U.S. President Donald Trump branded African-American civil rights activist Al Sharpton a “con man” on Monday, sparking further charges of racism following his recent tirades against prominent black lawmakers.
The attack followed a weekend during which Trump drew fire for targeting Elijah Cummings, a Democratic congressman of color and high-profile Trump critic whose district covers much of the majority-black city of Baltimore.
Trump’s dispute with Sharpton appeared to stem from a tweet by the civil rights leader late Sunday, stating that he was headed to Baltimore.
“Al is a con man, a troublemaker, always looking for a score. Just doing his thing” Trump tweeted early Monday, adding that Sharpton “Hates Whites & Cops!”
Sharpton shot back, telling reporters in Baltimore that Trump “has a particular venom for blacks and people of color.”
“He can say what he wants, call me a troublemaker. Yes, I make trouble for bigots,” Sharpton said.
The episode began when Trump called Cummings’s district a “rat and rodent infested mess” where no “human being” would choose to live.
Drop everything you're doing and watch this….
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) July 27, 2019
The controversy comes less than two weeks after the House of Representatives condemned Trump for racist comments targeting four first-term Democratic congresswomen, known as the “Squad,” who are from ethnic minorities.
“If the Democrats are going to defend the Radical Left ‘Squad’ and King Elijah’s Baltimore Fail, it will be a long road to 2020,” Trump tweeted Monday.
“So tired of listening to the same old Bull … Next, Reverend Al will show up to complain & protest. Nothing will get done for the people in need. Sad!” Trump wrote.
A historic port city of 600,000 people, Baltimore presents a mixed picture, with both handsome and affluent neighborhoods and poverty-stricken districts. It has one of the country’s highest murder rates.
‘Bigoted and Racist’
Trump’s weekend diatribe ignited a storm of criticism, particularly from Democrats running 2020 presidential campaigns.
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders reiterated his assertion that Trump is a racist telling CNN Sunday: “That is a disgrace and that is why we’re going to defeat this president.”
Cory Booker wrote that “this is painful. This is a moral, defining moment in America.” while Kamala Harris, who like Booker is black, said she was “proud” to have her campaign headquarters in Cummings’s district and called Trump’s attack “disgraceful.”
Incredible how the president openly sees a struggling American city as someone else's responsibility https://t.co/q5PpTjjx2X
— Steadman™ (@AsteadWesley) July 28, 2019
Trump’s remarks are seen by some as a calculated but risky appeal to parts of his overwhelmingly white base that harbor racist attitudes.
After Trump’s tweets attacking the Squad, his approval among Republicans rose five points to 72 percent in a Reuters-Ipsos poll.
On Monday, Sharpton accused Trump of attacking Cummings and the people of Baltimore “in the most bigoted and racist way.”
“He attacks everybody. I know Donald Trump. He is not mature enough to take criticism. He can’t help it, he is like a child – somebody says something he reacts.”
Baltimore, as well, has stood up to Trump’s remarks, which Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young dubbed “completely unacceptable.”
The editorial board of the city’s major newspaper, the Baltimore Sun, also responded forcefully.
“We would tell the most dishonest man to ever occupy the Oval Office, the mocker of war heroes, the gleeful grabber of women’s private parts … the guy who insisted there are ‘good people’ among murderous neo-Nazis that he’s still not fooling most Americans into believing he’s even slightly competent in his current post,” they wrote.
“Better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one.”
More on the Subject
As historian Joshua Zeits writes, this is not the first time in U.S. history the working-class has been successfully divided on social issues.
Following the Civil War, poor white farmers and newly emancipated black Americans formed biracial coalition governments around shared economic interests that won elections all across the South.
Their success, however, was short-lived. Wealthy plantation owners drove a wedge between the coalition by stoking fears of “Negro rule” and drumming up marginal social issues like interracial marriage.
“The white group of laborers, while they received a low wage, were compensated in part by a sort of public and psychological wage,” W.E.B Du Bois concluded in his seminal work on Reconstruction.