The first presidential debate of the general election just finished, and for those who were not interested in watching 90 minutes of political one-upmanship, we watched for you and pulled out every time the nominees—Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump—talked about people of color.
The following conversation comes from the section of the debate, hosted by journalist Lester Holt, that specifically focused on race:
Lester Holt: The share of Americans who say race relations are bad in this country is the highest its been in decades, much of it amplified by the shooting of African Americans by police, as we’ve seen recently in Charlotte and in Tulsa. Race has been a big issue in this campaign, and one of you is going to have to bridge a very wide and bitter gap. So how do you close the divide?
Hillary Clinton: Well, you’re right. Race remains a significant challenge in our country. Unfortunately, race still determines too much. It often determines where people live, determines what kind of education in their public schools people can get, and yes, it determines how they’re treated in the criminal justice system. We’ve just seen those two tragic examples in both Tulsa and Charlotte, and we’ve got to do several things at the same time. We have to restore trust between communities and the police, we have to work to make sure that our police are using the best training, the best techniques, that they’re well prepared to use force only when necessary. Everyone should be respected by the law and everyone should respect the law. Right now, that’s not the case in a lot of our neighborhoods.
So I have, ever since the first day of my campaign, called for criminal justice reform. I’ve laid out a platform that I think would begin to remedy some of the problems we have in the criminal justice system. But we also have to recognize in addition to the challenges that we face with policing, there are so many good, brave police officers who equally want reform. So we have to bring communities together in order to begin working on that as a mutual goal. And we’ve got to get guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. The gun epidemic is the leading cause of death of young African-American men, more than the next nine causes put together. So we have to do two things as I said. We have to restore trust, we have to work with the police, we have to make sure they respect the communities and the communities respect them, and we have to tackle the plague of gun violence which is big contributor to a lot of the problems that we’re seeing today.
Donald Trump: Well, first of all, Secretary Clinton doesn’t want to use a couple of words, and that’s: law and order. And we need law and order. If we don’t have it we’re not gonna have a country. And when I look at what’s going on in Charlotte, a city that I love, a city where I have investments, when I look at what’s going on throughout various parts of our country, whether it’s—I mean, I could just keep naming them all day long. We need law and order in our country. And I just got today, as you know, the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police, it just came in. We have endorsements from I think almost every police group, I mean a large percentage of them in the United States.
We have a situation where we have our inner cities—African Americans, Hispanics—are living in hell because it’s so dangerous. You walk down the street, you get shot. In Chicago, they’ve had thousands of shootings, thousands, since January 1st. Thousands of shootings. And I’m saying, where is this? Is this a war torn country? What are we doing? And we have to stop the violence, we have to bring back law and order. In a place like Chicago where thousands of people have been killed, thousands over the last number of years, in fact almost 4,000 have been killed since Barack Obama became president, almost 4,000 people in Chicago have been killed. We have to bring back law and order.
Now whether or not in a place like Chicago you do stop and frisk, which worked very well, Mayor Giuliani is here, worked very well in New York. It brought the crime rate way down, but you take the guns away from criminals that shouldn’t be having them. We have gangs roaming the streets, and in many cases, they’re illegally here. Illegal immigrants. And they have guns. And they shoot people. And we have to be very strong and we have to be very vigilant. We have to know what we’re doing. Right now, our police in many cases are afraid to do anything. We have to protect our inequities, because African-American communities are being decimated by crime. Decimated.
Holt: Stop and frisk was ruled unconstitutional in New York because it largely singled out Black and Hispanic young men.
Trump: No, you’re wrong. It went before a judge, who was a very against police judge. It was taken away from her and our mayor, our new mayor, refused to go forward with the case. They would have won an appeal.
Holt: The argument is that it’s a form of racial profiling.
