Written by Annie Karni
President Donald Trump has repeatedly bragged about what he has done for Black America, pointing to his administration’s funding for Black colleges and universities, the creation of so-called opportunity zones and criminal justice reform.
But on Monday, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, played into a racist stereotype by seeming to question whether Black Americans “want to be successful” despite what he said Trump had done for them.
“One thing we’ve seen in a lot of the Black community, which is mostly Democrat, is that President Trump’s policies are the policies that can help people break out of the problems that they’re complaining about,” Kushner said in an interview with “Fox & Friends,” the president’s favorite morning cable show. “But he can’t want them to be successful more than they want to be successful.”
In the interview, Kushner said that after the killing in May of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody — an event that set off global protests about systemic racism, and which Kushner referred to as the “George Floyd situation” — a lot of people were more concerned with what he called “virtue signaling” than in coming up with “solutions.”
“They’d go on Instagram and cry, or they would put a slogan on their jersey or write something on a basketball court,” he said, an apparent reference to NBA players like LeBron James who joined national protests over the issue of police brutality. “And quite frankly, that was doing more to polarize the country than it was to bring people forward,” he said. “You solve problems with solutions.”
Kushner’s remarks prompted a scathing response from Rep. Gwen Moore, a Black Democrat from Wisconsin. She tweeted: “Trust fund baby slumlord Kushner who has enriched himself in the WH takes the silver spoon out of his mouth long enough to insert his foot with a racist trope about Black people and success.”
The Democratic National Committee was equally harsh.
“According to the Trump administration, when African Americans find fault in policies that have led to historic unemployment for Black families, an explosion of racial inequities and wealth gaps, and an uncontained global pandemic that has taken the lives of over 45,000 Black Americans, it means that we just don’t want to be successful badly enough,” said Brandon Gassaway, the national press secretary for the committee. “This dismissive approach to the issues that Black voters care about is indicative of Trump’s callousness and disregard for the lives of Black people.”
Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, defended Kushner by saying his remarks were taken out of context. She accused unnamed “internet trolls” for trying to “distract from President Trump’s undeniable record of accomplishment for the Black community.”
Trump’s frequent references to what he has claimed to have done for Black America have often been accompanied by one of the most patently false claims he has made since moving into the White House: that he has done more for Black Americans than any president with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.
At his debate Thursday night with his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, mocked that claim by the president. “Abraham Lincoln here is one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history,” he said, looking at Trump. “He pours fuel on every single racist fire. Every single one.”
And Trump exaggerates his successes.
“The idea that Trump has done something that is tremendous, or different, when it comes to HBCUs defies logic,” said Leah Wright Rigueur, a professor of public policy at the Kennedy School at Harvard, referring to historically black colleges and universities. “It is virtually identical to what every president has done since Ronald Reagan. The executive order they issued in 2017 used the exact same language that Barack Obama used.”
Trump has been praised for signing a criminal justice overhaul bill into law — with the caveat that the bipartisan coalition of players, including the billionaire Koch brothers, who supported the move, was firmly in place before Trump became interested in the issue.
And the tax break for opportunity zones constantly cited by Trump has spurred relatively little job creation while disproportionately helping high-profit real estate projects, according to a study by the Urban Institute released this summer.
A recent CBS News poll found that 85% of registered Black voters felt that as president, Trump “favors white people.” About 79% of those voters said he “works against” Black people.
But Kushner said in the interview that he had been hearing from Trump campaign state directors across the country about a “groundswell of support in the Black community, because they’re realizing that all of the different bad things that the media and the Democrats have said about President Trump are not true.”
Top campaign officials have said that their goal is to win at least 10% of Black voters in November, and that increasing the president’s support among Black voters by as little as 2 percentage points could sway the election. In 2016, Trump won just 8% of Black voters.
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