Donald Trump said Wednesday he is “very troubled” by last week’s fatal shooting of a black man by a white police officer in Oklahoma, as he made a fresh appeal to black voters who have supported Democrats in the past by overwhelming margins.
Trump’s event with one of his top black supporters, Pastor Darrell Scott, at the minister’s New Spirit Revival Center, took a bizarre turn when the Republican nominee was introduced by boxing promoter Don King, who used a racial slur as he made the case for black voters to support Trump.
Trump’s latest foray into the black community not only sought to connect with voters in Cleveland, home to a large community of African-American voters key to rival Hillary Clinton’s prospects in Ohio, but also with moderate suburban voters, who frequently hear Clinton describe Trump as extreme.
King, introducing Trump, raised eyebrows when he said a black man is always framed by his skin color, recalling that he once told pop icon Michael Jackson “if you’re poor, you’re a ‘poor Negro.’ If you’re rich, you’re a ‘rich Negro.'” An educated black man is “an intellectual negro.”
King, who is black, continued: “If you’re a dancing and sliding and gliding n—–— I mean Negro — you are ‘a dancing and sliding and gliding Negro.'” Gasps and laughs could be heard from the audience.
The King incident underscored the often clumsy way in which Trump has made his appeal to minority voters. Many black community leaders and voters have been offended by his dire depiction of life in minority communities. Trump’s outreach has also been viewed cynically as an attempt by his campaign to soothe concerns among more moderate, suburban voters.
At the end of the Ohio church event organized by members of his diversity coalition, Trump was asked about recent high-profile police shootings in Oklahoma and North Carolina. Trump said 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, who was killed in Friday’s Tulsa, Oklahoma, shooting, “looked like he did everything you’re supposed to do. And he looked like a really good man.”
“This young officer, I don’t know what she was thinking. I don’t know what she was thinking but I’m very, very troubled by that,” Trump said, calling it a “terrible situation.”
Trump, joined by running mate Mike Pence at the event, has routinely praised police officers in his speeches to supporters. But after reading from notes about the role of the black church in the civil rights movement and vowing to help struggling black Americans, Trump questioned the Tulsa officer’s reaction in shooting Crutcher, who was unarmed.
Video of the shooting, which Trump cited, shows Crutcher walking toward his SUV. His hands are up, As officers approach, Crutcher appears to place his hands on the vehicle before the officers surround him. He then drops to the ground. Someone on the police radio says, “I think he may have just been tasered.” Then almost immediately, someone can be heard yelling, “Shots fired!” Crutcher is left lying in the street.
Clinton has made curbing gun violence and police brutality a central part of her candidacy. She 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.
Addressing the North Carolina and Oklahoma shootings on Twitter on Wednesday, Clinton wrote, “Keith Lamont Scott. Terence Crutcher. Too many others. This has got to end. -H”
Trump’s meeting came after street demonstrations continued into the early hours of Wednesday in Charlotte, North Carolina. On Tuesday, 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott was fatally shot by Charlotte police officer Brentley Vinson, who is black. Officers say Scott was armed and posed a threat. Police used tear gas to disperse protesters during the demonstrations that left about a dozen officers injured.
During the question-and-answer session at the church, Trump said he was a “tremendous believer in the police and law enforcement, because we need that for our society.” But he said law enforcement was also troubled by the police-involved shootings, adding, “People that choke, people that do that, maybe they can’t be doing what they’re doing.”
Clinton, meanwhile, was campaigning in Orlando, Florida, later Wednesday. She planned a speech focused on how the economy can work for people with disabilities, an implicit poke at Trump’s much-publicized mocking of a disabled journalist during a rally last year.