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Trump Downplays Police Violence, Deaths Of Black Americans

President Trump attends an event about law enforcement on Monday at the White House. Trump has repeatedly downplayed the disproportionate impact of police violence on African Americans.
Drew Angerer
Getty Images
President Trump attends an event about law enforcement on Monday at the White House. Trump has repeatedly downplayed the disproportionate impact of police violence on African Americans.

Updated at 5:45 p.m. ET

President Trump dismissed outrage over police killings, saying Tuesday that "more white people" are killed by police than Black people.

"So are white people!" Trump said when asked in an interview with CBS News about why so many African Americans have been killed at the hands of police. "So are white people! What a terrible question to ask."

Trump added that "more white people, by the way" are killed by police than Black people.

More white people may be killed by police annually, but Black Americans are killed at a far higher rate.

According to a database of police shootings since 2015 compiled by the Washington Post, 1,301 Black people have been killed by the police in the past five and a half years; 2,495 white people were killed.

But, importantly, African Americans, who make up a far smaller portion of the total population than whites, are killed at a rate more than twice that of whites.

In another comment also sure to inflame racial tension, Trump said that "people love" the Confederate battle flag and that he considers it a "freedom of speech" issue. He called it "very simple" and dismissed the idea that the flag is hurtful to Black Americans and others who see it as a racist symbol.

"Well, people love it, and I know people that like the Confederate flag, and they're not thinking about slavery," Trump said when asked whether he understood the pain it caused people because of its association with slavery.

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll last month found that two-thirds of Americans believed Trump had increased tensions after the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. That poll was conducted after police forcibly removed peaceful protesters near the White House so Trump could pose with a Bibleoutside a partially burned church.

In an ABC News/Ipsos pollout last Friday, two-thirds of Americans said they disapproved of the way Trump is handling race relations. That comes as a majority of Americans also say they disapprove of the job he's doing when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.

All of this has led to what is perhaps the nadir of Trump's political power. Another NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll from late June found that a record 58% disapprove of the job that Trump is doing overall, with a whopping 49% strongly disapproving of the job he's doing.

That is a record level of intense disapproval that has certainly had an effect on his overall political standing against Democrat Joe Biden, Trump's presumptive opponent this fall as Trump faces reelection. Trump is routinely behind Biden in head-to-head general-election match-up polls. In an average of the polls, Biden leads Trump by 9 percentage points, according to RealClearPolitics.

That's why Trump has been asking for more debates and has been attacking Biden's mental capacity and record.

"He never did anything except make very bad decisions," Trump said from the Rose Garden at the White House on Tuesday in what sounded more like a campaign-style event than a news conference.

In other excerpts of the CBS interview, Trump also said that Los Angeles had made a "mistake" by deciding to resume school classes in the fall via distance learning rather than reopening classrooms.

"A decision like that is politics," he said, accusing Democrats of wanting to hurt his chances in the November election by keeping schools closed.

California ordered the shutdown of bars, indoor dining and movie theaters as coronavirus cases have started to go back up. As for the claim of politics, no Republican has won California since 1988, and Democrat Hillary Clinton won it in 2016 by 30 points.

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Domenico Montanaro
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
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