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Trump says Black voters relate to criminal prosecutions, prefer the 'white guy' to Obama

COLUMBIA, S.C. − Former president Donald Trump, campaigning in South Carolina Friday, brought the issue of race into the campaign by comparing his legal battles to the injustices Black Americans face in the legal system and saying Black voters would prefer him over his predecessor, "Black president" Barack Obama.

Speaking to an audience of mostly Black Americans, Trump suggested − inaccurately − that he is popular with African American voters. He said his 91 criminal indictments and mug shot were part of the reason.

"A lot of people said that’s why the Black people like me, because they have been hurt so badly and discriminated against, and they actually viewed me as I’m being discriminated against," he told an event sponsored by the Black Conservative Federation where about two-thirds of the crowd were Black Americans and one third were white people.

"It’s been pretty amazing but possibly, maybe, there’s something there,” he said of his theory that his criminal woes are something that makes him relatable to Black voters.

COLUMBIA, S.C. Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the Black Conservative Federation Gala on February 23, 2024 in Columbia, South Carolina on Feb. 23. Trump was campaigning in South Carolina ahead of the state’s Republican presidential primary on February 24.
COLUMBIA, S.C. Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the Black Conservative Federation Gala on February 23, 2024 in Columbia, South Carolina on Feb. 23. Trump was campaigning in South Carolina ahead of the state’s Republican presidential primary on February 24.

At another point, Trump squinted at the crowd and said: “The lights are so bright in my eyes I can’t see too many people out there. But I can only see the Black ones. I can’t see any white ones. That’s how far I’ve come."

In disparaging President Barack Obama over the costs of a new Air Force One, Trump “Would you rather have the Black president or the white president who got $1.7 billion off the price?"

As the crowd cheered that remark, Trump said: “I think they want the white guy.”

A USA TODAY Suffolk poll published on Jan. 1 showed Trump with the support of only a small sliver of Black voters - 12%.

Polling A fraying coalition: Black, Hispanic, young voters abandon Biden as election year begins

His support among Black Americans has not increased and is nearly identical to what he garnered in the 2020 election. In the modern presidential election era, Black voters have overwhelmingly favored Democratic candidates. According to the Roper Center, in 2020 Joe Biden received 87% of the Black vote.

Trump's primary opponent, Nikki Haley, blasted him over the comments.

"It's disgusting," Haley told reporters Saturday. "But that's what happens when he goes off the teleprompter."

Former Congressman Cedric Richmond, co-chair of the Biden-Harris 2024 campaign, blasted Trump's comments.

“Though I may be disgusted, I am not at all surprised that Donald Trump would equate the suffering and injustice of Black people in America to consequences he now faces because of his own actions," Richmond said, in a statement. "Donald Trump claiming that Black Americans will support him because of his criminal charges is insulting. It’s moronic. And it’s just plain racist."

Trump's remarks were defended by Diante Johnson, president of the Black Conservative Federation." Our community supports the policies of President Donald J. Trump and knows full well that life was better four years ago under his administration," Johnson said. He said that Black voters will cast their ballots in November "for safer streets, a better financial well-being, a secure border, and a complete rejection of Joe Biden’s disastrous tenure.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump disparages 'Black president' Obama, says voters want 'white guy'