Trump: Black Voters Like Me Because Of Legal Woes, Mugshot

“I’m being indicted for you, the Black population,” the GOP frontrunner told Black conservatives ahead of South Carolina’s primary.

Former President Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump speaks during the keynote address of the Black Conservative Federation (BCF) Honors Gala in Columbia, South Carolina, US, on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024.Christian Monterrosa/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump made a brazen attempt on Friday to convince Black voters on the eve of the South Carolina primary that his criminal indictments are comparable to systemic racism experienced by minorities in the US criminal justice system.

“A lot of people said that’s why the Black people liked me, because they had been hurt so badly and discriminated against. And they actually viewed me as I’m being discriminated against,” he said Friday evening in front of a crowd of 500 gathered in Columbus for the Black Conservative Federation’s annual gala. “Maybe there’s something to it.”

In the weeks after the former president’s Fulton County mugshot in August was made public, several conservative commentators embraced the theory that the photo would become “an iconic symbol” in the “urban black community,” as right-wing radio host Dinesh D’Souza put it. (It’s an enduring angle; last week, after Trump released a pair of $399 sneakers following his disastrous fraud ruling, a Fox News host claimed that the shoes would connect “with Black America because they love sneakers.”)

Trump, too, latched onto the story, falsely claiming in September that his support among Black Americans had quadrupled or quintupled after the release of his mugshot. 

“When I did the mug shot in Atlanta, that mug shot is No. 1,” the GOP frontrunner said Friday, claiming he saw Black voters donning the photo on T-shirts. “You know who embraced it more than anyone else? The Black population.”

Throughout this primary season, Trump has sought to use his indictments as a rallying cry for conservative voters, frequently telling audiences that he’s being “indicted for you.” On Friday, he repurposed that line into an explicit racial appeal. “I’m being indicted for you, the Black population,” Trump said. Of course, The former president neglected to mention throughout his speech that his indictment in Georgia stems from his attempt to overturn the 2020 election in that state, which boasts a heavily Black population.

Black voters still indicate overwhelming support for President Joe Biden, but recent polling has indeed revealed a slight shift of some of the Black electorate—predominantly men—to the right. A December AP-NORC poll found that only half of Black adults approved of the president, down 36 points from July 2021. The sobering news for the Biden campaign has led the president to step up his appeals to Black voters; in January, Biden campaigned heavily in South Carolina, hoping to re-energize a constituency that was central to his victory in 2020.

The Biden campaign responded to Trump’s Friday speech by calling the former president the “proud poster boy for modern racism.”

“This is the same man who falsely accused the Central Park 5, questioned George Floyd’s humanity, compared his impeachment trial to being lynched, and ensured the unemployment gap for Black workers spiked during his presidency,” said Biden campaign spokeswoman Jasmine Harris, who added that Trump “publicly dined with white nationalists”—a reference to Trump’s dinner with Nick Fuentes and the rapper Ye—” a week after declaring his 2024 candidacy.”

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