Trump accuses black reporter of ‘racist question’ after she asks if his rhetoric has emboldened white nationalists

President doubles down on rally comments in which he described himself as a 'nationalist'

Clark Mindock
New York
,Tom Barnes
Wednesday 07 November 2018 20:54 GMT
Donald Trump calls question put to him about white nationalists 'racist'

Donald Trump has accused a reporter who asked him if his campaign rhetoric in the lead-up to the US midterm elections had emboldened white nationalists of posing a “racist question”.

The president attacked PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor over her line of questioning on Wednesday at a fiery press conference in Washington.

Mr Trump defended the comments made during a speech at a campaign rally ahead of the midterms, in which he described himself as a “nationalist”.

“On the campaign trail you called yourself a nationalist, some people saw that as emboldening white nationalists,” Ms Alcindor began.

“I don’t know why you’d say that,” Mr Trump said, cutting off the reporter. “That’s such a racist question.”

Ms Alcindor continued: “There are some people that say the Republican Party is seen as supporting white nationalists because of your rhetoric,” prompting the president to sigh in exasperated fashion.

“I don’t believe it,” Mr Trump replied. “Why do I have my highest poll numbers ever with African Americans? Why do I have among the highest poll numbers with African Americans?

"I mean, why do I have my higher poll numbers?" Mr Trump continued. "That’s such a racist question".

Ms Alcindor then attempted to ask another question, but was cut off by the president, who called the question "insulting".

"You know what the word is? I love our country. I do. You have nationalists. You have globalists," Mr Trump said. "I also love the world, and I don’t mind helping the world, but we have to straighten out our country first. We have a lot of problems".

This is not the first time that Mr Trump has claimed to have high approval ratings among African Americans, and most polls contradict his previous statements. Mr Trump, earlier this month, cited a "Fox News Poll" that he said showed he had 40 per cent approval from African Americans — which he said was a record for a Republican. But, it turns out that the poll was erroneously attributed to Fox News — the network itself has confirmed this — and that he was likely referencing a Rasmussen poll that showed that approval. But, that poll has been characterised as an outlier, with other polls showing his approval much lower: A recent YouGov/Economist poll found his approval among the demographic at 17 per cent, and a Reuters poll put that support at 16.7 per cent.

The president has consistently claimed that his taking up the "nationalist" title does not imply that he is a "white nationalist", and has instead repeatedly defined the term to mean that he supports American economic interests over those of other countries. Last month, when asked about his claim at a midterm election rally that he is a nationalist, Mr Trump stood his ground: "I've never heard that theory about being a nationalist. I've heard them all. But I'm somebody that loves our country. When I say a nationalist, I don't like it when Germany is paying 1 per cent of GDP for NATO, and we're paying 4.3 per cent. I don't like that".

Even so, the president has been criticised for rhetoric and policies that have led some, including groups like the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), to worry that his statements are energising white nationalists in America. From family separations and deportations of immigrants, to his statements following the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville where a counter-protester was killed, and his characterisation of countries like Haiti as "s***hole countries", the SPLC has condemned many of the presidents remarks and warned that they are being interpreted by white supremacists as something akin to support.

"Since he stepped on the political stage, Donald Trump has electrified the radical right. Through his words and actions, he continues to deliver for what he clearly sees as his core constituency," the SPLC wrote in August. "As a consequence, we've seen a rise in hate crimes, street violence and large public actions organised by white supremacist groups that have been further emboldened by the president's statements about 's***hole countries' and his policies targeting refugees and immigrants of colour".

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