Critics assail Trump’s insults toward blacks
PARIS – President Trump’s verbal assaults against black reporters, candidates and lawmakers has renewed criticism that the president employs insults rooted in racist tropes aimed at making his African-American targets appear unintelligent, untrustworthy and unqualified.
Over the past several days, including before he left Washington for an Armistice Day ceremony here this weekend, Trump has launched personal attacks against a trio of black female journalists. He accused one of asking “a lot of stupid questions.” He demanded another “sit down” at a news conference and followed up later by calling her a “loser.” He lambasted a third for asking, in his view, a “racist question.”
Trump recently called Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a gubernatorial candidate in Florida, a “thief,” and declared that Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader of the state Senate in Georgia and the Democratic candidate for governor there, was “not qualified” for the job. A feature of his campaign rallies ahead of Tuesday’s elections was mocking Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., a black lawmaker who has been highly critical of him, and calling her a “low-IQ person.”
Trump’s supporters say he fights all opponents with equal gusto, and he has gone after other reporters in an escalation of his war against the media since emerging from a bruising midterm election - most notably stripping the White House pass of CNN’s Jim Acosta.
But the president’s rhetoric toward prominent African-Americans is being singled out as far more offensive.
“His supporters are right, he does attack everyone. That’s clearly true,” said Adia Harvey Wingfield, a sociology professor at Washington University in St. Louis who writes frequently about race and gender.
“But there’s also a clear commonality in the attacks he levels against people of color and black professionals. These are straight out of historic playbooks about black workers and professionals in particular - not being qualified, not being intelligent or having what it takes to succeed in a predominantly white environment.”
The latest example came Friday when the president stopped on the South Lawn of the White House on his way to Marine One to field shouted questions from the assembled media. He was asked several questions about the role of Matthew Whitaker, who he appointed as acting attorney general Wednesday, as well as about several other topics.
But when Abby Phillip, a CNN correspondent, asked whether Trump wanted Whitaker to rein in the special counsel’s ongoing Russia investigation, he snapped.
“What a stupid question that is,” Trump replied to Phillip, who is black. “What a stupid question,” he repeated, pointing his finger at her. “But I watch you a lot. You ask a lot of stupid questions.”
The attack prompted an outpouring of support from fellow journalists, Democrats and others for Phillip, who previously covered the White House for the Washington Post. Many praised her for asking the most important and pertinent question of the day.
But Trump’s supporters reveled in the exchange, holding it up as an example of Trump showing his tormentors who is the boss.
“If you ask stupid questions, be prepared for @realDonaldTrump to call you out. #MAGA,” Harlan Z. Hill, a Republican operative and commentator, wrote on Twitter.
CNN’s communications department defended Phillip, saying that “she asked the most pertinent question of the day. The @realDonaldTrump’s personal insults are nothing new. And never surprising.”
Trump also has disparaged his former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman as a “dog” after she wrote a tell-all book that accused him of using racist language.
Trump has assembled a largely white roster of senior advisers. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson is the only African American among the Cabinet and senior White House staff.