that base, Trump’s speech went on an extended tangent about pro football. ‘You know what’s hurting the game,’ Trump asked, before answering himself: ‘when people like yourselves turn on television, and you see those people taking the knee when they are playing our great national anthem.’ Drawing the rhetorical distinction between the ‘people like yourselves’ at the overwhelmingly white rally and ‘those people’ protesting was, needless to say, a provocative framing of the issue. And the substance of Trump’s remarks was even more so. He advised fans to boycott the NFL and speculated, ‘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!’’” [Vox, 9/25/17]

Trump called Puerto Rican critics of his response to Hurricane Maria ‘politically motivated ingrates.’ “‘We have done a great job with the almost impossible situation in Puerto Rico. Outside of the Fake News or politically motivated ingrates,’ he tweeted on Sunday.’” [PBS, 10/1/17]

Trump said Nigerian immigrants would never ‘go back to their huts.’ “According to six officials who attended or were briefed about the meeting, Mr. Trump then began reading aloud from the document, which his domestic policy adviser, Stephen Miller, had given him just before the meeting. The document listed how many immigrants had received visas to enter the United States in 2017. More than 2,500 were from Afghanistan, a terrorist haven, the president complained. Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They ‘all have AIDS,’ he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there. Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never ‘go back to their huts’ in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.” [New York Times, 12/23/17]


Trump called African nations ‘shithole countries’ and said more Norwegian immigrants should be let into the United States. “It came as senators huddled in the Oval Office with the president to discuss a path forward on an immigration deal. Trump questioned why the United States would want people from nations such as Haiti while he was being briefed on changes to the visa lottery system. According to the aide, when the group came to discussing immigration from Africa, Trump asked why America would want immigrants from ‘all these shithole countries’ and that the U.S. should have more people coming in from places like Norway.” [NBC News, 1/11/18]

Trump asked why an intelligence analyst of Korean descent was working on Pakistan rather than North Korea, asking where ‘your people’ were from. “A career intelligence analyst who is an expert in hostage policy stood before President Donald Trump in the Oval Office last fall to brief him on the impending release of a family long held in Pakistan under uncertain circumstances. It was her first time meeting the president, and when she was done briefing, he had a question for her. ‘Where are you from?’ the president asked, according to two officials with direct knowledge of the exchange. New York, she replied. Trump was unsatisfied and asked again, the officials said. Referring to the president’s hometown, she offered that she, too, was from Manhattan. But that’s not what the president was after. He wanted to know where ‘your people’ are from, according to the officials, who spoke under condition of anonymity due to the nature of the internal discussions. After the analyst revealed that her parents are Korean, Trump turned to an adviser in the room and seemed to suggest her ethnicity should determine her career path, asking why the ‘pretty Korean lady’ isn’t negotiating with North Korea on his administration’s behalf, the officials said.” [NBC News, 1/12/18]

Trump called undocumented immigrants not people, but ‘animals.’ “As he has in numerous private meetings with his advisers at the White House, Mr. Trump used the session to vent about the nation’s immigration laws, calling them ‘the dumbest laws on immigration in the world.’ He exhorted his administration to ‘do much better’ in keeping out undesirable people, including members of transnational gangs like MS-13. ‘We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them,’ Mr. Trump said in the Cabinet Room during an hourlong meeting that reporters were allowed to document. ‘You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.’” [New York Times, 5/16/18]

Trump fearmongered with the so-called-caravan on the southern border about an ‘invasion.’ “Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border. Please go back, you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process. This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!” [Twitter, 10/29/18]


Trump tweets the nickname he gave Sen. Warren and then ‘see you on the campaign TRAIL,’ a reference to the trail of tears. “Today Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to by me as Pocahontas, joined the race for President. Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate, or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!” [Twitter, 2/9/19]

Trump recommends the Squad ‘go back’ to their countries despite three of the four being born in the United States. “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! [Twitter, 7/14/19]

