Donald Trump’s efforts to delegitimize Barack Obama by suggesting he’s not a native-born citizen, and questioning his qualifications for admissions to Columbia University and Harvard Law School, have drawn fire from prominent media figures like MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell (FAIR Blog, 4/29/11), CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer (CBS Evening News, 4/27/11) and even David Letterman (Late Show, 4/28/11), who have pointed out the racism implicit in Trump’s smears.
But few corporate journalists have so far put Trump’s anti-Obama efforts in the context of earlier racist episodes in the real estate developer’s career–a history that sheds light on the potential presidential candidate’s recent hamfisted claim: “I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.” (As Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson–4/19/11–observed regarding Trump’s awkward boast: “Yes, he said ‘the blacks.’ Twice.”)
Salon‘s Justin Elliot (4/28/11) traced Trump’s racism back to the 1970s, when the Justice Department repeatedly alleged racial discrimination by Trump Management Company, where Trump served as president. According to a New York Times report (10/16/73) about the federal case:
After Trump agreed in a 1975 deal to integrate Trump properties, in 1978 the Justice Department charged Trump Management with failing to live up to the agreement. As Elliott reports, “in 1983, a fair-housing activist cited statistics that two Trump Village developments had white majorities of at least 95 percent.” (See New York Times, 10/16/83.)
In his 1991 book Trumped!, the former president of Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, John R. O’Donnell, recalled Trump declaring that “laziness is a trait in blacks,” and exclaiming: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” Trump acknowledged in a Playboy interview (5/97; cited Huffington Post, 4/29/11), “The stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.”
Trump injected himself into a racial controversy in 1989 when, after a white female jogger was raped in Central Park, he took out full-page newspaper ads calling for the executions of the five people arrested–all minors aged 14 to 16 years old, four of them African-American and one Latino. All five were later exonerated after being convicted on the basis of what turned out to be false confessions, the crime actually having been committed by a lone serial rapist (New York Times, 12/8/02, 12/9/03).
Trump has never taken out similar ads in regard to other prominent and even more serious crimes, including serial murders, in the New York area, and failed to apologize following the exonerations. The story recently received local coverage on New York City cable news station NY1 (4/28/11) when one of the people targeted in the Trump ads asked the presidential hopeful for an apology–but national media have avoided the story.
When Barack Obama held a press conference (4/27/11) announcing he would release additional evidence to document his already-established U.S. birth, the spectacle recalled the days of Jim Crow, when black citizens were required to produce extra documentation, pay poll taxes and take “literacy tests” in a system designed to disenfranchise them. Trump followed in these footsteps by demanding that Obama provide evidence never required of any white politician–a parallel heightened when, during a press conference boasting of his role in forcing Obama to release a new version of his birth certificate, he made a new bid to delegitimize Obama by demanding that he release his school records as well.
The failure to cover Trump’s record of racism is troubling, but perhaps not surprising given the evident glee with which corporate media have greeted his potential candidacy. Trump attended the April 20 White House Correspondents Dinner as a guest of the Washington Post, about which the Post‘s Dan Zak (4/20/11) reported, “Trump elicited boos from gawkers and protesters while entering the Washington Hilton, but once inside it was all flashbulbs and glad-handing and laughs.”