Trump's no racist — he's an equal opportunity offender

Trump's no racist — he's an equal opportunity offender
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The media have erupted over President TrumpDonald John TrumpOklahoma City Thunder players kneel during anthem despite threat from GOP state lawmaker Microsoft moving forward with talks to buy TikTok after conversation with Trump Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled MORE’s latest vitriolic attacks against four Democratic congresswomen of color, with many in Congress and in the press calling his attacks patently racist. If only it were that simple.  

I know Donald Trump, and have spoken to the president on many occasions, and I never came away with the impression that he harbors any racial animus. Can he be vindictive? Of course. Demeaning to others? Yes. Unusually thin-skinned? That’s plainly obvious. These in themselves are character flaws the president often puts on full display — but in doing so, he also has been an equal opportunity offender.

The list of individuals the president has publicly criticized and insulted spans the gamut; it crosses party lines, gender lines and racial lines. During his 2016 campaign for the presidency, he retaliated against now-Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyStimulus checks debate now focuses on size, eligibility CNN chyron says 'nah' to Trump claim about Russia Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock MORE (R-Utah) by inferring that the former Massachusetts governor begged him for an endorsement in his own presidential campaign against Barack ObamaBarack Hussein Obama2020 Democratic Party platform endorses Trump's NASA moon program Davis: My recommendation for vice president on Biden ticket Statehood for Puerto Rico and the obstruction of justice MORE in 2012, saying: “He was begging for my endorsement. I could have said, ‘Mitt, drop to your knees.’ He would have dropped to his knees.”


Obviously angry that his pick for attorney general, former Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence FBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Tuberville breaks DC self-quarantine policy to campaign MORE (D-Ala.), recused himself from the inquiry into Russian interference in the U.S. election, Trump had choice words for Sessions; he is quoted by Bob Woodward in his book, “Fear: Trump In The White House,” as referring to Sessions as “mentally retarded” and a “dumb southerner.”

His broadsides do not end there, of course. He has attacked Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonState polling problematic — again 4 reasons why Trump can't be written off — yet 'Unmasking' Steele dossier source: Was confidentiality ever part of the deal? MORE and Rosie O’Donnell, tweeting: “Rosie’s a loser. A real loser. I look forward to taking lots of money from my nice fat little Rosie.” He praised and then excoriated his close-ally-turned-nemesis, Omarosa Manigault, tweeting: “When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn’t work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!”

The president has insulted foreign leaders and dignitaries, even allies, who chose to criticize him in any way. He infamously removed his former chief of staff, Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusMeadows joins White House facing reelection challenges Trump names Mark Meadows as new chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's job security looks strong following impeachment MORE, from a presidential motorcade, mid-drive — almost literally kicking him to the curb.

Given all of this, is it any surprise that Trump comes out swinging against some of his most vocal (and effective) critics in Congress? Yes, his comments played on their immigrant identities; and, yes, some will use Trump’s comments to fuel their own race-based agendas. But the president insists, in his own words: “I don’t have a racist bone in my body.” That may be a stretch, since we all possess some degree of prejudice, but it is safe to say that being insulted by Donald Trump is not a carve-out uniquely shared by any race, class, religion or gender.

A fact that gets lost in all the reaction to Trump’s bullying tactics is that Trump never was considered a racist during his more than 30 years in public life before becoming president. In fact, Jesse Jackson praised Trump for donating space at 40 Wall Street for Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Wall St. Project. Trump supported Jackson’s presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988. Jackson referred to Trump as “a serious person who is an effective builder of buildings and people … who is willing to face the challenges and opportunities to embrace the underserved.” 


Al Sharpton and Trump partnered on several business and community projects throughout the 1980s and 1990s. President Trump was close to Oprah, and Don King, and too many black athletes and entertainers to even name; he traveled and socialized openly with them. He promoted sporting and entertainment showcases with black promoters and entrepreneurs. There is simply no way that Trump could have survived or thrived in liberal New York City over the decades if he did not cultivate close relationships with people of diverse backgrounds.

Does Trump display often immoderate temper? Do his tweets and insults coarsen the political discourse and make some people less likely to trust him and work with him? Of course. Many, both within the GOP and outside it, believe that Trump does himself no great service by going out of his way to create enemies. 

But Trump seems to need an opposing force in order to feel vindicated in his own mission. This is simply Trump being Trump. Anyone who has known him during his adult life can attest to the fact that he never leaves an insult or critique unanswered, no matter how slight.

Donald Trump is a man who always wants to win. He cannot tolerate being put in a bad light. When his image is threatened, he often goes on the offensive. He believes this is an effective strategy. In that sense, he is, if nothing else, consistent and transparent. 

Yet, reducing his bad behavior to the accusation of racism does a disservice to the debate over whether we should treat each other more civilly in this country. We should. And the president should not be merely a partisan in the politics that divide us; he should be foremost in leading towards a stronger union.

Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is the owner and manager of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. He is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.”