“I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.”
So Donald Trump claimed back in 2011. But his bravado induces renewed skepticism this week. Last Wednesday, Trump announced that he’d hold a press conference on Monday to announce his endorsement by a coalition of about 100 black religious leaders. It turns out that wasn’t quite what the black religious leaders had in mind. On Sunday, Trump abruptly canceled the press conference, though the meeting was still on.
Never one to avoid throwing gasoline on a fire when there’s a jerrycan handy, Trump didn’t just chalk the reversal up to a miscommunication, as Darrell Scott, an Ohio pastor who helped arrange the meeting, did. Instead, Trump suggested that the ministers had been subverted. “Probably some of the Black Lives Matter folks called them up, said ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be meeting with Trump because he believes that all lives matter,’” he said.
If that seems like an odd way to win over their support, it’s of a piece with Trump’s general record with respect to black voters. He continues to say he plans to win the crucial demographic, even as he does little to court such voters on the issues—and on occasion goes out of his way to alienate them. The weekend before, when a Black Lives Matter activist was roughed up at a Trump rally in Birmingham, Alabama, the Republican frontrunner had strong words of condemnation—for the victim. “Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing,” Trump said.