Speaking to a mostly white crowd in Dimondale, Michigan, on Friday, Trump listed a series of statistics on the disproportionate economic hardship of African Americans. He cited it as evidence that Democratic governance had failed African Americans and that black voters should opt for him instead.
“What the hell do you have to lose?” Trump concluded.
In a Sunday interview with Conway on ABC News’ “This Week,” host George Stephanopoulos asked about criticism that the speech was patronizing.
“Many in the African American community saw that as insulting because they say most African Americans don’t live in poverty and that Mr. Trump was making those comments in communities that are more than 90 percent white,” he said.
Conway responded that African Americans’ perception of the speech was not the only thing that mattered.
“Those comments are for all Americans,” she said. “And I live in a white community. I’m white. I was very moved by his comment.”
The remark appeared to affirm a common belief that Trump’s supposed outreach to black voters is more about assuaging white Americans who perceive him as racist than bringing black Americans around to his candidacy. (Just 1 percent of African Americans plan to vote for Trump ― the lowest level of support received by a Republican candidate since 1964.)
Conway went on to highlight Trump and other Republicans’ support for private school vouchers and charter schools that she argued disproportionately help people of color. She did not mention other policy priorities favored by many black voters, like addressing police brutality and racial bias in the criminal justice system, ensuring the right to vote free from racially motivated ID laws and other restrictions or expanding on the gains of the Affordable Care Act, which gave many African Americans health insurance for the first time.
The pollster-turned-campaign chief reiterated Trump’s arguments that Democrats have been bad for African Americans, repeatedly claiming, as Trump had, that 58 percent of African-American young people are unemployed.
It is not clear where this figure comes from. The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for the source of the statistic.
Black high school graduates aged 17 to 20 have a 28 percent unemployment rate, compared with 17 percent for Latinos and 15 percent for whites, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank.
Nationwide, the black unemployment rate is 8.4 percent, compared to 4.3 percent for whites and 4.9 percent for the population as a whole.