Trump softens rhetoric in pitch to black voters

Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE adopted a softer tone in his outreach to black voters at a rally in Washington state Tuesday night after coming under criticism for describing African-Americans as living in “war zones” and squalor.

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Trump is still describing inner cities in apocalyptic terms, leaving his speech on a teleprompter Tuesday to blame Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCarter Page files defamation lawsuit against DNC Dems fear party is headed to gutter from Avenatti’s sledgehammer approach Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight MORE and Democratic politicians of promoting policies that he said have forced black people into crime-ridden neighborhoods.

“War-torn countries are safer than living in our inner cities by a lot, it’s not even close,” Trump said.

The GOP nominee made a similar claim last week and immediately came under fire from critics, who said he was stereotyping all black people as under-educated, underemployed and living in constant fear of being shot.

But on Tuesday night, Trump added to his stump speech by lauding the historical achievements of black Americans and acknowledging that many live normal lives as middle-class citizens.

“They have done so much now and throughout history and we should celebrate and cherish that success,” Trump said. “This includes tremendous achievements in arts, science, sports, music, business, etc. It includes millions of African-American entrepreneurs and innovators and workers in our Middle Class.”

Still, the billionaire's message leaned heavily on the menacing descriptions of his previous speeches.

Trump said that 40 percent of African-Americans live in poverty, including nearly half of black children under the age of six. He said black youth unemployment is close to 60 percent nationally, pointing to Milwaukee, Baltimore and Chicago — Democratic-run cities that he claimed are even worse off.

“We must also talk about those who have been left behind, the millions suffering in disastrous conditions in so many of our inner cities and neighborhoods afflicted by total poverty, drugs and horrible, horrible violence that we watch every single night,” Trump said. “You turn on the news and you see the violence and it's horrible. ... It breaks our hearts. We cannot let this violence continue.”

Trump said as president he would work with local communities, state police and federal law enforcement officials to “dismantle the gangs and to liberate our citizens from violence and poverty and fear.”

“I believe every child in this country — in Detroit, in Baltimore, in Chicago — has the right to live out their lives in safety and peace,” he said.

“I will not accept a future in which children of any color in this country are not fully included in the American dream,” Trump continued. “Our whole country loses when we leave millions of talented, aspiring Americans on the sidelines. We want to give everyone a chance to contribute their full talents to our economy and our country.”

The real estate mogul has made outreach to the black community the centerpiece of his stump speeches over the past few weeks, making the case that liberal policies have failed them and urging them to cut ties with the Democratic Party.

But Trump’s rhetoric has attracted criticism. 

He has described inner cities as “war zones” in which black people live in constant fear for their lives. And he has described the plights of black Americans as defined by poverty, poor education and few employment prospects.

That has infuriated liberals, who have accused Trump of trading in racist stereotypes.

Last week, Democratic lawmakers who support Hillary Clinton's White House bid held a conference call to denounce Trump as a racist and accuse his campaign of using coded language meant to appeal to white supremacists. 

Clinton followed that call with a speech tying Trump to the “alt-right” movement, championed by Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon that has also attracted support from white nationalists.

Trump has hit back at Clinton, accusing her of being a bigot for promoting policies that have harmed black Americans and reminding supporters on Tuesday night that Democrats once supported institutional racism.

“Remember … the Republican Party is the party of Abraham Lincoln. Not bad,” Trump said. “It’s also the party of freedom equality and opportunity — people have forgotten it so long now.”

“It is the Democratic Party that is the party of slavery, the party of Jim Crow and the party of opposition.”