Trump dismisses question on deaths of Black Americans in police custody

President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Trump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally MORE on Tuesday asserted that “more” white Americans die at the hands of police than Black Americans and criticized a reporter for asking why African Americans are still dying in law enforcement custody.

“So are white people. So are white people. What a terrible question to ask,” Trump told CBS News’s Catherine Herridge when asked about the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police. “So are white people. More white people, by the way. More white people.”

Police departments are not mandated to report statistics on police killings; however, studies have shown that police killings disproportionately impact Black Americans.

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A Washington Post analysis updated earlier this month found that the rate at which Black Americans are killed by law enforcement officers is more than twice as high as the rate for their white counterparts. White Americans, who make up a larger share of the U.S. population, account for more deaths at the hands of police overall.

A study published by Harvard University researchers in June that analyzed data from 2013 to 2017 found that Black Americans were more than three times more likely than white Americans to be killed by police. 

Meanwhile, an Associated Press-NORC poll released in June found that 61 percent of Americans believe police in most communities are more likely to use deadly force against a Black individual than a white individual. The survey also found that roughly half of U.S. adults say police violence is a very or extremely serious problem.

Trump’s remarks follow nationwide protests against police brutality and racism that were spurred by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis police custody in late May.

Trump has described Floyd’s death as a grave tragedy while also decrying the unruly protests that have accompanied the demonstrations following his killing. Trump’s response to the protests has been extremely controversial, particularly his comments on the matter and threat to use active-duty service members to quell protesters.

In June, Trump signed an executive order meant to encourage reforms to police training.

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He has used official events since then to highlight his support for law enforcement, including a roundtable on Monday that aimed to amplify stories about police officers helping Americans and voice his opposition to the “defund the police” movement. Meanwhile, discussions about police reform legislation on Capitol Hill have largely stalled.

Trump has also drawn criticism for defending the Confederate flag.

The president has vocally opposed the renaming of military bases named for Confederate leaders and last week suggested NASCAR had seen a drop in its ratings after banning the flag from its races.  

Trump told CBS in Tuesday’s interview that he is simply embracing “freedom of speech.” He wouldn’t directly answer when asked whether he would be comfortable with supporters displaying the flag at his campaign events and suggested that the flag doesn’t necessarily serve as a reminder of slavery.

“People love it, and I don’t view — I know people that like the Confederate flag, and they’re not thinking about slavery,” Trump said. “I just think it’s freedom of speech, whether it’s Confederate flags or Black Lives Matter or anything else you want to talk about. It’s freedom of speech.” 

Updated 5:24 p.m.