Trump said Rep. Cummings’ district was a ‘disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.’ President Donald Trump on Saturday lashed out at Rep. Elijah Cummings, who has been fiercely critical of conditions in detention centers on the U.S. southern border, attacking the congressman’s district using degrading language that is likely to further inflame racial tensions. Cummings, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, challenged acting head of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan during a hearing last week on conditions at the southern border and children who have been separated from their parents. The congressman said he was beginning to wonder whether Homeland Security had an ‘empathy deficit’ toward migrant families and their children. Cummings represents Maryland’s 7th congressional district, which includes a large part of Baltimore and is majority black. Trump called Cummings a ‘brutal bully’ for criticizing Border Patrol. The president called Cummings’ district in Baltimore a ‘disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess’ and ‘far worse and more dangerous’ than the conditions at the southern border.” [CNBC, 7/27/19]

Trump called impeachment a ‘lynching.’ “So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching. But we will WIN!” [Twitter, 10/22/19]


Trump called protesters ‘thugs’ and said ‘when the looting starts the shooting starts.’ “An incendiary phrase used by President Trump in a tweet about the protests over George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis appears to have originated in a 1967 news conference held by a Miami police chief long accused of using racist tactics in his force’s patrols of black neighborhoods. Mr. Trump, in a tweet after midnight on Friday, called the protesters in Minneapolis ‘thugs’ and said: ‘When the looting starts, the shooting starts.’ The phrase was used prominently by Walter E. Headley, Miami’s former police chief, in 1967 as he pledged a no-holds-barred response to a Christmas-season outbreak of violent crime in black neighborhoods that had left three people dead in attempted robberies.” [New York Times, 5/29/20]

Trump called coronavirus ‘kung flu.’ “‘I said the other night, there’s never been anything where they have so many names,’ Trump said, referencing his Tulsa event, which was his first campaign rally since the pandemic closed down much of the country. ‘I could give you 19 or 20 names for that, right? It’s got all different names.’ The president then listed several names for the disease, including the coronavirus, the ‘Wuhan’ virus and ‘the Chinese virus.’ When Trump said ‘kung flu,’ the crowd responded with cheers. [The Hill, 6/23/20]

Trump tweets videos of Black people attacking white people, asking where the protests are. “As protesters demanding an end to police brutality and systemic racism again clashed with authorities outside the White House on Monday night, the president took to Twitter to ask why he didn’t see a different kind of demonstration instead. Above a retweeted video of a black man repeatedly punching a white department store employee, Trump wrote: ‘Looks what’s going on here. Where are the protesters?’ He also retweeted another account that asked ‘Where are the protests for this?’ with a clip of a black man pushing a white woman into the side of a subway car. ‘So terrible!’ Trump added above that video.” [Washington Post, 6/23/20]

Trump retweeted a video where a Trump supporter chants ‘white power’ in Florida. “President Donald Trump on Sunday morning widely shared a video he said is from the Villages, a retirement community in Florida, in which a man driving a golf cart with Trump campaign posters is seen chanting ‘white power.’ The President retweeted the video that showed the community’s Trump supporters and anti-Trump protesters arguing with one another. The President thanked the ‘great people’ shown in the video. ‘Thank you to the great people of The Villages. The Radical Left Do Nothing Democrats will Fall in the Fall. Corrupt Joe is shot. See you soon!!’ he wrote in the tweet. Roughly three hours later, the tweet no longer appeared in Trump’s timeline.” [CNN, 6/29/20]

Trump takes racial grievance to Mt. Rushmore. “The president dug further into American divisions Friday, offering a discordant tone to an electorate battered by a pandemic and wounded by racial injustice following the high-profile killings of Black people. He zeroed in on the desecration by some protesters of monuments and statues across the country that honor those who have benefited from slavery, including some past presidents. ‘This movement is openly attacking the legacies of every person on Mount Rushmore,’ Trump said. He lamented ‘cancel culture’ and charged that some on the political left hope to ‘defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children.’ He said Americans should speak proudly of their heritage and shouldn’t have to apologize for its history. ‘We will not be terrorized, we will not be demeaned, and we will not be intimidated by bad, evil people,’ Trump added. ‘It will not happen.’” [AP, 7/2/20]

