The President answered a question about his history of racism at Thursday night’s presidential debate by telling moderator Kristen Welker, whose mother is Black, “I am the least racist person in this room.”
“I can’t even see the audience because it’s so dark, but I don’t care,” he added.
It was a characteristic bit of wind, but also representative of Trump’s strategy for years: Demonize immigrants, call Black athletes protesting for civil rights sons of bitches — and then simply ignore the racism questions.
Trump played the hits Thursday night: Migrants and asylum seekers at the border include murderers and rapists, he said — but the only ones who show up for immigration court hearings are “those with the lowest IQ.”
Hundreds of children who remain apart from their parents years after being separated from them at the border are actually “so well taken care of” in U.S. hands, he stressed separately.
That COVID-19 stimulus bill that Senate Republicans have stonewalled? It’s simply unacceptable, Trump said, because it would benefit undocumented people — and then people from all over the world would start “pouring into our country.”
“We can’t do it,” he said, winding up to the next sentence. “This was a way of taking care of them.”
Though the President was restrained enough not to call COVID-19 the “China Virus” or “Kung Flu,” as he’s done in the past, he did his best to paint China as the source of what he essentially described as a bioweapon aimed at the rest of the world.
“It’s China’s fault,” he said of the pandemic at one point. “They kept it from going into the rest of China, for the most part, but they didn’t keep it from coming out to the world including Europe and ourselves.”
Later, it wouldn’t be enough to accuse Democrats of, like him, not taking the virus seriously in its early months. No, Trump said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was “dancing on the streets of Chinatown in San Francisco!” (Pelosi visited the city’s Chinatown to combat xenophobia, and before San Francisco had declared a state of emergency over the virus.)
Asked later about the systematic racism faced by Black and brown families across the country, Trump did his best to sympathize — which, in his case, meant comparing himself to the President who ended slavery.
“Nobody has done more for the Black community than Donald Trump,” he said, before allowing for the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.
“Abraham Lincoln here is one of the most racist presidents who has a modern history,” Joe Biden shot back shortly after.
Living politicians didn’t get nearly as generous a treatment.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and other progressive lawmakers of color, Trump warned at one point, were the ones really in the driver’s seat of Biden’s climate policy.
“You know who developed it? AOC plus three,” he said, referring to the congresswoman as well as Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).
Aside from the Lincoln line and the AOC attack, Trump didn’t have much to say when it got down to policy on racial discrimination.
When asked, for example, what he would say to families who live near chemical plants and oil refineries that he’s aggressively deregulated, and who are disproportionately people of color, the President appeared stumped.
“The families that we’re talking about are employed heavily and they’re making a lot of money — more money than they’ve ever made,” he said, before stressing that he was speaking generally about the tens of millions of Hispanic, Black and Asian Americans.
“I have not heard the numbers or the statistics that you’re saying,” he told Welker of her question. “But they’re making a tremendous amount of money.”