President Donald Trump faced tough questions from supposedly undecided voters in Pennsylvania during a town hall hosted by ABC News on Tuesday, Sept. 15. During the 90-minute event, Trump made light of America’s race problem when confronted by a Black voter.
Pastor Carl Day challenged Trump’s infamous “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan, saying the country has never been great for Black people.
“The statement is ‘Make It Great Again.’ … 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,” Day said. “You’ve said everything else about choking and everything else, but you have yet to address and acknowledge that there has been a race problem in America.”
“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,” Trump responded.
Trump made the claims despite repeatedly coming under fire for being a white supremacist and stoking racial tensions in the country.
Trump went on to speak about the employment gains Black Americans made under his administration and said they were incomparable to the accomplishments of previous administrations.
“But when you go back six months and you take a look at what was happening, you can’t even compare with past administrations when you look at income levels … the best unemployment numbers they’ve ever had, the Black community, by far. That was solving a lot of problems and it was bringing people together,” Trump continued.
Day told Trump income inequality is still much higher for Black Americans and Black communities are still vastly underserved, under-resourced and victims of gentrification.
Trump doubled down on his stance, saying while he agreed income inequality was a problem, conditions for the Black community were worse under the Obama administration (when his campaign opponent Joe Biden was vice president). Before the pandemic hit, the group was on an upward trajectory economically, Trump said.
ABC Chief News Anchor George Stephanopoulos — who served as the evening’s moderator — interjected, noting the wealth gap between races existed long before the pandemic and is only getting worse.
“We really had it going well. … I can only compare it to the past. … I mean, there was a gap, but we were doing a good job. It was getting better and then it was artificially shut down by this disease that came onto our land,” Trump said.
Stephanopoulos also asked Trump about systemic racism within law enforcement, citing the statistic that Black Americans are three times more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts.
“That indicates that this just isn’t bad apples, this just isn’t choking, this is a real systemic, endemic problem. Do you believe that? What will you do to address it?” Stephanopoulos said.
Trump cited a poll which he said shows Black Americans “are 81 percent in favor of having more police.”
“They suffer more than anybody else by bad police protection. All minorities, whether its Hispanic or Black or Asian, they suffer more than anybody else,” Trump said. “We have to give the police back the authority to stop crime.”
When Stephanopoulos reiterated his questions asking Trump how he would stop the disproportionate killing of Black people by police and whether he believed it was a sign of systemic racism, Trump didn’t give any direct answers.
Instead Trump said, “the police in this country have done generally a great job.”
The townhall was held at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania is a key battleground state in November’s election, with 20 electoral votes up for grabs.
According to ABC, they issued a similar invitation to Democratic presidential nominee Biden but were unable to confirm a date due to scheduling conflicts.