PITTSBURGH (AP) — Lamenting a “lack of spirit” between whites and blacks, Donald Trump encouraged racial unity on Thursday even as he called for one of the nation’s largest cities to adopt “stop and frisk” policing tactics that have been widely condemned as racial profiling by minority leaders.
The Republican presidential contender, eager to blunt criticism that his campaign inspires racism, confronted racial tensions after police-involved shootings of black men in Oklahoma and North Carolina. The North Carolina governor activated the National Guard overnight after another night of violent protests.
Trump, as he has for much of his unorthodox presidential bid, offered a decidedly mixed message as he confronted the delicate issue.
“It just seems that there’s a lack of spirit between the white and the black,” he said in a phone interview on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends.” ”It’s a terrible thing that we’re witnessing.”
The New York billionaire then falsely suggested violence in Chicago is worse than that of Afghanistan, and endorsed a policing method that a federal judge said New York City had used unconstitutionally because of its overwhelming impact on minority residents.
“I think Chicago needs stop and frisk,” Trump said. “When you have 3,000 people shot and so many people dying, I mean it’s worse than some of the places we’re hearing about like Afghanistan, you know, the war-torn nations.”
The comments come as both presidential candidates court minority voters with Election Day less than seven weeks away.
Trump, in particular, has struggled to balance a message that appeals to his white, working-class base with one that improves his standing with minority voters and educated whites who may worry about racial undertones in his candidacy. Trump was slow to disavow former KKK leader David Duke earlier in the year and has repeatedly promoted tweets by white supremacists during his White House bid.
The Republican nominee admitted for the first time publicly last week that President Barack Obama was born in the United States after spending much of the last five years questioning the authenticity of his birth certificate. And as recently as last week, Trump’s eldest son tweeted a meme commonly used by white nationalists.
Clinton has come under fire for saying half of Trump’s supporters belong in a “basket of deplorables” because they are racist, sexist, homophobic or xenophobic.
The Democratic nominee has made curbing gun violence and police brutality a central part of her candidacy.
On Wednesday, Clinton told a Florida audience that the shootings in Oklahoma and North Carolina added two more names “to a long list of African-Americans killed by police officers. It’s unbearable and it needs to become intolerable.”
She has campaigned alongside a group of black women called the “Mothers of the Movement,” who advocated for more accountability and transparency by law enforcement. The group includes the mothers of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, black victims of high-profile killings.
Clinton has no public events Thursday as she focuses on preparing for next week’s opening debate. But her campaign unveiled plans to spend $30 million on digital advertising as she seeks to connect with young voters — including young African-Americans and Latinos — who increasingly get their news online instead of from live television.
She addressed racial tensions, albeit in a humorous way, in an interview released Thursday on comic Zach Galifianakis’ web program, “Between Two Ferns.”
“When you see how well it works for Donald Trump, do you ever think to yourself, ‘Oh maybe I should be more racist?” Galifianakis asked her. Clinton smiled and shook her head, but did not answer.
Later, the comedian asked what Trump might be wearing to Monday’s debate.
“I assume he’ll wear that red power tie,” Clinton said. Galifianakis responded, “Or maybe like a white power tie.”
“That’s even more appropriate,” Clinton said.
Meanwhile, Trump faces new scrutiny for his comments about racial tensions. His suggestion that Chicago’s violence is worse than that of Afghanistan is incorrect.
There have been 2,521 shooting incidents this year in the city, according to the most recent preliminary police figures, which go through Sept. 18. It’s unclear how many people were shot overall because a single shooting incident can involve multiple victims.
The United Nations’ assistance mission in Afghanistan documented a total of 11,002 civilian casualties in 2015 — 3,545 people killed and 7,457 injured, exceeding the previous record set in 2014.
Trump’s endorsement of “stop and frisk” follows similar comments from the day before during the taping of a Fox News town hall. He said the policy, which gives police the ability to stop and search anyone they deem suspicious, had “worked incredibly well” in New York, where it was expanded under former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who supports Clinton, slammed Trump’s call for more stop-and-frisk as “appalling.”
Peoples reported from Washington. AP writer Jason Keyser in Chicago contributed to this report.