As he investigates Trump's aides, special counsel's record shows surprising flaws

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump canceled their Friday events after the Dallas shootings.

  • Newt Gingrich, who is a possible Trump running mate, says 'If you are a normal, white American ... you don’t understand being black in America'
  • Donald Trump Jr. retweets controversial ex-congressman
  • Trump says that racial relations are deteriorating
  • Politicians speak out on the shooting of police officers in Dallas
  • Democrats put pressure on Bernie Sanders to back Clinton

Newt Gingrich: 'If you are a normal white American ... you don’t understand being black in America'

 (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Most white Americans "don't understand being black in America" and the discrimination African Americans face, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said Friday.

Gingrich, who is among a group of individuals presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump is vetting as a possible running mate, made his remark during a Facebook town hall with Van Jones, a former aide in the Obama administration.

The event had been scheduled to focus on opioid use, but with the nation reacting to two highly publicized shootings of black men by police this week, followed by the killing of at least five Dallas police officers in a gun attack Thursday night, the two shifted to talk about race and ways to bring the nation together. 

"It took me a long time, and a number of people talking to me through the years to get a sense of this," said Gingrich, who served as speaker from 1990 until 1995 and who represented an Atlanta-area congressional district for two decades.

"If you are a normal white American, the truth is you don’t understand being black in America," he said.

White Americans "instinctively underestimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk," he said.

Gingrich's remarks followed a statement released by Trump on Friday in which he said the nation has become "too divided." Outside of the statement, Trump has not spoken about the shootings. He canceled a campaign rally that had been scheduled for Florida.

Gingrich, known for being blunt -- he initially spoke out against Trump following the candidate's controversial remarks about a Latino judge -- also talked about life in the South and specifically in Georgia, where he moved when he was in high school. 

“It was still legally segregated, which meant the local sheriff and National Guard would impose, by force, the taking away of rights of Americans," he said. "We’ve come a fair distance, now we have a black mayor of Atlanta and have had a series of them, in fact. ... But we’ve stalled out on the cultural, economic, practical progress we needed.”

The former House speaker has a history of controversial, racially tinged remarks. He once called President Obama the “food stamp president” and questioned whether he had a "Kenyan, anti-colonial" worldview.

Gingrich has described bilingual education as teaching “the language of living in a ghetto,” and said that poor urban children come from communities that lack a “work ethic.” In 2012, seeking the GOP presidential nomination, he campaigned in the South with a states-rights message that critics called a coded appeal to prejudice.

Trump is expected to select his running mate sometime in the coming week, ahead of the Republican National Convention. He and Gingrich campaigned together earlier this week in Ohio. 

Staff writer Seema Mehta contributed to this report. 

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