Trump: No, the argument is that we have to take the guns away from these people that have them and that are bad people, that shouldn’t have them. These are felons, these are people that are bad people that shouldn’t be—when you have 3,000 shootings in Chicago, from January 1st, when you have 4.000 people killed in Chicago by guns, from the beginning of the presidency of Barack Obama, his hometown, you have to have stop and frisk. You need more police, you need a better community, you know, relation. You don’t have good community relations in Chicago, it’s terrible. I have property there, it’s terrible what’s going on in Chicago. but when you look at—and Chicago’s not the only, you go to Ferguson, you go to so many different places, you need better relationships, I agree with secretary Clinton on this. You need better relationships between the communities and the police, because in some cases it’s not good. But you look at Dallas, where the relationship was really studied, the relationships were really a beautiful thing, and then five police officers were killed one night very violently. So there’s some bad things going on, some really bad things. But we need law and order. And we need law and order in the inner cities, because the people that are most affected by what’s happening are African-American and Hispanic people, and it’s very unfair to them what our politicians are allowing to happen.
Clinton: Well, I’ve heard—I’ve heard Donald say this at his rallies. And it’s really unfortunate that he paints such a dire, negative picture of Black communities in our country. You know, the vibrancy of the Black church, the Black businesses that employ so many people, the opportunities that so many families are working to provide for their kids, there’s a lot that we should be proud of and we should be supporting and lifting up.
But we do always have to make sure we keep people safe. There are the right ways of doing it, and then there are ways that are ineffective. Stop and frisk was found to be unconstitutional. And it was in part because it was ineffective. It did not do what it needed to do. Now I believe in community policing and in fact, violent crime is one half of what it was in 1991, property crime is down 40 percent. We just don’t wan to see it creep back up. We’ve had 25 years of very good cooperation, but here were some problems, some unintended consequences. Too many young African-American and Latino men ended up in jail for nonviolent offenses, and it’s just a fact that if you’re a young African-American man and you do the same thing as a young White man, you are more likely to be arrested, charged, convicted and incarcerated. So we’ve got to address the systemic racism in our criminal justice system. We cannot just say law and order, we have to come forward with a plan that is going to divert people from the criminal justice system, deal with mandatory minimum sentences, which have put too many people away for too long for doing too little. We need to have more second chance programs. I’m glad that we’re ending private prisons in the federal system. I want to see them ended in the state system. You shouldn’t have a profit motivation to fill prison cells with young Americans.
So there are some positive ways we can work on this, and I believe strongly that common sense gun safety measure would assist us. Right now—and this is something Donald has supported, along with the gun lobby—right now we’ve got too many military style weapons on the streets. In a lot of places, our police are outgunned. We need comprehensive background checks, and we need to keep guns out of the hands of these who will do hard. And we finally need to pass prohibition on anyone who’s on the terrorist watch list from being able to buy a gun in our country. If you’re too dangerous to fly, you are too dangerous to buy a gun. So there are things we can do, and we oughta do it in a bipartisan way.
Holt: Secretary Clinton, last week you said we’ve got to do everything possible to improve policing, to go right at implicit bias. Do you think police are implicitly biased against Black people?
Clinton: Lester, I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police. I think, unfortunately, too many of us in our great country jump to conclusions about each other, and therefore I think we need, all of us, to be asking hard questions about, you know, “Why am I feeling this way?” But when it comes to policing, since it can have literally fatal consequences, I have said in my first budget, we would put money into that budget to help us deal with implicit bias by retraining a lot of our police officers. I met with a group of very distinguished, experienced police chiefs a few weeks ago. They admit it’s an issue. They’ve got a lot of concerns. Mental health is one of the biggest concerns, because now police are having to handle a lot of really difficult mental health problems on the street. They want support, they want more training, they want more assistance, and I think the federal government could be in a position where we would offer and provide that.
Trump: I’d like to respond to that. First of all, I agree and a lot of people even within my own party want to give certain rights to people on watch lists and on fly lists. I agree with you. When a person is on a watch list or a no fly list—and I have the endorsement of the NRA, which I’ve very proud of, these are very, very good people and they’re protecting the Second Amendment—but I think we have to look very strongly at no fly lists and watch lists and when people are on there, even if they shouldn’t’ be on there, we’ll help them, we’ll help them legally, we’ll help them get off, but I tend to agree with that quite strongly.
