Trump comments on Black voters draws rebuke from Haley, Democrats

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Donald Trump’s comments asserting that Black voters were more drawn to him after his multiple indictments on criminal charges drew sharp rebukes over the weekend from his Republican challenger for the presidential nomination, civil rights activists and others.

Trump on Friday likened his 91 criminal charges in four separate criminal cases to discrimination faced by Black Americans and said that they had come to “embrace” his mug shots. He was speaking to a Black conservative group in South Carolina before the state’s primary election, which he went on to win.

“And then I got indicted a second time and a third time and a fourth time. And a lot of people said that that’s why the Black people like me because they have been hurt so badly and discriminated against,” Trump said. “They actually viewed me as I’m being discriminated against.”

Trump’s legal challenges, including federal charges over his alleged efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss and his handling of classified documents, among other state charges and civil lawsuits, differ greatly from the historic inequities Black Americans have experienced in the criminal justice system.

“It’s disgusting,” former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who has been the target of racist comments from Trump and vowed to keep challenging him for the Republican nomination, told reporters on Saturday.

She reiterated her argument that Trump will again lose the 2024 general election against U.S. President Joe Biden if he secures the party’s nomination. “This is a huge warning sign,” she said.

Biden earlier won the Democratic primary contest in the southern state, where Black voters are a critically important constituency and more reflective of the more diverse general electorate who will go to the polls in the Nov. 5 presidential election, a likely rematch between Biden and Trump.

About 60% of those taking part in Saturday’s Republican contest were white voters who consider themselves evangelical or born-again Christians, exit polling showed.

“Trump claiming that Black Americans will support him because of his criminal charges is insulting. It’s moronic. And it’s just plain racist,” Biden campaign co-chair Cedric Richmond, who is Black, said on Saturday. “He thinks Black voters are so uninformed that we won’t see through his shameless pandering.”

The NAACP and National Action Network both blasted Trump’s comments to the Black Conservative Federation, saying he wrongly tied his alleged crimes to the debate over systemic racial bias in the U.S. criminal justice system.

Trump, who has called the cases against him a political witchhunt and election interference, has denied any wrongdoing. “I’m being indicted for you, the Black population,” he told the conference on Friday.

The NAACP responded in a Saturday post on X, formerly Twitter, saying: “This wouldn’t be the first time Trump equated Blackness with criminality. Let’s be clear: We have nothing in common.”

Republican U.S. Representative Bryon Donald, who is Black, on Sunday defended Trump’s comments, telling NBC News that Black Americans see Trump’s many legal entanglements as “‘if the government’s going after him with foolishness, he can’t be that bad.’”

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Valerie Insinna and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Kat Stafford and Bill Berkrot)

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