During Thursday’s presidential debate, former Vice President Joe Biden made the rather audacious claim that President Trump is “one of the most racist presidents in modern history.” Debate moderator Kristen Welker also weighed in, asserting that the president’s racially charged rhetoric is often viewed as inciting racial strife.
These claims appear to be, as the former vice president would say, “malarkey.” When examining both the president’s personal record and the record of his administration, it is difficult to find any substantial evidence of racism or racial bias. On the contrary, minority populations in the country seem to have largely benefited from a Trump presidency.
Before COVID-19 utterly devastated the U.S. economy, both black and Hispanic unemployment rates hit record lows. In September of 2019, the jobless rates for African Americans and Hispanics were 5.5 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively, the lowest they’ve ever been.
Trump also announced plans to classify the Ku Klux Klan as a terrorist organization, to designate Juneteenth as a national holiday, and to make lynching a hate crime. He has also repeatedly pledged to fight for historically black schools and universities and has signed legislation to provide funding for black colleges and other minority-serving institutions.
The president has also enacted historic criminal justice reform by signing the First Step Act, legislation he actively championed. The First Step Act reforms sentencing laws that disproportionally harm the African American community, allows thousands of offenders to earn earlier releases, and eases punitive prison sentences.
Additionally, in an attempt to mitigate the risk that inmates will commit further crimes once released, the law allows inmates to secure earlier releases by participating in vocational and rehabilitative programs. The First Step Act law also enacts reforms aimed at improving conditions in prisons, such as mandating that inmates be placed closer to their families. Trump has also made clear that he is “committed to building on the successes of the First Step Act” with further legislation if Congress sends it to him.
On multiple occasions, the president has offered a total and unequivocal denouncement of white supremacy. For example, on Aug. 14 2017, two days after the harrowing events of Charlottesville, Va., Trump stated, “Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
After nearly two dozen people were shot and killed on Aug. 3, 2019, at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, Trump said, “The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate. In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America.”
In March 2016, on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” when asked about David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Trump stated, “David Duke is a bad person, who I disavowed on numerous occasions over the years.”
Critics of the president’s rhetoric, including Biden, have often falsely claimed he defended white supremacists at the Charlottesville protest. However, in context, it’s clear those who make this claim are misquoting Trump.
When asked about the Charlottesville protestors during a press conference, Trump responded, “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.” He wasn’t referring to neo-Nazis or white supremacists. The president was instead addressing people “that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.”
Later during that same press conference, Trump specified that he was “not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists — because they should be condemned totally.”
Despite the incessantly cited falsehood that Trump is a racist who supports white supremacy, the record and the facts reveal a far different reality.