I do want to bring up the fact that you were the one who brought up the word “super predator” about young Black youth. And that’s a term that I think has been horribly met, as you know. I think you’ve apologized for it, but I think it was a terrible thing to say.
And when it comes to stop and frisk, I mean, you’re talking about taking guns away, I’m talking about taking guns away from gangs and people that use them, and I really don’t think you disagree with me on this. I think maybe there’s a political reason why you can’t say it, but I really don’t believe—in New York City, stop and frisk—we have 2,200 murders, and stop and frisk brought it down to 500 murders. Five hundred murders is a lot of murders, it’s hard to believe 500 is like supposed to be good. But we went from 2,200 to 500 and it was continued on by mayor Bloomberg and it was terminated by our current mayor. But stop and frisk had a tremendous impact on the safety of New York City, tremendous beyond belief. So when you say it has no impact, it really did it, it had a very, very big impact.
Clinton: Well, it’s also fair to say, if we’re gonna talk about mayors, that under the current mayor, crime has continued to drop, including murders. So there is—
Trump: You’re wrong. You’re wrong. Murders are up. You check. You check.
Clinton: No, I’m not. New York has done an excellent job. And I give credit—I give credit across the board going back two mayors, two police chiefs because it has worked, because it has worked, and other communities need to be taught to do what will work as well. Look, one murder is too many. But it is important that we learn about what has been effective and not go to things that sound good, but really did not have the kind of impact we would want. Who disagrees with keeping neighborhoods safe? But let’s also add no one should disagree about respecting the rights of young men who live in those neighborhoods. And so we need to do a better job of working again with the communities, faith communities, business communities, as well as the police to try to deal with this problem.
Holt: This conversation is about race, and so Mr. Trump, I have to ask you—
Trump: I’d just like to respond, if I might. The African-American community has been let down by our politicians. They talk good around election time, like right tow, and after the election, they say, “see you later, I’ll see you in four years.” The African-American community—look, the community within the inner cities has been so badly treated, they’ve been abused and used in order to get votes by Democrat politicians, because that’s what it is. They’ve controlled these communities for up to 100 years—
Holt: All right, Mr. Trump.
Trump: —unbroken. and I will tell you, you look at the inner cities, and I just left Detroit, and I just left Philadelphia and I just—you know, you’ve seen me, I’ve been all over the place—you decided to stay home, and that’s okay. But I will tell you, I’ve been all over, and I’ve met some of the greatest people I’ll ever meet within these communities. And they are very, very upset with what their politicians have told them, and what their politicians have done.
Clinton: I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate, and yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing.
Holt: Mr. Trump, for five years, you perpetuated a false claim that the nation’s first Black president was not a natural born citizen. You questioned his legitimacy. In the last couple of weeks, you acknowledged what most Americans have accepted for years: the president was born in the United States. Can you tell us what took you so long?
Trump: I’ll tell you—just very simple to say. Sidney Blumenthal works for the campaign, a very close friend of Secretary Clinton, and her campaign manger, Patti Doyle, when she ran the campaign, her campaign against President Obama, fought very hard—and you can go look it up and you can check it out and if you look at CNN this past week—Patti Solis Doyle was on Wolf Blitzer saying that this happened. Blumenthal sent McClatchy, a highly respected reporter for McClatchy, to Kenya to find out about it. They were pressing it very hard. She failed to get the birth certificate. But when I got involved, I didn’t fail. I got him to give the birth certificate. So I’m satisfied with it, and I’ll tell why i’m satisfied with it. Because I want to get on to defeating ISIS. Because I want to get to creating jobs. Because I want to get on to having a strong border. Because I want to get on to things that are very important to me and that are very important to the country.
