WEST BEND, Wis. — Donald Trump on Tuesday accused rival Hillary Clinton of “bigotry” and being “against the police,” claiming that she and other Democrats have “betrayed the African-American community” and pandered for votes.
“We reject the bigotry of Hillary Clinton, which panders to and talks down to communities of color and sees them only as votes — that’s all they care about,” the GOP nominee said in remarks delivered not far from Milwaukee, the latest city to be rocked by violence in the wake of a police shooting.
Trump, who is lagging behind in the polls, accused Clinton of being on the side of the rioters, declaring: “Our opponent Hillary would rather protect the offender than the victim.”
“The riots and destruction that have taken place in Milwaukee is an assault on the right of all citizens to live in security and to live in peace,” he said.
Clinton campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri responded with a statement early Wednesday accusing Trump of being the bigot instead.
“With each passing Trump attack, it becomes clearer that his strategy is just to say about Hillary Clinton what’s true of himself. When people started saying he was temperamentally unfit, he called Hillary the same. When his ties to the Kremlin came under scrutiny, he absurdly claimed that Hillary was the one who was too close to Putin. Now he’s accusing her of bigoted remarks — We think the American people will know which candidate is guilty of the charge,” she said.
Trump’s remarks, delivered via teleprompter in a rare departure from his usual freewheeling rally remarks, came after Clinton vowed Tuesday to conduct a national security and foreign policy that Americans could be proud of.
“It just absolutely bewilders me when I hear Donald Trump try to talk about national security,” Clinton said, pointing to Vice President Joe Biden’s dissection of Trump’s foreign policy at a Pennsylvania event Monday. “What [Trump] often says hurts us. It sends the wrong message to friend and foe alike.”
Turning to the U.S. Olympic team, she said, “Team USA is showing the world what this country stands for.”
Trump said in a speech Monday that the country’s national security requirements demanded “extreme” vetting of immigrants seeking admission to the United States, pointing to the threat of the Islamic State group and terrorist elements.
Clinton had said Monday that the Milwaukee protests showed that the nation had “urgent work to do to rebuild trust between police and communities” and said “everyone should have respect for the law and be respected by the law.”
In an interview on Fox News Channel, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker accused Clinton of “inflaming the situation” with her comments.
“I think people understand in that neighborhood and Sherman Park and in Milwaukee, they want law enforcement to step up and protect them,” he said, adding that “statements like that” from Clinton and a “lack of leadership” from President Barack Obama “only inflame the situation.”
Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood erupted in chaos Saturday night after a black suspect was fatally shot by a black Milwaukee police officer. Businesses burned, gunshots rang out and police in riot gear were pelted with rocks and other objects. The violence continued, to a lesser degree, on Sunday night.
On Tuesday, Trump seized on the riots, accusing Clinton of sympathizing with protesters, who have complained of systemic racism and inequality at the hands of police.
Trump, who has so far proven deeply unpopular with black voters, made a direct appeal to them Tuesday: “I’m asking for the vote of every African-American citizen struggling in our country today who wants a different and much better future.”
Democrats, he claimed, have pushed policies that exacerbate poverty and crime.
“The Democratic Party has failed and betrayed the African-American community,” he said.
Trump has stoked tensions during his campaign. He has accused Mexico of sending rapists across the border, has feuded with the Muslim-American parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq and has proposed to suspend immigration by Muslims.
Trump began his visit to the city with a meeting with local law enforcement officers at the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center on Lake Michigan. Among those present were Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who penned an op-ed Monday blaming liberal Democrats and the media for the unrest that has rocked the city.
He told Fox News that the shooting in Milwaukee may have occurred because the officer had a gun to his head.
“Who can have a problem with that?” Trump said. “If it is true, then people shouldn’t be rioting.”
Trump’s campaign also announced Tuesday that it will finally begin airing its first ads of the general election next week in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
While polls have shown Clinton building a lead following the Philadelphia convention, Democrats are fearful that a depressed voter turnout might diminish support among the minority, young and female voters who powered Obama to two victories.
Clinton said at a voter registration event at a Philadelphia high school that she’s “not taking anybody anywhere for granted” in the race for the White House, saying the stakes “could not be higher.”
Thomas reported from Philadelphia. Associated Press reporter Catherine Lucey contributed to this report from Des Moines, Iowa.