Facing another round of accusations of bigotry and approaching the one-year anniversary of the deadly white nationalist riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Donald Trump has in recent days gone on the offensive, arguing that he is the president of “ALL Americans.” Since Friday, he has fired off tweets denouncing “all types of racism,” praising rapper Kanye West and bragging that he’s fought for the “LOWEST African-American and Hispanic unemployment rates in history.”
“The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning. “We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence.”
Trump ignited one of the biggest firestorms of criticism of his presidency over his response to the violent “Unite the Right” rally, in which he drew a moral equivalence between the white supremacists and neo-Nazis that descended on the college town and those who protested against them.
He also said that some of the white nationalists and neo-Nazis were “very fine people” and appeared to sympathize with their opposition to the removal of a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from the city.
“So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I notice that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is George Washington next week, and is Thomas Jefferson the week after?” Trump said in a stunning press conference last August. “You really have to ask yourself, ‘Where does it stop?’”
But as the anniversary of the rally approached, Trump appeared to try to get ahead of Sunday’s “Unite the Right 2” rally in Washington, D.C., and counterprotests by calling for unity.
“Peace to ALL Americans!” he tweeted.
But Trump was already facing significant scrutiny for racially charged comments he’d made on social media recently about professional athletes — and newly surfaced allegations by Omarosa Manigault Newman that he used racial slurs on the set of the Apprentice.
Manigault Newman, a former contestant on the show, makes the allegation in an upcoming tell-all about her tenure in the Trump White House. Multiple outlets, including the Guardian and the New York Times, published the accusations of racism on Friday ahead of the book’s release next week.
In the forthcoming memoir, Manigault Newman says there are recordings of Trump using “the n-word” during tapings of his NBC reality show and that she personally witnessed him using racial epithets.
“It had finally sunk in that the person I’d thought I’d known so well for so long was actually a racist,” she writes in Unhinged, according to the Times.
After Manigault Newman’s claims in the book surfaced, Trump praised rapper Kanye West — who supports him — for telling the “TRUTH” about how he has benefitted the black community.
“Thank you Kanye for your support,” Trump tweeted Friday evening. “It is making a big difference!”
He boasted again Sunday morning about having produced the “LOWEST African-American and Hispanic unemployment rates in history,” and added that he will also push for “prison reform to give people who have paid their debt to society a second chance.”
“I will never stop fighting for ALL Americans,” he tweeted.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has been pushing for prison reform. He also recently granted clemency to Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old who had been serving a life sentence without parole for a first time non-violent drug offense, when Kim Kardashian West — Kanye’s wife — advocated for her release after Mic spotlighted the grandmother’s case.
But Trump’s claim that he personally “secured” the record-low African-American and Hispanic unemployment is dubious, as those numbers were already dropping before he took office, and his new push for prison reform is likely to be overshadowed by his long history of racism — which includes yet more attacks on black professional athletes in recent days.
Last week, he insulted the intelligence of LeBron James, along with CNN anchor Don Lemon, following the NBA superstar’s measured criticism. Then, on Friday, Trump renewed his offensive against NFL players demonstrating against racial injustice during the pregame national anthem, suggesting they don’t understand what they’re protesting.
“Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their ‘outrage’ at something that most of them are unable to define,” Trump tweeted. “Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be suspended without pay!”