Holt: The birth certificate was produced in 2011. You continued to tell this story and question the president’s legitimacy in 2012, ’13, ’14, ’15, as recently as January.
Trump: Well, nobody was pressing it, nobody was caring much about it. Nobody was caring much about it. But I was the one who got him to produce the birth certificate. And I think I did a good job. Secretary Clinton also fought it. Now everyone in mainstream is gonna say, “That’s not true.” Look, it’s true. Sidney Blumenthal sent a reporter, you just have to take a look at CNN last week, the interview with your campaign manger. And she was involved. But just like she can’t bring back jobs, she can’t produce.
Holt: We’re talking about racial healing in this segment. What do you say to Americans, people of color who—
Trump: I say nothing. I say nothing. Because I was able to get him to produce it. And he should have produced it a long time before. I say nothing. But let me tell you, when you talk about healing. I think that I have developed very, very good relationships over the last little while with the African-American community. I think you can see that. And I feel that they really wanted me to come to that conclusion. And I think that I did a great job, and a great service, not only for the country, but even for the president in getting him to produce his birth certificate.
Clinton: Well, just listen to what you heard. Clearly, as Donald just admitted, he knew he was going to stand on this debate stage, and Lester Holt was going to be asking us questions. So he tried to put the whole racist birther lie to bed. But it can’t be dismissed that easily. He has really started his political activity based on this racist lie that our first Black president was not an american citizen. There was absolutely no evidence for it, but he persisted. He persisted year after year because some of his supporters, people that he was trying to bring into his fold, apparently believed it or wanted to believe it.
But remember, Donald started his career back in 1973, being sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination, because he would not rent apartments in one of his developments to African Americans and he made sure that the people who worked for him understood that that was the policy. He actually was sued twice by the Justice Department. So he has a long record of engaging in racist behavior. And the birther lie was a very hurtful one. You know, Barack Obama is a man of great dignity and I could tell how much it bothered him and annoyed him that this was being touted and used against him. But I like to remember what Michelle Obama said in her amazing speech at our Democratic National Convention, “when they go low, we go high.” And Barack Obama went high, despite Donald Trump’s best efforts to bring him down.
Trump: I would love to respond. First of all, I got to watch, in preparing for this, some of your debates against Barack Obama. You treated him with terrible disrespect and I watch the way you talk now about how lovely everything is and how wonderful you are—it doesn’t work that way. You were after him, you were tying to—you even sent out, or your campaign sent out, pictures of him in a certain garb, very famous pictures. I don’t think you can deny that. But just last week, your campaign manager said it was true. So when you try to act holier than thou, it really doesn’t work.
Now, as far as the lawsuit, yes, when I was very young, I went into my father’s company, he had a real estate company in Brooklyn and Queens, and we, along with many, many other companies throughout the country, it was a federal lawsuit, were sued. We settled the suit with zero, with no admission of guilt. It was very easy to do. But they sued many people.
I’ve noticed you bring that up a lot, and I also noticed the very nasty commercials that you do on me in so many different ways, which i don’t do on you. Maybe I’m trying to save the money. But frankly, I look at that and I say, isn’t that amazing, because I settled that lawsuit with no admission of guilt. But that was a lawsuit brought against many real estate firms. And it’s just one of those things.
I’ll go one step further. In Palm Beach, Florida, tough community, a brilliant community, a wealthy community, probably the wealthiest community there is in the world, I opened a club and really got great credit for it. No discrimination against African Americans, against Muslims, against anybody. And it’s a tremendously successful club, and I’m so glad i did it, and I have been given great credit fro what I did. and I’m very, very proud of it. And that’s the way I feel. That is the true way I feel.
During a conversation about terrorism:
Clinton: Donald has consistently insulted Muslims aboard, Muslims at home, when we need to be cooperating with Muslim nations and with the American Muslim community. They’re on the front lines. they can provide information to us that we might not get anywhere else. they need to have close working cooperation with law enforcement in these communities, not be alienated and pushed away like some of Donald’s rhetoric unfortunately has led to.