During a town hall hosted by ABC News in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, President Trump answered questions from several Pennsylvania voters, who were in attendance. About halfway through the town hall, Pastor Carl Day stood up and noted the president has coined the phrase “make America great again,” asking: “Are you aware of how tone-deaf that comes off to African-American community?”
“When has America been great for African Americans in the ghetto of America?” Day, who is from Philadelphia, asked the president.
Mr. Trump answered by citing his “tremendous African-American support” in the polls.
He continued: “If you talk about make America great – if you look at just prior to – and I’m talking about for the Black community – you look just prior to this horrible situation coming in from China, when the virus came in, that was the – probably the highest point, home ownership for the Black community, home ownership, lower crime, the best jobs they’ve ever had, highest income, the best employment numbers they’ve ever had.”
Mr. Trump said if you look back six or seven months, “that was the best single moment in the history of the African-American people in this country, I think – I would say.”
The president has in the past exaggerated his role in bringing economic gains to Black Americans. In 2019, he brushed off criticism that his tweets against non-White lawmakers were racist, and asserted he’s done plenty to better the fortunes of African Americans as evidenced by their low unemployment rate, while Democrats had done nothing, The Associated Press reported.
However, that’s not the case. Despite gains in the job market in 2019, Black workers were falling behind in wages, economic research found. For instance, before the Great Recession, Black college grads earned the same as their White counterparts, but in 2018, they earned 17% less.
In 2018, Mr. Trump also took credit for record-low unemployment rates among African Americans, in response to criticism from the rapper Jay-Z, who said during a CNN interview at the time that the president was “missing the whole point” when it comes to his treatment of minorities in America.
During the ABC town hall on Tuesday, Day pressed the president on his “make America great again” slogan and how it leaves out the African-American experience. Day noted the conditions historically seen in ghettos, including gun violence and drugs, and said there has not been a change under the Trump administration, nor under Obama, Bush or Clinton.
“And we need to see, because you say again, we need to see when was that great, because that pushes us back to a time in which we cannot identify with such greatness,” said Day, who voted for Jill Stein in the 2016 election, according to town hall moderator George Stephanopoulos.
“And I mean you’ve said everything else about choking and everything else, but you have yet to addressed and acknowledge that there’s been a race problem in America,” Day said, seemingly referring to Mr. Trump saying in a Fox News interview that police officers who shoot people “choke” like a golfer missing a putt.
Mr. Trump responded by saying, “well, I hope there’s not a race problem. I can tell you, there’s none with me, because I have great respect for all races, for everybody. This country is great because of it.”
Mr. Trump touted past unemployment numbers for the Black community under his administration and said it was “solving a lot of problems” and “bringing people together.”
“There was going to be unity. But unfortunately that was hurt because we got set back. But now, I think next year is going to be one of our best years economically,” Mr. Trump said.
Day pointed out that income inequality in America is still high, which Mr. Trump agreed was a problem. He said “we will soon be doing well again, because we’re going to have a fantastic third quarter.”
In closing, Mr. Trump said he agreed with a lot of the things Day said. “But you have to look back, because we really had it going well,” the president said. “Had we not been hit by this horrible disease that came into our land – and all over the world by the way, it came all over the world – we would be in a position where, I think, income inequality would be different. It was really getting there. We were really driving it down.”
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates declined in August for White people, standing at 7.3%. It was 10.5% for Hispanics, while the highest rate of unemployment was among Black Americans, at 13%.