In a speech to police officers in New York last week, President Donald Trump encouraged officers to be “rough” on suspects.
During a heated panel discussion Tuesday about the controversial remarks, CNN’s Bakari Sellers said the President’s comments presented a special danger to African-Americans.
Panelist Scott Jennings, former special assistant to President George W. Bush, was talking about why Trump’s remarks resonated with his supporters.
“Do you understand that some people look at me as being inherently dangerous because I’m a black male?” Sellers, a former South Carolina state legislator, interjected. “Do you get that? Do you understand that?”
“As I said, I agree with you,” Jennings said. “You don’t have to keep yelling at me. I agree with you. The tension between the police and citizenry is a worrisome problem. But I’m trying to tell you that the conversation he was having about MS-13 to a lot of people in this country was right on.”
“I just want Donald Trump to care about people who look like me,” Sellers said later in the conversation. “When he does that, maybe then we can acknowledge the President of the United States wants to fix systems which we find to be oppressive and are harmful to people of color.”
Trump spoke to officers from the Suffolk County Police Department in New York on Friday about efforts to combat the gang MS-13.
He praised the “rough” officers of ICE and suggested that police shouldn’t protect the heads of suspects when they’re arrested.
“When you see these thugs thrown into the back of a paddy wagon. You see them thrown in, rough. I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice,’ ” Trump said, mentioning observing the prisoner’s heads being shielded. “I said, ‘You can take the hand away.’”
His remarks drew criticism from officials including the acting head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and several police departments issued statements distancing themselves from them.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later told reporters that Trump was joking when he said police should be rougher on suspects.
“I believe he was making a joke at the time,” she said.
CNN’s Tal Kopan contributed to this report.