'Central Park Five' and the KKK: Clinton paints Trump as a racist

Story highlights

  • Clinton reached back Thursday to some of the darkest moments of Trump's past
  • Clinton also accused Trump of openly fueling "his most hateful supporters"

Winterville, North Carolina (CNN)The audience could barely hear the elderly African-American woman who introduced Hillary Clinton at an outdoor campaign rally here in Winterville, North Carolina.

She wasn't close enough to the microphone, and she was also crying.
    Mae Brown Wiggins recalled applying for an apartment at a property operated by Donald Trump's family decades ago, and being rejected because she was black.
    "Trump just turned me away because of the color of my skin. And they had done the same thing to many others," Wiggins said, pausing several times to wipe her eyes. "When I think about how they lied to me just because I was black, I still feel the anger. I can't share this experience with him ... without feeling the pain."
    A message left with the Trump campaign seeking response was not returned.
    Wiggins' emotional remarks on Friday were followed by a bleak speech from Clinton, in which the Democratic nominee reached back to some of the darkest moments of Trump's past — a pattern of racial discrimination in his past business dealings, his involvement in an infamous rape case that rocked New York City years ago and more recently, the support his presidential campaign has received from white supremacist groups.
    In her first public remarks about the 1989 "Central Park Five" case, in which five men of color were wrongly convicted of rape, Clinton slammed Trump for taking out full-page ads in newspapers "calling for the death penalty."
    "Nearly three decades later, they were exonerated," she said. "But not only did Donald Trump refuse to apologize for calling for their execution, he actually said they should still be in prison. To him, those kids were still and will always be guilty, no matter what the evidence says."
    Clinton also accused Trump of openly fueling "his most hateful supporters," as she pointed to the official newspaper of the Ku Klux Klan recently expressing its support for Trump.
    "He has spent this entire campaign offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters," Clinton said. "He retweets white supremacists and spreads racially tinged conspiracy theories. And you better believe he is being heard loudly and clearly."
    Clinton's remarks on Friday in North Carolina -- where black turnout will be critical to whether the Democrat can win the state -- was one of a series of recent somber speeches that the former secretary has delivered in the homestretch of the 2016 election.
    As a part of her broader strategy to convince voters that she is the only nominee who is qualified to be president, Clinton has repeatedly warned against Trump's divisive and inflammatory language. While she has never outright called him a racist, Clinton has continually painted the Republican nominee as racist and sexist, and has said repeatedly that he lacks the temperament to be commander in chief.
    In the final days of the election, Clinton has used targeted messaging to speak to different slices of the Democratic coalition that twice elected President Barack Obama. Clinton has looked to popular surrogates -- namely Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders -- to help energize African-Americans, Latinos and young voters.
    Key to Clinton's strategy with these groups has been to turn Trump's own words against him. For example, the Clinton campaign released an ad on Thursday titled "We Are America," which strings together what Democrats view as Trump's greatest hits of offensive and salacious comments.
    This week, guests at Clinton events have included former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, whom Trump criticized after she gained weight, as well as Bruce Blair, a former ballistic missile launch officer who said he would "live in constant fear" if Trump were president.
    "You have got to ask yourself," Clinton said in Winterville on Friday. "Do any of us, any of us who believe in our Constitution, believe in the rule of law, who believe that we are stronger together, who believe that we want to keep moving positively towards the vision of freedom and equality set forth by our founders, do any of us have a place in Trump's America?"
    Hours later, at a rally in Raleigh with Sanders and musical artist Pharrell Williams, Clinton again shared with supporters Wiggins' story. And echoing her former primary rival, Clinton warned that Trump is on the verge of "normalizing discrimination."
    "So when you hear as Bernie so powerfully said at the end of his remarks that we are standing against the possibility of returning and normalizing discrimination, take it seriously," Clinton said. "Because it truly, it truly is at stake in this election."