Black leaders in the LGBT community are rebuking President Trump for comparing the impeachment inquiry against him to lynching — a practice that claimed the lives of thousands of black Americans over the course the nation’s history.
David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, called the comparison between the two “grossly irresponsible and ignorant.”
“Trump’s misdirected comparison is reflective of the work that still remains to ensure all Americans are aware of the legacy of racial terror that was lynching and the threat of lynching Black people,” Johns said.
Johns, who said he spent the last weekend at the National Memorial for Peace in Montgomery, Ala., said Trump should visit the Equal Justice Initiative — an Alabama-based organization that seeks to challenge racial and economic injustice.
The House impeachment inquiry proceeded this week based on evidence Trump improperly made U.S. government aid to Ukraine conditional to investigating his potential political opponent Joseph Biden.
Among those set to testify was Bill Taylor, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who expressed concern about a quid pro quo in now-public text messages.
In apparent frustration with the inquiry, Trump on Tuesday morning compared the process to lynching.
So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2019
The tweet — perhaps intentionally — created an uproar in the media. After all, the U.S. president was comparing an impeachment process explicitly permitted under the U.S. Constitution to extrajudicial lynching.
According to the Tuskegee Institute, 4,743 people were lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968. Not all were black: The number counts 3,446 African-Americans and 1,297 whites. More than 73 percent of these lynchings occurred in the South.
Alphonso David, who’s black and the new president of the Human Rights Campaign, drew on these numbers in his own tweet condemning Trump’s remarks as “simply revolting.”
“Learn your history, @realDonaldTrump,” David tweeted. “From 1882 to 1968, at least 4,743 lynchings occurred in the US. Of those lynched, 3,446 were Black. To compare an inquiry into your alleged corrupt behavior to the murders of innocent Americans is simply revolting.”
White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said Tuesday during a gaggle with reporters at the White House Trump was “not comparing what‘s happened to him with one of our darkest moments in American history.”
“He’s just not,” Gidley added. “What he’s explaining clearly is the way he’s been treated by the media since he announced for president. The word impeachment was used about this president the day he was elected and before he was even sworn into office.”
But Trump has a history of racist rhetoric both as a presidential candidate and president. Most recently, he tweeted four Democratic congresswomen of color should go back to their home countries and attacked the late Rep. Elijah Cummings for representing a district filled with “rats and rodents.”
Earl Fowlkes, CEO of the D.C.-based Center for Black Equity, was among the black leaders condemning Trump for his latest tweet.
“It’s unfortunate that Thump would evoke a term which has such a painful connotation for African-Americans to describe his self inflicted political missteps,” Fowlkes said. “Trump’s blatant disregard for the rule of law is the core of his alleged ‘suffering.'”
Trump invocation of lynching recalls a similar comment now-U.S. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas made in 1991 during his confirmation process, which was marred by allegations of sexual misconduct from Anita Hill.
Faced with the threat of losing Senate confirmation, Thomas testified the process was a “high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.” Thomas was ultimately confirmed on a narrow basis.
John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University, said in a statement Trump and Thomas both made “clear distortions” of lynching, but Trump’s tweet may similarly be helpful to the U.S. president.
“Unfortunately, in our time of increasingly divisive politics and words, powerful but deplorable language may be effective for Trump, at least in the sense that it is more likely to bring him sympathy and support rather than condemnation, especially among those he is counting on to re-elect him as president in 2020,” Banzhaf said.
One exception to black LGBT leaders condemnation of Trump was Rob Smith, a gay black conservative political commentator and member of the pro-Trump group Turning Point USA.
Smith told the Washington Blade “the same do-nothing ‘leaders’ seeking to create moments for themselves over an inarticulate tweet” had nothing to say last year about Trump signing into the law the First Step Act.
“I have spent time lobbying on Capitol Hill to get the First Step Act passed,” Smith said. “I have talked to the African-Americans whose lives were changed by that legislation. I have been in the East Wing of the White House when the president addressed hundreds of young African-Americans and brought one Somali-American immigrant onstage to lead a prayer. When you have seen actual change, you become less concerned with a tweet, as ill-advised as it may be.”
The First Step Act has released an estimated 3,000 prisoners who were incarcerated for nonviolent crime, 91% of whom were black.
Smith accused civil rights leaders of being pre-occupied with Trump’s Twitter account and not working to advance their communities.
“I’m not particularly interested in the comments of pseudo-leaders who aren’t interested in doing anything to truly help Black or Gay and Lesbian America on a national level when a Democrat isn’t in office,” Smith said. “And that includes any hacks from GLAAD, HRC or GetEqual who have shared their ‘thoughts.’”
Republican lawmakers in Congress largely distanced themselves from Trump’s tweet.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said “that’s not the language I would use,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.C.) said the tweet was “inappropriate in any context” and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a staunch Trump defender, sought to justify the tweet by saying “the president’s frustrated.”
One exception was Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a one-time Trump critic who has become a stalwart Trump defender. Asked about the comment, Graham said, ‘This is a lynching in every sense. This is un-American.'”
Nadine Smith, who’s black and executive director of Equality Florida, drew on a conspiracy theory in her condemnation of Trump’s tweet: The president is blackmailing Graham.
“It is not surprising Trump has used the term lynching to inflame and distract from self-inflicted charges of corruption and possible treason,” Smith said. “Racism is the centerpiece of his appeal to his diehard base. I find the silent cowards and lapdog defenders in his party to be even more appalling. He must have all the dirt on Lindsey Graham.”