They were outraged by Trump's actions Friday morning
Trump is widely considered the leader of the birther movement
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus fiercely criticized the way Donald Trump delivered his brief admission Friday that President Barack Obama was born in the United States, saying it was insufficient and demanding an apology for Trump’s years-long push of “birther” claims.
“This is a disgusting day,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat from North Carolina and chair of the CBC. “Donald Trump is a disgusting fraud.”
Butterfield, along with a dozen other members, made their comments at a hastily arranged news conference on a noisy Washington street corner, just outside a convention center where many were attending events for “CBC Week.”
One by one, members tore into Trump, calling him an array of names including “hater,” “bigot” and “racial arsonist.”
(They stressed that they were speaking on behalf of the group’s political action committee – which endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton earlier this year – and not the caucus itself.)
They were outraged by Trump’s actions Friday morning, when he concluded a campaign event at his new hotel just across town in Washington with a few blunt sentences admitting that Obama was born in America. His comments came two days after he refused to say as much to a Washington Post reporter.
“President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again,” he said Friday, then ended his event and ignored shouted-out questions from reporters as he left the room.
Trump is widely considered the leader of the birther movement and has taken credit for Obama releasing his long-form birth certificate five years ago.
But as the nominee has begun to court votes from African-Americans in recent weeks, the issue has resurfaced given that many black voters felt his birther campaign was an attempt to delegitimize the first black president. Representatives from the Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment about the news conference.
“One of the things we all are used to in this business is dog whistles, but the thing that we’re not used to, and I’m finding it very difficult to get used to, are the howls of wolves,” said South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn. “These are howls. These are not whistles.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas argued that Trump could have ended the controversy in the same Washington Post interview where he continued it. “There were no lights or cameras. It was a simple interview,” she said. “He could have taken the quiet time to apologize.”
“But Mr. Trump could not bring himself to do so because he has lived a life of bigotry,” she added.
Others flatly refused to believe that Trump was honest in his comments Friday. “He doesn’t believe the things he’s forced to say now in order to curry favor with people who are never, never going to support him,” said Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey.
Virgin Islands Delegate Stacey Plasket also said Trump only addressed the matter because “he was forced to address it.”
“Did he address in the a manner that showed him incorrect? No. He has moved on,” she said.
A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that Trump had only 3% support among African-American voters. Trump has tried to boost his popularity among minority voters by traveling to places like Detroit and Flint, Michigan, as well as promising to address inner-city crime and expand education opportunities in urban areas.
“Don’t be surprised – because we have been given a lot of support over the last three or four weeks – if, on November 8, I get more African-American and Hispanic votes than anyone thought possible about a month ago,” he said last week before a largely white audience of evangelicals in Washington.
While he has a few notable African-American surrogates, his outreach has been met with much resistance, including Friday’s press conference by the CBC.
“Don’t walk to the polls. Don’t jog to the polls,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York. “Run to the polls to make sure this hater is not elected as the next president of the United States of America.”