Lamenting a “lack of spirit” between whites and blacks, Donald Trump encouraged racial unity in the face of “a national crisis” on Thursday, even as he called for one of America’s largest cities to adopt policing tactics that have been condemned as racial profiling.
In a mixed message, the Republican presidential contender confronted racial tensions after another night of violent protests in North Carolina following police shootings of black men. Trump has been eager to blunt criticism that his campaign inspires racism.
“The people who will suffer the most as a result of these riots are law-abiding African-American residents who live in these communities where the crime is so rampant,” Trump declared at an energy conference in Pittsburgh. He suggested that drugs are “a very, very big factor” in the violent protests.
“This is a national crisis,” he continued, without mentioning the black men shot by police in Oklahoma and North Carolina in recent days. He said that “it’s the job of the next president of the United States to work with our governors and mayors to address this crisis and save African-American lives”.
The comments came hours after the New York billionaire falsely suggested that Chicago is more violent than Afghanistan, and endorsed a stop-and-frisk policing method. That’s a tactic that a federal judge said New York City had used unconstitutionally because of its overwhelming impact on minority residents.
“I think Chicago needs stop and frisk,” Trump said in a phone interview on Fox News’ Fox and Friends. “When you have 3,000 people shot and so many people dying, I mean it’s worse than some of the places we’re hearing about like Afghanistan, you know, the war-torn nations.”
Both presidential candidates are courting minority voters with Election Day less than seven weeks away.
Trump, in particular, has struggled to balance a message that appeals to his white, working-class base with one that improves his standing with minority voters and educated whites who may worry about racial undertones in his candidacy. Trump was slow to disavow former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke earlier in the year and has repeatedly promoted tweets by white supremacists during his White House bid.
The Republican nominee admitted for the first time publicly last week that President Barack Obama was born in the United States after spending much of the last five years questioning the authenticity of his birth certificate. And as recently as last week, Trump’s eldest son tweeted a meme commonly used by white nationalists.
With his latest comments on racial tensions, Trump faces new scrutiny. For instance, his suggestion that Chicago’s violence is worse than that of Afghanistan is incorrect.
There have been 2,521 shooting incidents this year in the city, according to the most recent preliminary police figures, which go through September 18. It’s unclear how many people were shot overall because a single shooting incident can involve multiple victims.
The United Nations’ assistance mission in Afghanistan documented a total of 11,002 civilian casualties in 2015 — 3,545 people killed and 7,457 injured, exceeding the previous record set in 2014.
Trump’s endorsement of “stop and frisk” follows similar comments from the day before during the taping of a Fox News town hall. He said the policy, which gives police the ability to stop and search anyone they deem suspicious, had “worked incredibly well” in New York, where it was expanded under former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who supports Clinton, slammed Trump’s call for more stop-and-frisk as “appalling”.