The Washington Post
It wasnâ€™t the best timing - but, then, there probably isnâ€™t a great moment for President Donald Trump to declare that he is the â€śleast racist person there is anywhere in the world.â€ť
Trump made that claim while standing outside the White House on Tuesday, responding to a reporterâ€™s question about the still-bubbling controversy spurred by the presidentâ€™s repeated attacks on black, Hispanic and Muslim members of Congress. Over the weekend, Trump turned his attention to Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., bashing the congressman by disparaging the city of Baltimore, part of which Cummings represents.
As he often does, Trump claimed that the media was misrepresenting reality. There was that claim about how he isnâ€™t racist, an extension of his long-standing claims that heâ€™s the â€śleast racist personâ€ť or that, like so many white Americans, he is free of any racist bones.
â€śWhat Iâ€™ve done for African Americans in two-and-a-half years,â€ť he said - immediately after disparaging the Rev. Al Sharpton as racist - â€śno president has been able to do anything like it.â€ť
Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson were not available for comment.
To prove that his disparagement of Baltimore was warranted, Trump claimed that â€śthe African American communityâ€ť called him to thank him for â€śtelling the truth.â€ť
â€śThe African American people have been calling the White House,â€ť Trump claimed. â€śThey have never been so happy about what a president has done.â€ť
Generally those claims are unprovable. It is the case, though, that Trump met with black leaders at the White House on Monday. He announced a meeting with religious leaders on Twitter, a meeting that hadnâ€™t appeared on his schedule before Monday morning. (In his tweet announcing the discussion, Trump said he was looking forward to his meeting with â€śwonderful Inner City Pastorsâ€ť - deploying a descriptor that he has consistently used interchangeably with â€śblackâ€ť or â€śblack community.â€ť) Those pastors included several who are long-standing allies of the presidentâ€™s.
If Trump did hear from many other black Americans, the odds are good that the commentary was not as positive as Trump presents it. As Trump was talking to reporters on Tuesday, Quinnipiac University released new polling data showing that three-quarters of black Americans - and more than half of Americans overall - think Trump is not only not the least racist person in the world but is actually explicitly racist.
Itâ€™s not just black Americans. Most independents think Trump is racist. Most white women think Trump is racist. Most whites with a college degree think Trump is racist. The groups that donâ€™t think that tend to be white, male, Republican and lacking a college degree.
A Fox News poll released last week asked respondents specifically about Trumpâ€™s tweets targeting four Democratic women, telling them to â€śgo backâ€ť where they came from, despite three of them having been born in the United States. More than half the respondents said those attacks were racist.
Trump would certainly not be the first racist president. Whatâ€™s interesting in Quinnipiacâ€™s polling, though, is that many Americans see racism as a motivator behind at least one Trump policy.
The pollsters asked whether respondents thought Trumpâ€™s position on border security - a position explained by Trump at his campaign launch in June 2015 as being necessary to halt an influx of criminals from Mexico - was motivated by sincere concern about securing the border or by racist beliefs. A plurality of respondents said it was the former. But 4 in 10 respondents said they thought Trumpâ€™s policies on the border were primarily motivated by racism. That includes most black Americans. White women and whites with college degrees are split.
If thereâ€™s a bright spot here for Trump, opinions on his border policies and his views of race are basically unchanged since July 2018. Then, about the same percentage of respondents said Trump was racist and that his border policies are motivated by racism. In other words, all the recent debate over Trumpâ€™s disparagement of House Democrats doesnâ€™t seem to have budged public opinion very much.
One side effect of that stagnation is that Trump may come to believe thereâ€™s no immediate political downside to continuing this line of attack against his critics. It wasnâ€™t prohibitive in 2016: A poll taken shortly before that contest found that 7 percent of Trumpâ€™s supporters believed he was racist - but that theyâ€™d vote for him anyway.