Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), a former House Speaker whom presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is reportedly vetting for vice president, said Friday that black people in the U.S. “are substantially more likely to be in a situation where the police don’t respect you, and where you could easily get killed.”
“Sometimes, for white people, it’s difficult to appreciate how real that is,” Gingrich said during a Facebook Live conversation with former Obama administration official Van Jones. “It’s an everyday danger.”
“If you’re an African-American, then you’re raising your teenage boys to be very careful in obeying the police,” Gingrich said to Jones, who is black and the father of teenagers. “Literally, their lives are at risk [if they interact with police], and they can see that on television.”
The former House Speaker’s comments came as the nation collectively mourned the five Dallas police officers who were killed on Thursday following a peaceful demonstration against police brutality. The protest was prompted in part by police fatally shooting two black men earlier this week ― Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.
“If you’re a normal Caucasian,” Gingrich continued, “you don’t see that, because it’s not part of your experience. What we need is to have a conversation about mutual experiences.”
Gingrich also admitted that he has not always understood the disparity between how white Americans and black Americans are treated.
“It took me a long time, and a lot of people talking to me, to understand that if you are a normal white American, the truth is that you don’t understand being black in America,” Gingrich said. “You instinctively underestimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk” that black Americans face.
Gingrich, who appeared on stage with Trump in Cleveland this week, has emerged as a top contender for the Republican vice presidential nomination. He has also become a de facto adviser to Trump, who is mounting his first-ever national political campaign.
Gingrich initially chided Trump for his "inappropriate" remarks on Indiana-born federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, but later defended the candidate, saying that he did not think the comments were racist. Trump claimed the judge’s Mexican heritage would keep him from being able to fairly preside over a fraud suit filed against the now-defunct Trump University program.
Gingrich said Trump had learned his lesson about the racist attacks, and had “moved toward a more controlled, more civil approach.”
Gingrich’s talking points from Friday could provide some much-needed insight for Trump, who has a decades-long record of allegedly racist business practices and public statements.
Both Trump and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton canceled campaign events they had planned for Friday. The Trump campaign has not announced when, or if, Trump and Gingrich plan to appear together again.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims ― 1.6 billion members of an entire religion ― from entering the U.S.
CLARIFICATION: Language has been added to clarify Gingrich's response to Trump's comments on Curiel.