Donald Trump has not just presided over racial violence — he's helped fuel it.
Kellyanne Conway claimed on Thursday that Donald Trump is not responsible for violence in America's cities — because they are mostly run by Democrats. But Trump's divisive rhetoric and actions have fueled the problem.
On Fox News, Trump's White House counselor was asked whether Trump deserves some blame for "chaos" in America's cities.
"Wow. No, and nobody is going to buy that. We know that these are Democratically-led cities and most with Democratic governors," Conway answered. "It's not Donald Trump's watch. He's trying to get law and order restored."
But while Conway is correct that many cities and states have elected Democratic leadership, her response falsely suggests that the president has no role in or responsibility for crime and unrest.
Beyond it just happening on his watch, Trump has actually contributed to the problem.
On Wednesday, police charged a pro-Trump teenager with shooting and killing two people and injuring another during a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the night before. BuzzFeed reported on Thursday that the teen had been just feet from Trump at a January campaign rally in Iowa.
Last August, a right-wing extremist shot and killed 23 and injured 22 others at Walmart in El Paso, Texas, allegedly motivated by anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican hatred. His "manifesto" contained many of the terms Trump has popularized to drum up division, including attacks on "fake news," "open borders," and "invasion" by Latinx immigrants.
In October 2018, another Trump supporter mailed pipe bombs to several Trump critics and Democratic officials. Trump responded by applauding his arrest, but then complaining that the coverage of the "'Bomb' stuff" was hurting GOP momentum before the midterm elections.
More recently, Trump has encouraged armed mobs who tried to intimidate elected officials in Michigan to scale back coronavirus safety laws, calling them "very good people." He demanded in a May 1 tweet that Michigan's governor "See them, talk to them, make a deal."
As citizens around the country have protested in recent months against systemic racism, however, Trump has attacked peaceful protesters as "thugs" and inflamed violence in Portland, Oregon, and in Washington, D.C., by sending in federal troops to control demonstrations.
Trump's racist attacks on minority groups don't just divide the nation; they actually increase hate crimes. A 2019 study found a 226% increase in hate crimes in counties where Trump held a 2016 campaign rally, compared to those where he did not. Trump encouraged his supporters at those rallies to assault protesters and reporters, even offering to pay any resulting legal bills.
Also significantly, Trump's administration helped contribute to the underlying problems of police violence and systemic racism. In a July 2017 speech, Trump told police officers in New York not to be "too nice" to suspects." And his Department of Justice rolled back its use of consent decrees, which had previously been a major tool for the federal government to get help local police departments to address patterns of racism and misconduct.
While Conway's comments suggest that Trump is powerless to solve violence in cities run by Democrats, this argument has been contradicted by Trump himself. In his 2017 inaugural address, he vowed to immediately end poverty and crime in inner cities. "This American carnage stops right here and stops right now," he said. After nearly four years in office, he has not kept that promise.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.