Trump assails BLM protesters as ‘angry mobs’ from South Lawn of White House on the Fourth of July. “Mr. Trump followed up with his remarks on Saturday from the South Lawn of the White House, which sounded more like a campaign rally, and repeated the themes from the previous evening. ‘We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children or trample on our freedoms,’ Mr. Trump said, claiming that protesters — who have won broad public support, including from corporate America — were ‘not interested in justice or healing.’ Mr. Trump cast himself as the heir to ‘American heroes’ who defeated Nazis, fascists, communists and terrorists, all but drawing a direct line from such enemies to his domestic critics. ‘We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and people who in many instances have absolutely no clue what they are doing,’ he said.” [New York Times, 7/4/20]

Trump attacked NASCAR for banning the Confederate flag. “President Trump followed up a pair of divisive speeches over the holiday weekend on Monday by castigating NASCAR for banning the Confederate flag and calling on its only Black driver to apologize for ‘a hoax’ involving a rope fashioned into a noose that the FBI later determined wasn’t a hate crime. The comments — in a tweet about NASCAR and driver Bubba Wallace — were the latest in a series of inflammatory statements Trump has made that seem aimed at stoking his base, even as his job approval numbers hovered at their lowest level amid racial tensions over George Floyd’s death and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. ‘Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!’ the president tweeted Monday morning.” [NPR, 7/6/20]

Asked why Black Americans are still killed by police, Trump said it was a ‘terrible question’ and repeated that more white people are killed by police. “In an interview with CBS News on Tuesday, President Trump said the killing of George Floyd was ‘terrible’ but appeared to bristle when asked why Black Americans are ‘still dying at the hands of law enforcement in this country.’ ‘So are White people. So are White people. What a terrible question to ask. So are White people,’ Mr. Trump told CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge at the White House. ‘More White people, by the way. More White people.’” [CBS News, 7/15/20]

Trump fearmongered about low-income housing. “I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood…Your housing prices will go up based on the market, and crime will go down. I have rescinded the Obama-Biden AFFH Rule. Enjoy!” Trump had earlier tweeted an article about this policy to “Suburban Housewives of America.” [Twitter, 7/23/20; 7/29/20]

Trump was the only president to skip John Lewis’ funeral. “On Monday, as Trump traveled again to the battleground state of North Carolina for a factory tour, reporters asked whether he would pay respects to the late congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis, who is lying in state at the Capitol on Monday and Tuesday. ‘No,’ Trump said. ‘I won’t be going, no.’” [Washington Post, 7/28/20]

Trump: ‘it’s been hell for suburbia’ “‘People fight all of their lives to get into the suburbs and have a beautiful home,’ he said. ‘There will be no more low-income housing forced into the suburbs. It’s been hell for suburbia,’ he added, before telling the audience to ‘enjoy your life, ladies and gentlemen.’” [New York Times, 7/29/20]

Asked about John Lewis, Trump said he didn’t know if he was impressive, complained he skipped his inauguration, and wasn’t sure how history would remember. “In an interview with Axios’ Jonathan Swan that aired Monday night on HBO but was recorded last week, as Lewis lay in state at the U.S. Capitol, the president was asked how he thought history would remember the former 17-term Atlanta-area congressman. ‘I don’t know,’ Trump said. ‘I really don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration. He chose — I don’t, I never met John Lewis, actually, I don’t believe.’ ‘Do you find him impressive?’ asked Swan. ‘Uh, I can’t say one way or the other. I find a lot of people impressive. I find many people not impressive,’ Trump replied.” [Politico, 8/4/20]

Trump stokes conspiracy theory that Kamala Harris wasn’t born in the United States. Trump, asked a question about a Kamala Harris birther conspiracy theory, stoked it up in a White House press briefing: “I just heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements … I have no idea if that’s right. … That’s very a serious, they’re saying that she isn’t qualified because she wasn’t born in this country.” [Twitter, 8/13/20]

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