For the fourth straight day, Donald Trump continued his assault on the city of Baltimore, describing it “like living in hell” while addressing reporters on the south lawn of the White House Tuesday morning. Further, the president claimed, without offering evidence, “that billions and billions given to Baltimore” in federal funding “had been stolen.”
Trump also continued his personal attacks on Rep. Elijah Cummings, who represents Maryland’s 7th District, suggesting Cummings is “in charge” of Baltimore, which the president had called “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” over the weekend.
"They're largely African American," Trump said of Baltimore’s residents. "You have a large African-American population, and they really appreciate what I'm doing and they've let me know it." Again, the president offered no information about who specifically from Baltimore had reached out to him. He tweeted that the city's economic and crime numbers are "the worst in the United States," neither of which is true.
In Tuesday evening’s Democratic presidential debate, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, whose husband teaches at the University of Baltimore School of Law, decried Trump’s assault on majority-black Baltimore. “Little kids literally woke up this week and turned on the TV and saw the president call their city, the town of Baltimore, nothing more than a home for rats,” Klobuchar said.
To a question about how the candidates would change course and help heal from Trump’s tactic of racial division, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders highlighted his Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education, which aims at ending the growth of segregated schools, increasing support for Title I schools, and raising teacher pay, among other initiatives. Marshall, a Baltimore native, founded the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund and won the Brown v. Board of Education case that overturned legal segregation in 1954.
On Saturday morning, a “Fox & Friends” segment that was critical of Baltimore prompted the president’s initial verbal assaults on the city and Cummings. Trump apparently viewed the segment as an opening to go after Cummings, who serves as chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Previously, Cummings had offered tough questioning of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan during a hearing on child separations and conditions at U.S. border facilities.
On Sunday, Trump referred to Cummings, the son of sharecroppers who grew up defending himself against bullies who tried to stop the integration of a South Baltimore public pool, as "racist Elijah Cummings." On Monday, after Rev. Al Sharpton and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, a Republican, visited Cummings’ West Baltimore church, Trump called Sharpton a racist, too. Meanwhile, Steele said Trump "has a particular venom for blacks and people of color."
During his remarks to reporters Tuesday morning, Trump referred to himself as “the least racist person there is anywhere in the world.”
Whether American voters believe him is another question. Later Tuesday, Quinnipiac University released a poll that found 51 percent of American voters think the president of the Unites States is a racist. Forty-five percent of voters said they do not think Trump is a racist.
Wednesday morning, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, the renowned former Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, came to Baltimore to defend the president and tout the Trump Administration's "Opportunity Zone" initiative. According to reporting by The Sun, HUD officials planned to stage their press conference on a vacant lot in Southwest Baltimore, but never asked permission from the owners of the property, Morning Star Baptist Church of Christ.
Meanwhile, Baltimoreans have continued their defense of their beloved city, which launched a trending social media hashtag #WeAreBaltimore over the weekend.
Visit Baltimore, the city’s official tourism arm, noted, for example, that the city ranked fifth on the both Forbes’ list of rising cities for startups and Entrepreneur magazine’s list of top cities for minority entrepreneurs, as well as one of the top three U.S. cities for recent college grads by the Wall Street Journal.
In an op-ed to the Baltimore Sun, Under Armour founder Kevin Plank and Johns Hopkins University president Ron Daniel—joined by more than a half-dozen other business, academic, and nonprofit leaders—wrote how they were “proud and privileged" to call Baltimore home. They described Baltimore as “home of creativity, optimism, and determination.”
Others, including Baltimore photographer Devin Allen, continued to show their love for the city in heartfelt tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts and pictures.
By coincidence, Baltimore celebrated its 290th birthday Tuesday.
Trump, of course, most likely didn't know that. A couple of years ago, he described one of Baltimore's and the country’s greatest former citizens, former slave turned abolitionist, orator, and author Frederick Douglass, as “an example of somebody’s who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more.”