Ben Carson sidesteps Trump's claim he's the best president for black Americans since Lincoln

'To get into an argument about who has done the most probably is not productive,' HUD secretary says

Griffin Connolly
Washington
Sunday 14 June 2020 17:29
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US Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson declined to endorse Donald Trump's claim that he has been the best president for black Americans aside from Abraham Lincoln, though Mr Carson did tout some of Mr Trump's work for minority communities.

Mr Carson, a former neurosurgeon and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, is Mr Trump's sole black cabinet member.

"To get into an argument about who has done the most probably is not productive, but it is good to acknowledge the things that have been done," Mr Carson said in an interview with ABC News on Sunday.

Pressed by his interviewer, Mr Carson stressed it is important to "acknowledge what has happened in the past."

But he commended his boss for passing a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill in 2018 aimed at reducing the incarceration rate and rates of criminal recidivism, and for providing funding to historically black colleges and universities.

While Mr Trump took the lion's share of credit for enacting the 2018 criminal justice reform bill — claiming in an interview with Fox News that aired last Friday that “nobody else could have done it" — Mr Carson struck a more cooperative tone regarding the progress of American governance for black Americans.

"We should be willing to look at what we've done collectively together to make progress," Mr Carson said.

Before the coronavirus pandemic sent shockwaves through the US economy, Mr Trump often boasted about the black unemployment rate, which had reached its lowest point in history.

Earlier this month, the president glowed about how the national unemployment rate was creeping back down after Covid-19's ravages, saying he hoped George Floyd, a black man who was killed in Minneapolis last month while a police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes, was “looking down and saying, 'This is a great thing that's happening for our country.'"

While May's overall unemployment rate had receded to 13.3 per cent from April's historic 14.7 per cent mark, the black unemployment rate actually worsened.

Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass was more austere with crediting Mr Trump for the economic fortunes of black Americans during his presidency.

“It pains me every time I hear him talk about the unemployment rate,” Ms Bass said in an interview with Fox News on Sunday.

“I would give him credit if there was some policy, some programme that he put in place that contributed to that. The unemployment rate for African-Americans prior to Covid was dropping because of the economy" overall, Ms Bass said.

On the 2018 criminal justice reform bill, Ms Bass signalled most of the credit for that belongs to Congress.

“I congratulate him for signing legislation that people had worked on for many, many years. But it's not as though he came to Congress and said, ‘Let's do criminal justice reform. I want to fund historically black colleges.’ He signed legislation that we put before him," Ms Bass said.

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