Trump: Drugs played ‘very big’ fac­tor in North Carolina protests.

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Steve Peo­ples and Jill Colvin

Step­ping deeper into Amer­ica’s race de­bate, Don­ald Trump on Thursday in­sisted that drugs played “a very, very big fac­tor” in vi­o­lent protests that erupted in North Carolina overnight. He warned African-Amer­i­can pro­test­ers that their out­rage was cre­at­ing suf­fer­ing in their own com­mu­ni­ties.

It was an­other day of mixed mes­sages on a del­i­cate is­sue from the toughtalk­ing Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial con­tender, ea­ger to blunt crit­i­cism that his cam­paign in­spires racism in the midst of what he called “a na­tional cri­sis.” The Na­tional Guard was ac­ti­vated to calm fierce protests that fol­lowed two po­lice shoot­ings of black men in North Carolina and Ok­la­homa.

Trump has sought to ex­press em­pa­thy, but his words could ran­kle some in the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity.

“The peo­ple who will suf­fer the most as a re­sult of th­ese riots are law-abid­ing African-Amer­i­can res­i­dents who live in th­ese com­mu­ni­ties where the crime is so ram­pant,” Trump de­clared at an en­ergy con­fer­ence in Pitts­burgh. He added, “Drugs are a very, very big fac­tor in what you’re watch­ing on tele­vi­sion at night.”

Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton did not ad­dress es­ca­lat­ing racial ten­sions on Thursday as she pre­pared for her first de­bate-stage meet­ing with Trump. She dinged her op­po­nent, al­beit in a hu­mor­ous way, in an in­ter­view re­leased Thursday on comic Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis’ web pro­gram, “Be­tween Two Ferns.”

The co­me­dian asked her what Trump might wear to Mon­day’s de­bate.

“I as­sume he’ll wear that red power tie,” Clin­ton said. Gal­i­fi­anakis re­sponded, “Or maybe like a white power tie.”

“That’s even more ap­pro­pri­ate,” Clin­ton said.

Both can­di­dates are work­ing to nav­i­gate the pol­i­tics of race with Elec­tion Day less than seven weeks away and early vot­ing about to be­gin in some states.

Trump, in par­tic­u­lar, has strug­gled to bal­ance a mes­sage that ap­peals to his white, work­ing-class base with one that im­proves his stand­ing with mi­nori­ties and ed­u­cated whites who may worry about racial un­der­tones in his can­di­dacy. He was slow to dis­avow for­mer KKK leader David Duke ear­lier in the year and has re­peat­edly pro­moted tweets by white su­prem­a­cists dur­ing his White House bid.

The Repub­li­can nom­i­nee ad­mit­ted for the first time pub­licly last week that Pres­i­dent Barack Obama was born in the United States. And as re­cently as last week, Trump’s eldest son tweeted a meme com­monly used by white na­tion­al­ists.

On Thursday, Trump tried at times to project a softer mes­sage, call­ing for a na­tion united in “the spirit of to­geth­er­ness.”

“We all have to walk a mile in some­one else’s shoes, see things through their eyes, and then get to work fix­ing our very wounded coun­try.”

The mes­sage was com­pli­cated by his own sug­ges­tion that pro­test­ers out­raged by the po­lice shoot­ings of black men were un­der the in­flu­ence of drugs. Ear­lier in the day, he also called for called for Chicago to adopt “stop and frisk” polic­ing tac­tics that have been con­demned as racial pro­fil­ing.

At the same time in neigh­bor­ing Ohio, Trump’s Ma­hon­ing County chair Kathy Miller, a vol­un­teer, came un­der fire af­ter telling the Guardian news­pa­per, “I don’t think there was any racism un­til Obama got elected.”

The Trump cam­paign ac­cepted her res­ig­na­tion af­ter what a spokesman called “in­ap­pro­pri­ate” com­ments.

Clin­ton has faced crit­i­cism of her own for say­ing half of Trump’s sup­port­ers be­long in a “bas­ket of de­plorables” be­cause they are racist, sex­ist, ho­mo­pho­bic or xeno­pho­bic.

The Demo­cratic nom­i­nee has also made curb­ing gun vi­o­lence and po­lice bru­tal­ity a cen­tral part of her can­di­dacy.

She said Wed­nes­day that shoot­ings in Ok­la­homa and North Carolina added two more names “to a long list of African-Amer­i­cans killed by po­lice of­fi­cers. It’s un­bear­able and it needs to be­come in­tol­er­a­ble.”

Clin­ton has cam­paigned along­side a group of black women called the “Moth­ers of the Move­ment,” who ad­vo­cated for more ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency by law en­force­ment. The group in­cludes the moth­ers of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, black vic­tims of high-pro­file killings.

Trump said new lead­er­ship is re­quired to ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion.

“This is a na­tional cri­sis,” he said with­out men­tion­ing the black men shot by po­lice in re­cent days. He said that “it’s the job of the next pres­i­dent of the United States to work with our gov­er­nors and may­ors to ad­dress this cri­sis and save African-Amer­i­can lives.”

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump speaks at the Shale In­sight Con­fer­ence on Thursday in Pitts­burgh.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton meets with mem­bers of her staff on­board her cam­paign plane en route to Westch­ester County Air­port in White Plains, N.Y., from Florida on Wed­nes­day.

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