Donald Trump has said many crazy things, some quite entertaining, many wildly fantastical and incendiary. Now he may have outdone himself with his charge that Hillary Clinton is a bigot.
Even people who oppose Clinton and loathe her political views — maybe even those who believe that she is corrupt and think she should be "locked up" — would have a hard time agreeing that she is a bigot. Perhaps Trump does not know what the word actually means. Given his record and the company he keeps, he should.
Back in the early 1970s, around the same time a young Clinton was going undercover in Alabama to expose discrimination against black children in segregated academies, a young Trump and his father were sued by the Nixon Justice Department for blatant discrimination against blacks in Trump-owned rental housing. In a CNN interview Thursday, Trump misrepresented the nature of that suit and how it was settled. He claimed that the resolution of the case proved there had been no wrongdoing. The record, however, shows that the Trumps were required to take remedial actions and were later sued again when they failed to follow through.
Trump bends reality to put himself in a better light on a near daily basis, so it is no surprise when he revises his own history. His charge that Clinton is a bigot is yet another attempt to twist facts after being stung by allegations that he is empowering real bigots.
Clinton made that charge in a very public way in Reno on Thursday, giving a speech in which she said Trump has delivered power in the Republican Party over to a "radical fringe." She noted that Trump's new campaign CEO, Steve Bannon, comes from Breitbart News, an online entity that is the mouthpiece of the so-called alt-right that includes overtly racist elements.
"There's always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, a lot of it arising from racial resentment," Clinton said. "But it's never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it and giving it a national megaphone until now."
Clinton's sharp-elbowed speech follows on the heels of a new anti-Trump campaign ad that features video of several white supremacists enthusiastically giving him their endorsement. Trump could have responded in many ways to this onslaught, but he chose to take the approach of a 5-year-old who has been called a name and simply shouts the same name back — "I'm not a bigot, you're a bigot!
It is no surprise that Trump is annoyed. The contention that he is allied with racists undercuts his newly launched effort to reach out to non-white voters. In a speech this week given to a mostly white audience, Trump pleaded for blacks and Latinos to give him a chance. "What do you have to lose?"
Trump knows what he has to lose: an election. His support is abysmal among African Americans and Latinos, worse than any past Republican presidential nominee. According to polls, most of those people think he is a racist. There are simply not enough angry white voters to make up for his deficit with the minority electorate. And, with Clinton playing the race card, he needed to respond if he wants to preserve any hope of shifting perceptions his way.
But calling Hillary a bigot? That's a tactic that assumes blacks and Latinos do not know what a real bigot is. Bad assumption, Mr. Trump. They know. They know too well.
Follow me at @davidhorsey on Twitter
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