Donald Trump was accused of racism long before his presidency, despite what online posts claim

CLAIM: Donald Trump was never called a racist until he ran for president.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The federal government sued Trump for allegedly discriminating against Black apartment seekers in the 1970s. Black pastors also accused the New York businessman of stirring racial animus during the “Central Park Five” rape case in the 1980s. Native American groups criticized him for making derogatory remarks about tribes seeking to build casinos in the 1990s. Trump was also a leading voice of the “birther” conspiracy that baselessly claimed former President Barack Obama was from Africa and not an American citizen.

THE FACTS: As Trump seeks to reclaim the White House amid mounting criminal probes, social media users are sharing a meme that claims he was never accused of racism until he sought the highest office in the land.

Many are sharing an old photo of Trump posing with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, boxing promoter Don King and other African Americans.

“Donald Trump was never called a racist until he ran for president against Hillary Clinton,” the text around the image reads.

But there’s ample evidence showing that Trump has been called out for bigotry and racism throughout his decades in the public eye.

In 1973, for example, the Justice Department sued the real estate tycoon and his father for their alleged refusal to rent apartments in predominantly white buildings to Black tenants. Testimony showed that applications filed by Black apartment seekers were marked with a “C” for “colored.”

The lawsuit ended in a settlement in which the Trumps acknowledged they “failed and neglected” to comply with the Fair Housing Act, though they were never required to explicitly acknowledge discrimination had occurred.

In 1989, Trump infamously took out full page newspaper ads calling for New York state to reinstate the death penalty as five Black and Latino teenagers were set to stand trial for beating and raping a white woman in Central Park.

Black clergy leaders responded with their own full-page ad denouncing Trump’s as a ”thinly veiled racist polemic’’ meant to divide the city. The Rev. Al Sharpton also organized a demonstration outside Trump Tower.

The five men were eventually exonerated in 2002 after another man admitted to the crime and it was determined their confessions were coerced.

In the 1990s, the Atlantic City casino mogul frequently cast doubt about the legitimacy of tribes seeking to build casinos in the New York area, citing their dark skin as evidence they were faking their ancestry.

“They don’t look like Indians to me, and they don’t look like Indians to Indians, and a lot of people are laughing at it,” Trump said of the Mashantucket Pequots who operate Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut during testimony before Congress in 1993.

Tribe leaders at the time called out the remarks as racist. The National Indian Gaming Association filed a Federal Communications Commission complaint after Trump made similar remarks on Don Imus’ talk radio show.

The group described his on-air comments as “obscene, indecent and profane racial slurs against Native Americans and African Americans.” The FCC declined to take action, though it called the remarks “deplorable” and “offensive.”

The Republican businessman also famously used the “birther” conspiracy to propel himself into national politics in the late 2000s.

During the Obama administration, he baselessly claimed the nation’s first Black president wasn’t qualified to hold the office because he was born in Kenya, not the U.S., as is required under the Constitution.

He recanted the statements, however, during his winning 2016 campaign.

Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung declined to comment on the specific complaints of racism against Trump over the years on Friday.

But in an emailed statement, he said the former president has “uplifted people from all backgrounds” throughout his career, without elaborating.

For anyone to suggest otherwise, Cheung added, shows an “inherent bias to use race as a political tool in the most disgusting way.”
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.

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