Black conservative voters stand by Trump despite controversial remarks

Trump claimed Black Americans can relate to his multiple criminal indictments.

ByABC News
February 27, 2024, 1:06 PM

Former President Donald Trump has been courting Black voters but has also drawn controversy by using racially charged sentiments by suggesting he has strengthened his appeal to Black Americans by claiming they relate to his multiple criminal indictments.

Trump made the remarks at the Black Conservative Federation Gala in Columbia, South Carolina, last week.

President Joe Biden's reelection campaign co-chair Cedric Richmond said the comments were "plainly racist."

Despite the backlash that Trump's comments created, some Black conservatives say they are still supporting the former president.

"Black Americans are waking up to the reality that the Democratic Party has taken advantage of them, and the media and the party are terrified. Our community supports the policies of President Donald J. Trump and knows full well that life was better four years ago under his administration. No amount of media deception or liberal race baiting will sway the minds of Black voters will cast their ballots this November for safer streets, a better financial well-being, a secure border, and a complete rejection of Joe Biden's disastrous tenure," Diante Johnson, President of the Black Conservative Federation said in a statement.

PHOTO: Former President Donald Trump Speaks At The Black Conservative Federation's Honor Gala In South Carolina
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the Black Conservative Federation Gala on February 23, 2024 in Columbia, South Carolina.
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Addul Ali, Director of Operations at The Frederick Douglass Foundation of North Carolina, Tia Bess, the national outreach director of Moms For Liberty, Kevin McGarry, co-founder of Every Black Life Matters, and Charrise Lane, a student at Florida A&M University, spoke with ABC News' Linsey Davis about their continued support. They were at the event when Trump made his comments and did not believe they were racist.

The following exchange has been edited for clarity and length.

ABC News Live: Abdul, what were your thoughts that night when you heard these comments during the event?

Ali: It's about time that somebody started telling the truth. I mean, he's only speaking to what some Black folks have experienced for a very long time, which is a disastrous justice system in many cases. And ultimately, we can all see this playing out right in front of our very eyes. I didn't-- I wasn't offended or didn't feel like anything he said was racist in any way.

ABC News Live: Former President Trump also made a statement about his mugshot taken as part of his Georgia case. Let's take a listen to that.

Trump: And you know who embraced it more than anybody else? The Black population. It's incredible. You see Black people walking around with my mugshot. You know, they do shirts and they sell them for $19 apiece.

ABC News Live: Kevin, I want to bring you in here. Do you feel that that comment was in any way off color?

McGarry: Not at all. I mean, you know, the reality is, is that, you know, we see a president that has been prosecuted and persecuted and a lot of the people in the community, especially the Black community, who have felt that there's multiple tiers of justice, are seeing that played out in front of their very eyes and they're saying, 'Yeah, I can relate to this guy. This guy is going through some things that either myself or my family have gone through,' and this is very relatable moment for a lot of people.

So, seeing his mugshot as a, you know, ..... to the media and to the political pundits is it's a big deal. And it really does resonate within, within the community.

ABC News Live: Tia, I want to get your comments there.

Bess: Well, no, no, I agree, especially coming from an education perspective. You know, he didn't say if you're not Black, you're not Black if you don't vote for me. You know, he was just stating the truth and that's what sometimes we need to hear. For too long in politics, we've been lied to and we need to hear the truth. For too long, in politics, we've been lied to and we need to hear the truth and have someone that we can relate to.

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Lane: Me personally, I don't think that's necessarily relating to Blackness, but I do think that a lot of black people have gone through the criminal justice system and it has been unfair to them. And I think that's what he was saying.

ABC News Live: Abdul, you've said that you focus more on Trump's policies than what he actually says. But as we saw when he was president, his words do have tremendous power, even fluctuating the stock market just minutes after he'd speak. Do you think that his words shouldn't matter?

Ali: His words absolutely do matter, and I'm less concerned with something said in jest, and I'm more concerned with the fact that we had a president who actually took on criminal justice reform with the First Step Act. And unlike the Biden administration and the Democrats, he set forth a platinum plan for Black economic empowerment, something we've seen nothing of the sort from the Democrats.

ABC News Live: Kevin, your thoughts as far as do you feel that there have been some policies in the past well while he was president for four years, that Black people benefited from?

McGarry: Absolutely. And the number one policy and the one policy I wish the mainstream media would cover, because it would give you a lot more credibility amongst your average folks, would be the policy that, [President] Joe Biden and [the] 1994 crime bill, (which Biden helped pass when he was a senator but has since said it was a mistake to support ) when he says, look, we're going to get rid of these racial jungles, we're going to, you know, basically target Black and brown communities for a little five, $5 piece of crap. I'm going to send him to prison for 15 to life. And this has been going on.

President Trump came in and saw the injustice that was perpetrated on the Black community especially. It was targeted. And he said, no, we're going to dismantle this.

ABC News Live: According to exit polling, former President Trump saw a 5% increase in the Black vote from 2016 to 2022. Tia, I want to bring you back in here. What do you think is driving this increase? What specific Trump policies do you feel have helped black Americans?

Bess: Well, I mean, you know, I'll start with myself. You know, I was a Democrat for all my life, my entire family, you know, but it was around COVID time when I started paying attention to policies being made. Like, I started paying attention to, you know, when Trump and other politicians were listening to the parents, the people who really had voices that matter. Because if you look at the media now, no one's paying attention to the parents and what we need.

And just because I'm a Black parent doesn't mean that I care less about my child, doesn't mean that my opinions should not be heard. So there have been a lot of policies that, you know, Trump has been supporting within the parental rights system.

ABC News Live: And anyone can answer here. Kind of a jump ball. Final question. What do you think about the media response, the noise and some of the comments made as a result of the controversial remarks, if you will, that Donald Trump said over the weekend. And I'm also curious, is there anything that Donald Trump could say that would stop you all from voting for him?

Lane: For me, I would say that it is moreso about policy and action instead of just talking. You know, someone can talk a good game all day. They can appeal to Black voters if they want to. But it's all about policy and what you're doing. That really stands out to me. Like, for instance, there are two policies, two big policies that I agree with that he has passed, such as things on school choice. I'm pro-school choice. And I'm also, anti-illegal immigration.

I think that it does disproportionately affect Black Americans, and I think that a lot of my counterparts would agree with.

And I say that because those people are being sent to Black communities, they are being sent to our hoods, our neighborhoods.

ABC News Live: Anyone else?

Ali: Well, if Trump came out tomorrow and said, I want an unlimited open border, if he came out tomorrow and said he was in favor of late-stage abortion, if he came out tomorrow and said he doesn't think Black people have the capacity to succeed in this country, then I wouldn't vote for him. But chances are he won't be saying those things and chances are I'll be supporting him.

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