WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama scolded Donald Trump for his bleak description of the African-American community as recent police shootings of black men — and the violent protests that followed them — inject sensitive questions about race into the presidential contest.
America’s first black president took issue with the Republican nominee’s suggestion this week that “African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape than they’ve ever been in before, ever, ever, ever.”
“I think even most 8-year-olds would tell you that whole slavery thing wasn’t very good for black people. Jim Crow wasn’t very good for black people,” Obama said in an interview that aired Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
The Democratic president encouraged Trump to visit Washington’s new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, where the ABC interview was conducted.
“What we have to do is use our history to propel us to make even more progress in the future,” Obama said.
The comments come as Trump works to strike a delicate balance on the campaign trail. He’s trying to show law-and-order toughness along with empathy for African-Americans amid criticism his campaign inspires racism.
The New York businessman has sent mixed and at times unclear messages that could rankle African-Americans even as he called Thursday for a nation united in “the spirit of togetherness.”
“The rioting in our streets is a threat to all peaceful citizens and it must be ended and ended now,” he declared at a rally in suburban Philadelphia on Thursday night. He added: “The main victims of these violent demonstrations are law-abiding African-Americans who live in these communities and only want to raise their children in safety and peace.”
Earlier in the day, however, Trump seemed to suggest that protesters outraged by the police shootings of black men were under the influence of drugs.
“If you’re not aware, drugs are a very, very big factor in what you’re watching on television at night,” he said at an energy conference in Pittsburgh.
Trump’s campaign later suggested he was talking about America’s drug problem in general, not the protests that dominated cable news coverage the night before.
Neither Trump nor Clinton is expected to campaign on Friday as they prepare for Monday’s inaugural debate.
Clinton’s campaign released an ad Friday seizing on some of Trump’s public insults of women over the years. The ad raises the question: “Is this the president we want for our daughters?”
In the ad, Trump’s words play as young women look in the mirror, including “She’s a slob. She ate like a pig” and “A person who is flat-chested, it’s very hard to be a 10.”
Clinton hopes to capitalize on voters’ wariness about Trump’s no-holds-barred approach. A new AP-GfK poll found that early three in four registered voters do not view him as even somewhat civil or compassionate. Half say he’s at least somewhat racist.
Even among those saying they’ll most likely vote for Trump, 40 percent say they think the word “compassionate” doesn’t describe him well.
Trump’s temperament, and his comments about women and minorities, is expected to come up in Monday’s nationally televised faceoff — especially amid escalating racial tensions in many communities following the police shootings of black men in Oklahoma and North Carolina.
Charlotte, North Carolina was under a midnight curfew overnight after two previous nights of chaotic protests that led to one death as well as injuries, arrests and vandalism.
Trump has spent the last several weeks asking black Americans for their support and asserting that Obama has failed the black community, but those appeals have been undermined at times.
On Thursday, the Trump campaign accepted the resignation of an Ohio volunteer, Mahoning County chair Kathy Miller, who told the Guardian newspaper, “I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected.”
Peoples reported from Washington.
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