U.S. President Donald Trump avoided answering a question about whether he understands why Black American parents fear for their children during the second U.S. presidential debate.
When asked by moderator Kristen Welker to speak directly to Black families about “the talk” — telling their children to be careful to avoid violence at the hand of police and white Americans — Trump quickly said he does understand, but then pivoted to Biden’s 1994 crime bill, saying an often repeated line that he has “done more for African Americans than perhaps Abraham Lincoln.”
The question was a rare opportunity for Trump to show empathy towards the experiences of Black Americans. Instead, claimed he was “the least racist person in this room.”
The crime bill increased the number of imprisonments in the U.S., particularly for Black men, and Biden said it was a “mistake” later in the debate. He claimed he would pursue measures to fix issues with the bill and systemic racism as a whole if he wins the election.
Biden also pointed out that Trump once said “the problem with the crime bill is there’s not enough people in jail.”
Biden, in response to Welker’s question, talked about the experiences of Black Americans needing to talk to their children about the potential of encountering racism from police, such as to not reach for the glove compartment if pulled over.
Trump later said that he felt Black Lives Matter was a “terrible thing” after his first encounter with the movement, which he said involved a chant about police being “pigs in a blanket” and to “fry ’em like bacon.”
“That was my first glimpse of Black Lives Matter and I thought it was a terrible thing,” he said.
Trump ultimately said he “doesn’t know what to say” to Americans who are concerned with some of his rhetoric that may be contributing to a climate of racism, such as retweeting a person saying “white power,” since he claims he has done a lot for Black Americans such as criminal justice reform.
Biden responded, saying Trump is “the most racist president in American history.”
—With files from Sean Boynton