Election 2020

Cornel West: Trump Will Get as Many Black Votes as ‘Negroes in the National Hockey League’

Cornel West speaks at a press conference before the AIDS Healthcare Foundation's Keep the Promise concert on July 17, 2016, in Cleveland. (Phil Long/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)

WASHINGTON – Dr. Cornel West told PJM that he appreciates Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s outreach to African-Americans, but predicted the billionaire businessman would ultimately receive as many African-American votes as there are “Negroes in the National Hockey League.”

West said he disagreed with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton saying half of Trump’s supporters belong in a “basket of deplorables” and some were “irredeemable,” and agreed with her decision to apologize for the “half” part.

“I don’t like comments like that — that any person is thoroughly irredeemable. I mean, maybe it’s because I’ve got a Christian sensibility. We’ve all got gangster proclivities and all of us have the possibility of being transformed and changed, but I don’t like the idea of a huge slice of America just irredeemable. If they’re xenophobic, you call them xenophobic, but they can change. You know, George Wallace was an exemplary white supremacist; he changed,” West said following a press conference Thursday at the National Press Club, where he joined a group of African-American pilots to call on the Department of Justice and Congress to investigate United Airlines’ treatment of minorities.

“Lyndon Baines Johnson was a white supremacist and segregationist early on and became the most important U.S. president for force against white supremacy — people change. Malcolm X — he was a gangster — Malcolm Little, Elijah Muhammad loved him. Malcolm emerged and he kept growing and he kept growing, so I don’t like this notion of ‘irredeemable.’ I don’t mind her saying that a significant slice of brother Donald Trump’s social base are deeply xenophobic and racist and misogynist because they are, but that’s just the truth. The truth is not static. It’s stationary. People can change and be transformed, absolutely,” he added.

Clinton said she regretted making the “basket of deplorables” statement but still referred to Trump’s campaign as “deplorable.” She also called Trump “deplorable” for questioning President Obama’s birthplace in 2011. He said on Friday that he believes Obama was born in the United States.

“Trump is a neo-fascist — that’s even worse than a racist, man, so I mean, she needs to call it for what it is, but he can change too. Neo-fascists can change into something else,” West told PJM.

When asked if he supported Trump’s efforts to reach out to the African-American community for support, West replied, “There’s some black neo-fascists out there, we’ve got a long tradition of black reactionaries, black conservatives and some black neo-fascists so if he wants to make an appeal in that regard, we’ve got a few out there for him — not too many, but we’ve got a few but every group, Irish-Catholic, Jewish, Hungarian, Chinese, we’ve got reactionaries, we’ve got liberals, we’ve got centrists, we’ve got progressives, we’ve got revolutionaries — every community has that variety, you know what I mean?”

Trump has delivered two speeches to predominantly African-American churches, both this month, in Detroit and Flint, Mich. He has also pitched his support for school choice in Democratic-leaning states and has vowed to create jobs in the African-American community.

“When I see wages falling, people out of work, I know the hardships this inflicts and I am determined to do something about it. I will do something about it,” Trump said at the Detroit appearance. “I do get things done, I will tell you. I’m going to get things done.”

Reacting to Trump’s outreach to African-Americans, West said, “I appreciate the effort. My hunch is probably he’ll get as many black people as Negroes in the National Hockey League.”

West compared the United Coalition for Diversity’s call for an investigation into United Airlines’ hiring, training and promotion practices to the Black Lives Matter movement.

“It’s another version of Black Lives Matter – it’s black pilot lives matter with a long history, with unbelievable excellence and skill and discipline and so forth, but it feeds directly into all of the talk about race and white supremacy and David Duke and Trump and xenophobia, the mistreatment of our brown brothers and sisters and so forth and so on, absolutely,” West said.

United Airlines commented on the group’s allegations.

“We are very proud of our diversity record and programs – as an example 5 of our 8 chief pilots at our hubs are people of color and women (including 3 African-Americans),” said a company spokesperson.

In response to the company’s statement, Brian R. Mildenberg, the attorney representing the group of African-American pilots, said three African-American chief pilots is not enough.

“It is time for all pilots to be provided with equal opportunities regardless of the color of their skin,” he said.