Trump calls Milwaukee 'horrible city' ahead of Republican convention

Republican presidential candidate Trump speaks to the media following meetings with Republicans on Capitol Hill, in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former President Donald Trump called Milwaukee a "horrible city" in a closed door meeting with Republican lawmakers on Thursday, one month before he is due to accept his party's presidential nomination there, according to media reports.

"Milwaukee, where we are having our convention, is a horrible city," Trump said, Punchbowl News reported, without citing a source. CNN also reported that Trump called Milwaukee "horrible," citing an unnamed source.

Milwaukee will host the Republican National Convention July 15-18. It is the largest city in Wisconsin, one of a handful of politically competitive states that is likely to determine the outcome of the Nov. 5 election matchup between Trump and Democratic President Joe Biden.

The heavily Democratic, majority-minority city is a frequent target of Republican attacks.

The Biden campaign had swift criticism for the comment.

"If Donald Trump thinks Milwaukee is so horrible, then he shouldn't come to our city," said Biden Wisconsin campaign manager Garren Randolph.

Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said the Republican candidate's statement was described inaccurately. "He was talking about how terrible crime and voter fraud are," Cheung said on social media.

Trump last month reiterated his baseless claims that he won Wisconsin in 2020, though official results show he lost the state to Biden by 21,000 votes and a nonpartisan review found no evidence of fraud.

Trump's Milwaukee comments aren't the first time he's received criticism for remarks made about cities with large Black populations. After the 2020 election, Trump called Detroit and Philadelphia "two of the most corrupt political places" in the country. And last year, Trump urged supporters to "guard the vote" in cities including Detroit, Philadelphia and Atlanta -- all Democratic strongholds.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan and David Morgan, additional reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)