President Donald Trump has long been accused of racism dating back to the days before his political career, but now the most high-profile person of color in Trump’s cabinet is sticking up for the president — with something that critics see as an odd endorsement.
Trump was joined by Housing Secretary Ben Carson this week for an Opportunity Now Summit in North Carolina, where Trump was touting his administration’s work on offering tax incentives to encourage development in underserved areas. As Rolling Stone noted, Carson addressed the racial criticism of the president but said that Trump could not be racist because the non-white workers at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida “love him.”
“He’s a man who is deeply driven by a sense of kindness and compassion,” Carson said. “You know, talking to the people who drive the cars and park the cars at Mar-a-Lago, they love him — the people who wash the dishes — because he’s kind and compassionate.”
Carson added that when Trump purchased Mar-a-Lago, he opened the doors for Jewish and black people who had been held back from being members.
“You know, people say he’s a racist, he is not a racist,” Carson said.
Carson’s characterization of Trump drew some media coverage and criticism from Trump’s opponents. The president has been accused of repeatedly stoking racial tensions while riling up his base, from attacks on black football players taking a knee during the national anthem to his promotion of the “birther” conspiracy claiming that Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
He also drew widespread criticism for a series of tweets aimed at Democratic congresswomen of color that was decried by many as racist.
Trump too addressed race during his remarks in North Carolina, calling on black voters to abandon the Democratic Party and support him instead. Trump claimed that the Democratic Party does not really care about making life better for people of color, only asking for their support at election time and turning their back the rest of the time.
The president could have a long way to go in winning over this voting demographic, however. The Rolling Stone report noted that Trump has performed poorly with black voters both in the 2016 election and in approval polls, taking note of a recent Washington Post-Ipsos poll that showed more than 80 percent of black voters believe that Trump is a racist and that he has made race relations in the United States worse.