Trump’s past is littered with problematic statements about African Americans—and yet this voting bloc could end up putting him in the White House.
In May 1989, a New York real estate mogul took out four full-page advertisements in city newspapers calling for the conviction and execution of five black teenagers. The juveniles, charged as adults, were accused of participating in the violent assault and gang rape of a jogger in Central Park. “Civil liberties end when an attack on our safety begins!” the words blared from the page.
The 600-word ad, which reportedly cost $85,000 and was published 12 days after the incident, ran in The New York Times, New York Daily News, New York Post and Newsday. The headline read: Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!
The man behind the message was Donald Trump. Decades later, after the boys’ release from prison and a seven-figure civil settlement with the city of New York, the billionaire businessman has never once apologized to the Central Park Five despite publicly calling for their deaths.
Now the undisputed frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, central to his success has been Trump’s appeal among white, working-class voters—people most likely to raise black crime and poverty as an issue, people who, according to one poll, harbor racial bias and believe “whites” are a “superior race.” The report discovered that a stunning 20 percent of Trump supporters disagreed with freeing slaves after the Civil War.
Then too, Trump has made no bones about his disdain for President Barack Obama, whose approval rating among Republicans is in the single-digits. Trump regularly tweets disparaging remarks and includes indecorous language about the nation’s first black president in his stump speeches. In 2011, he paraded around the country demanding the president’s long-form birth certificate, implying that the native-born Obama was a closet Muslim who was born in Kenya. This is the same Trump who was sued for housing discrimination by the Justice Department in 1973 and whose superintendents allegedly used a coded system to screen out African-American applicants in which “C” stood for “colored.”
Despite his troublesome history with African Americans, including allegations that he once said, “laziness is a trait in blacks,” Trump wants you to know that he has a “great relationship with the blacks.”
Over the years, Trump has surrounded himself with a bevy of African-American celebrities. Before Arsenio Hall and Omarosa Manigault joined Celebrity Apprentice, and a string of prosperity gospel preachers gathered with him for an event at Trump Tower, there were countless others. Michael Jackson, Russell Simmons, Whitney Houston were all known to socialize with Trump.
Trump’s status as a celebrity in his own right as well, as his wealth, proved to be an attractive lure, even for those who were likely aware of his checkered track record. Those bonds did not weaken and thin until after Trump went public with conspiracies about the president’s birth. Celebrity Apprentice, once a top-rated show, has suffered too. His birther antics turned away many left-leaning viewers. The program was once one of the most watched shows in black America.