Is US president racist? Trump’s racially charged comments spark debate

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More than 150 years after the abolition of slavery and more than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, United States (US) President Donald Trump’s incendiary comments about immigrants have ripped open a jarring debate in the US and around the world: Is the American president racist?

To Democrats and some historians, there is little dispute given the president’s own words and actions. His political rise was powered first by his promotion of lies about Barack Obama’s citizenship, then by his allegations that Mexican immigrants to the US were rapists and murderers.

During a private meeting with lawmakers on Thursday, he stunningly questioned why the US would admit Haitians or people from “s***hole” countries in Africa, expressing a preference instead for immigrants from Norway, a majority white nation.

“President Trump said things that were hate-filled, vile and racist,” said Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who attended the meeting and confirmed the president’s comments.

On Friday, few Republicans defended the president’s remarks, and party leaders were silent most of the day.

Those who did speak out argued the comments were merely unvarnished statements on the economic blight in some regions of the world, not an expression of racial preference. Others said Trump, a 71-year-old who relishes rejecting political correctness, was voicing views held quietly by many.

“I’ve said all along the president many times says what people are thinking,” Republican Rep. Jim Renacci, a candidate for the Senate in Ohio, told Fox News. “Let’s judge the president after what we’ve done. Let’s not judge the president on what he says.”

Trump has repeatedly denied that he is a racist, declaring during the 2016 campaign that he was the “least racist person there is”.

On Friday, he offered a vague denial of his comments to lawmakers, tweeting that he said nothing “derogatory” about Haitians. He did not address the reports that he disparaged African nations and ignored questions about the comments from reporters.

Yet there’s no doubt that the episode has added new fuel to the charges of racism that have dogged Trump for years, since long before he assumed presidency. In the 1970s, the federal government twice sued Trump’s real estate company for favouring white tenants over blacks. He aggressively pushed for the death penalty for a group of black and Latino teenagers who were accused of raping a white woman in Central Park but later exonerated.

Now, as president, Trump’s words carry the weight of an office that has long helped guide the nation’s moral compass and defined the American ideal for millions around the world.


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