POLITICS

Trump Defends Racist Phrase By Citing Philadelphia's Infamous ‘Vote White’ Mayor

The president defended his use of the phrase "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

President Donald Trump attempted to defend his use of the incendiary phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” which he used last month as a threat to those protesting the police killing of George Floyd

But in his defense, he cited former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, who once urged his city to “vote white.”   

Harris Faulkner of Fox News on Thursday explained to Trump that the phrase about looting and shooting comes from former Miami Police Chief Walter Headley, who used it as a threat against civil rights protesters in the 1960s as he openly encouraged violence against the demonstrators. 

“We don’t mind being accused of police brutality,” Headley said at the time. “They haven’t seen anything yet.”

Faulkner, who is Black, told Trump his use of the same phrase “frightened a lot of people.”

But Trump insisted he didn’t hear it from Headley but rather other places, and he cited the “very tough” ex-mayor of Philadelphia, who died in 1991. 

“He had an expression like that,” Trump said in his defense. “I’ve heard it many times.” 

The expression Rizzo is best known for, however, came from a 1978 campaign event. 

“I’m asking white people and Blacks who think like me to vote like Frank Rizzo,” he said. “I say vote white.”

Trump also claimed that he didn’t mean looters would be shot, only that looting leads to shooting. 

“That’s not as a threat. That’s really just a fact because that’s what happens,” he said.  

A statue of Rizzo outside Philadelphia’s City Hall, reviled by many as a symbol of racism, was vandalized during protests this week and ultimately removed.  

Trump has at times drawn comparisons to Rizzo, especially in Philadelphia. 

W. Wilson Goode, who defeated Rizzo in a primary to become the city’s first Black mayor in 1984, said in 2017 that Rizzo was “the first coming of Donald Trump.” 

“He was, in my view, someone who appealed to people who were basic racists; people who saw Frank Rizzo as their protection from Black people,” he told the Philadelphia Tribune. “People who voted for him thought he was going to keep immigrants out and Blacks in their place.”

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