President TrumpDonald John TrumpWayfair refutes QAnon-like conspiracy theory that it’s trafficking children Stone rails against US justice system in first TV interview since Trump commuted his sentence Federal appeals court rules Trump admin can’t withhold federal grants from California sanctuary cities MORE offered inflammatory comments on race in two separate interviews Tuesday, including responding to a question about police killings of Black people by saying police also kill white people.
Trump called it a “terrible” question from Catherine Herridge of CBS News, and separately defended the use of the Confederate flag as free speech.
In a second interview, he defended a white couple who went viral after brandishing guns in front of their house as Black Lives Matter demonstrators in St. Louis marched past them.
The comments are likely to garner sharp criticism for Trump, who has recently dug in on his focus on culturally divisive issues, including attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement and his defense of the Confederate flag and Confederate-named landmarks.
“So are white people. So are white people. What a terrible question to ask,” Trump told Herridge when asked why Black Americans were still dying at the hands of police. “So are white people. More white people, by the way. More white people.”
Trump’s answer to CBS papered over statistics showing that Black Americans are more likely to be killed at the hands of police than white Americans. While police departments are not mandated to record statistics on police killings, various studies have pointed to how police killings have disproportionately affected African Americans.
A study published by Harvard researchers in June that analyzed data from 2013 to 2017 found Black Americans were more than three times more likely than white Americans to be killed by police.
A Washington Post analysis updated earlier this year found that the rate at which Black Americans are killed by law enforcement officers is more than twice as high as the rate for their white counterparts, though white Americans, who make up a larger share of the U.S. population, account for the largest number of deaths.
In a separate interview with conservative outlet TownHall, Trump defended Mark and Patricia McCloskey, a St. Louis couple who pointed guns at protesters passing through their neighborhood en route to the mayor’s home during a protest late last month.
“They were going to be beat up badly, if they were lucky. OK? If they were lucky,” Trump said. “They were going to be beat up badly, and the house was going to be totally ransacked and probably burned down like they tried to burn down churches.”
“These people were standing there, never used it, and they were legal, the weapons,” Trump continued. “And now I understand somebody local, they want to prosecute these people. It’s a disgrace.”
The McCloskeys, who are white, have defended their actions and argued they were standing their ground after protesters cut through their gated community.
Trump did not address the comments during a Rose Garden event later Tuesday, nor was he asked about them. The president’s remarks mostly focused on China and criticism of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Runoff elections in Texas, Alabama set for Tuesday Biden campaign slams White House attacks on Fauci as ‘disgusting’ Biden lets Trump be Trump MORE.
The country has been convulsed by protests since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, who died after a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Protesters are calling for policing reform and measures to address racial inequality.
The president in the last few weeks threatened to veto a massive defense policy bill if it includes an amendment to strip the names of Confederate leaders from military bases, criticized NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flag from its events, and said the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins were considering name changes to be “politically correct.” Trump has been particularly incensed by New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioVandal dumps red paint on Black Lives Matter mural in front of Trump Tower The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Fauci says focus should be on pausing reopenings rather than reverting to shutdowns; WHO director pleads for international unity in pandemic response Trump calls New York City ‘hellhole’ after court upholds subpoena from city prosecutors MORE’s (D) decision to paint a “Black Lives Matter” mural outside Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, describing the phrase as a “symbol of hate.”
The remarks have been out of step with public polling that has shown a majority of Americans agree with the goal of the Black Lives Matter movement and believe African Americans are disproportionately targeted by police.
The president initially showed openness to police reform measures after Floyd’s death, which he has repeatedly condemned. But he has shifted his tone since signing an executive order to encourage reforms to police training that critics called toothless to offer more full-throated support for law enforcement.
Trump hosted an event at the White House on Monday intended to highlight good deeds by police officers. Among the guests were a woman whose baby was choking before an officer intervened, a woman whose purse was stolen and a man who had overdosed multiple times. The president took aim at the “defund the police” movement and offered his support for the nation’s law enforcement officers.
“They’re heroes. And they’re being very unfairly treated over the last long period of time, but over the last few years. It’s terrible what’s happening,” Trump said.