NEW YORK (AP) — Republican Donald Trump is courting minority voters as rival Hillary Clinton prepares to deliver a speech that will accuse his campaign of courting hate.
Trump met Thursday with members of a new Republican Party initiative meant to train young — and largely minority — volunteers to reach out to voters like them.
The meeting comes as Trump had been trying to win over blacks and Latinos in an effort to broaden his appeal in the November election. At rallies over the last week, the Republican presidential nominee has tried to paint Democratic policies as harmful to minority communities and urged them to give him a chance, despite his past inflammatory rhetoric. Polls show minorities overwhelmingly favoring Clinton.
“I’ve always had great relationships with the African-American community,” Trump told the group, which included his former rival Ben Carson and South Carolina Pastor Mark Burns.
A day after labeling Clinton “a bigot” at a Mississippi rally, Trump continued making the case that Democrats have taken their minority support for granted.
“They’ve been very disrespectful, as far as I’m concerned, to the African-American population in this country,” Trump said.
Many African- American leaders and voters have dismissed Trump’s message — delivered to predominantly white rally audiences — as condescending and more intended to reassure undecided white voters that he’s not racist than actually help communities of color.
In his speeches, Trump has painted a dismal picture of life for black Americans, describing war zones as “safer than living in some of our inner cities” and suggesting that African-Americans and Hispanics can’t walk down streets without getting shot.
But Trump insisted Thursday that his message had already “had a tremendous impact” on the polls.
“People are hearing the message,” he said.
Trump also said that he’ll give an immigration speech “over the next week or two” to clarify his wavering stance on the issue. During the Republican primary, Trump had promised to deport the estimated 11 million people living in the United States illegally. In recent days, he’s suggested he might be open to allowing them to stay.
Before the meeting, several protesters unfurled a banner over a railing in the lobby of Trump Tower that read, “Trump = Always Racist.” They were quickly escorted out by security as they railed against Trump for “trying to pander to black and Latino leaders.” ”Nothing will change,” they yelled.
Later Thursday, Clinton will deliver a speech in Reno, Nevada focused on attaching Trump to the so-called “alt-right” movement, which is often associated with efforts on the far right to preserve “white identity,” oppose multiculturalism and defend “Western values.” His new campaign CEO, Stephen Bannon, was the executive chairman of the conservative Breitbart News site, which is a favorite of alt-right supporters.
Clinton said Wednesday that Trump “is taking a hate movement mainstream. He’s brought it into his campaign.”
Speaking to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, she said: “He’s bringing it to our communities and our country, and someone who’s questioned the citizenship of the first African-American president, who has courted white supremacists, who’s been sued for housing discrimination against communities of color, who’s attacked a judge for his Mexican heritage and promised a mass deportation force is someone who is very much pedaling bigotry and prejudice and paranoia.”
Trump’s campaign says the Republican nominee has never used the term “alt-right” and disavows “any groups or individuals associated with a message of hate.”
At a Mississippi rally Wednesday, he escalated his pushback, calling Clinton “a bigot who sees people of color only as votes, not as human beings worthy of a better future.”