WASHINGTON — President Trump marked the beginning of Black History Month today with a meeting of African-Americans in the Roosevelt Room, declaring abolitionist Frederick Douglass “an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”
“During this month, we honor the tremendous history of the African-Americans throughout our country, throughout the world if you really think about it, right? And this story’s one of unimaginable sacrifice, hard work and faith in America. I’ve gotten a real glimpse during the campaign, I’d go around with Ben to a lot of different places that I wasn’t so familiar with,” Trump said, referring to Housing and Urban Development nominee Dr. Ben Carson. “They’re incredible people.”
“I am very proud now that we have a museum at the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things,” he said. “…Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today. A big impact. I’m proud to honor this heritage and will be honoring it more and more.”
Invited to what the White House called a “listening session” were Armstrong Williams, longtime Trump supporter and transition team member Pastor Darrell Scott and his wife Belinda, James Davis from the Trump campaign’s National Diversity Coalition, American Enterprise Institute fellow and transition team member Gerard T. Robinson, Trump transition team member retired Army Lt. Col Earl Matthews, Trump National Diversity Coalition member and political commentator Paris Dennard, Trump transition team member and former vice-mayor of Alexandria, Va., Bill Cleveland, and Carson.
Several administration staffers were in the room as well, including White House Office of Public Liaison communications director Omarosa Manigault.
“The folks at the table in almost all cases have been great friends and supporters,” Trump noted. “…If you remember, I wasn’t going to do well with the African American community, and after they heard me speaking and talking about the inner city and a lots of other things, we ended up getting — I won’t go into details — but we ended up getting substantially more than other candidates who had run in the past years. And now we’re going to take that to new levels.”
Trump received 8 percent of the black vote in 2016. Mitt Romney had 6 percent in 2012. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had 4 percent in 2008 vs. the nation’s first African-American presidential nominee. George W. Bush received 11 percent of the black vote in 2004.
Darrell Scott, a frequent TV surrogate for the president, told Trump while the press pool was invited in the room that he was “recently contacted by some of the top gang thugs in Chicago for a sit-down” because “they respect you, they believe in what you’re doing, and they wanted to have a sit-down about lowering their body count.”
“Well, if they’re not going to solve the problem, and what you’re doing is the right thing, then we’re going to solve the problem for them because we’re gonna have to do something about Chicago because what’s happening in Chicago should not be happening in this country,” Trump replied.