Trump: Black leaders boycotting him go against 'own people'

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that black legislators planning to boycott his appearance at a Virginia event commemorating the 400th anniversary of the rise of American democracy are going "against their own people."

Trump said African Americans "love the job" he's doing and are "happy as hell" with his recent comments criticizing a majority black district in the Baltimore area and its congressman.

Trump spoke at the White House before heading to historic Jamestown in Virginia.

Black state lawmakers plan to stay away from Trump's speech, in part over what they call Trump's disparaging comments about minority leaders.

A last-minute announcement that the president would participate in the Jamestown commemoration Tuesday marking the first representative assembly in the Western Hemisphere injected tension into an event years in the making. Some other top Democrats have also pledged a boycott in protest.

17 PHOTOS
Donald Trump at the G20 summit
See Gallery
Donald Trump at the G20 summit
President Donald Trump arrives to greet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump during the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan June 28, 2019. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during family photo session with other leaders and attendees at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. President Donald Trump look on during a bilateral meeting with Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump looks on during a bilateral meeting with Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Russia's President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump attend a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan June 28, 2019. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan June 28, 2019. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
U.S. President Donald Trump, left, speaks to Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May prior to a working lunch at the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Osaka, Japan, on Friday, June 28, 2019. Kiyoshi Ota/Pool via REUTERS
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump walk off with fellow leaders after a family photo session at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
US President Donald Trump (L) is welcomed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prior to the family photo at the G20 Osaka Summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)
French President Emmanuel Macron watches as President Donald Trump shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe bbefore a working session at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Donald Trump, right, listens to a reporter's question during a bilateral meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Friday, June 28, 2019. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, left, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, second from left, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, third from left, listen. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Donald Trump, left, sitting next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, speaks during the G-20 summit event on the Digital Economy in Osaka, Japan, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as they gather for a group photo at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Donald Trump talks with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a group photo at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Donald Trump, right, meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Donald Trump speaks to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker during a session at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Demonstrators gathered Tuesday morning near the site where Trump is to speak.

"The commemoration of the birth of this nation and its democracy will be tarnished unduly with the participation of the President, who continues to make degrading comments toward minority leaders, promulgate policies that harm marginalized communities, and use racist and xenophobic rhetoric," the caucus said in a statement Monday.

The boycott comes after Trump's weekend comments referring to U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings' majority-black Baltimore-area district as a "disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess." A caucus statement didn't specifically mention Cummings but said Trump's "repeated attacks on Black legislators and comments about Black communities makes him ill-suited to honor and commemorate such a monumental period in history."

Black Caucus chairman Del. Lamont Bagby told The Associated Press in an interview that the group reached a unanimous decision to boycott the event more than a week ago but that the president has "continued his attacks" since then, including with his remarks about Cummings' district.

The anniversary comes at a time of heightened election-year partisanship in the aftermath of political scandals that rocked Virginia's top state elected leadership.

In Washington, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the caucus was pushing "a political agenda."

"President Trump passed criminal justice reform, developed opportunity zones securing record-setting investment in distressed communities, and pushed policies that created the lowest unemployment rates ever for African Americans, so it's a bit confusing and unfortunate that the VLBC would choose to push a political agenda instead of celebrate this milestone for our nation," she said in a statement.

Caucus members also pledged to boycott the rest of a weeklong series of events marking the anniversary and have instead planned alternative commemorations Tuesday in Richmond, Virginia's capital.

At an early-morning ceremony, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam told a gathering of dignitaries that the ideals of freedom and representative government spread from Jamestown in 1619. But he also noted the first assembly was significant for those not included: women, enslaved Africans and Native Americans.

Northam called that the paradox of Virginia, America and its representative democracy.

Trump is scheduled to give remarks later Tuesday morning, joining with state and national leaders and others at a commemorative session of the Virginia General Assembly.

Today's Virginia General Assembly, considered the oldest continuously operating legislative body in North America, grew out of the assembly that first gathered in 1619.

The anniversary comes as lawmakers in Virginia are grappling with the fallout from scandals that engulfed the state's top three elected officials earlier this year.

A blackface photo scandal nearly destroyed Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's career. Then, as it looked like Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax might ascend to the governorship, two women accused him of sexual assault. Fairfax, who plans to attend Tuesday, has vehemently denied those allegations.

Attorney General Mark Herring, also a Democrat, has separately faced calls to resign after acknowledging he dressed in blackface decades ago.

All three men remain in office.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.