Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION / WORLD - BY JILL COLVIN

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump bris­tled at a re­porter’s ques­tion about po­lice killing African Amer­i­cans and de­fended the right to dis­play the Con­fed­er­ate flag as he con­tin­ued to play into racial di­vi­sions in a pair of in­ter­views Tues­day.

In one in­ter­view, Trump seemed taken aback when asked why African Amer­i­cans are still dy­ing at the hands of po­lice.

“And so are white peo­ple. So are white peo­ple. What a ter­ri­ble ques­tion to ask. So are white peo­ple,” Trump told CBS’s Cather­ine Her­ridge. “More white peo­ple, by the way. More white peo­ple.”

There is no na­tional data­base track­ing po­lice-in­volved shoot­ings. But stud­ies have shown that Black Amer­i­cans are much more likely to be killed by po­lice, even though more whites — who make up a larger por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion — are killed. One study that ex­am­ined the use of lethal force by law en­force­ment from 2009 to 2012, for in­stance, found that while vic­tims were a ma­jor­ity white (52%), they were dis­pro­por­tion­ately Black (32%) with a fa­tal­ity rate 2.8 times higher among Blacks than whites.

Trump’s com­ments drew crit­i­cism from the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union’s Jef­fery Robin­son, who is­sued a harshly worded state­ment say­ing Trump’s an­swer “not only ig­nores the fact that per capita Black and Brown peo­ple are dis­pro­por­tion­ately killed by po­lice, it pro­vides the foun­da­tion for the dan­ger­ous and un­con­sti­tu­tional po­lice prac­tices that re­sult in the deaths of Black peo­ple with reg­u­lar­ity.

“Trump’s racism is so ab­so­lute that he con­tin­ues to refuse to give even a tacit ac­knowl­edg­ment to the epi­demic of po­lice vi­o­lence against Black peo­ple in Amer­ica,” Robin­son al­leged, ac­cus­ing Trump of “us­ing the vi­o­lence and suf­fer­ing per­pe­trated against Black com­mu­ni­ties as a white-su­prem­a­cist dog whis­tle ahead of the com­ing elec­tion.”

In the in­ter­view, Trump also de­fended the use of the Con­fed­er­ate flag, de­spite say­ing in 2015 that he be­lieved the flag be­longs in a mu­seum.

“All I say is free­dom of speech. It’s very sim­ple. My at­ti­tude is free­dom of speech,” Trump re­sponded. “Very sim­ple. Like it, don’t like it, it’s free­dom of speech.”

Asked whether he un­der­stood the flag is a painful sym­bol to many be­cause it is a re­minder of slav­ery, Trump told CBS that some “peo­ple love it,” adding: “And I know peo­ple that like the Con­fed­er­ate flag and they’re not think­ing about slav­ery.”

In a sec­ond in­ter­view with the con­ser­va­tive Townhall Me­dia, Trump de­fended the white St. Louis cou­ple cap­tured on video bran­dish­ing guns as they de­fended their home dur­ing one racial in­jus­tice protest.

Trump claimed that Mark and Patricia McCloskey “were go­ing to be beat up badly, if they were lucky” and said their house would have been “to­tally ran­sacked and prob­a­bly burned down” had they not been out there. “And now I un­der­stand some­body lo­cal, they want to pros­e­cute these peo­ple. It’s a dis­grace,” he said.


Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Tues­day at a news con­fer­ence in the Rose Gar­den.

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