A pro-police statement by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at Saturday night’s New Hampshire debate prompted an immediate response from supporters of the Black Lives Matter group.
In an exchange transcribed by the Washington Post, Trump was asked about the left’s antagonism towards police, and the GOP front-runner gave an unapologetically pro-law-enforcement answer.
MODERATOR: Mr. Trump, there are many who argue cell phones and smartphones are just now exposing what’s been happening in this country for years. Cases of excessive force against minorities.
As you know, Mr. Trump, on the other side, the FBI director recently said there’s a chill wind blowing through law enforcement because of increased scrutiny. You have said police are the most mistreated people in America. As president, how do you bridge the divide?
TRUMP: Well, there is a divide, but I have to say that the police are absolutely mistreated and misunderstood, and if there is an incident, whether it’s an incident done purposely — which is a horror, and you should really take very strong action — or if it is a mistake, it’s on your newscasts all night, all week, all month, and it never ends.
The police in this country have done an unbelievable job of keeping law and order, and they’re afraid for their jobs, they’re afraid of the mistreatment they get, and I’m telling you that not only, me speaking, minorities all over the country, they respect the police of this country and we have to give them more respect.
They can’t act. They can’t act. They’re afraid for losing their pension, their job. They don’t know what to do. And I deal with them all the time. We have to give great respect, far greater than we are right now, to our really fantastic police.
Long time, notably white leftist activist Medea Benjamin from the group Code Pink clocked in with an emotional response:
— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) February 7, 2016
David McGuire, an attorney and the legislative and policy director for the Connecticut Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union called Trump’s statement “despicable.”
— David McGuire (@DavidMcGuireEsq) February 7, 2016
In a follow-up question at the debate, moderator David Muir pressed Trump:
MUIR: Great. Mr. Trump, I did ask about bridging the divide though as president. So what would you say to the American families who say we have lived through this, we have seen excessive force? What would you say to those people?
TRUMP: Well, they do. And, you know, they sue. Everybody sues, right? They see excessive — I mean, they go out, they sue. We have so much litigation — I see the courts, I see what they’re doing. They sue, and you know what? We don’t want excessive force. But at what point — you know, either you’re going to have a police force that can do its job…
I was just up in Manchester, I met with the police officers yesterday. Tremendous people. They love the area, they love the people, they love all the people. They want to do their job. And you’re going to have abuse and you’re going to have problems, and you’ve got to solve the problems and you have to weed out the problems. But the police in this country are absolutely amazing people.
Trump’s response and didn’t go over well with University of Massachusetts Associate Prof. of political science Dr. Maryann Barakso:
— Maryann Barakso, PhD (@MBarakso) February 7, 2016
But it wasn’t just white liberals who commented on Trump’s support of the police. A couple of conservatives chimed in:
— Sister Toldjah (@sistertoldjah) February 7, 2016
Trump is not answering that #BlackLivesMatter question appropriately. He's not wrong. But that's not how it will be reported.
— BlackGirl Republican (@BlackGirlGOP) February 7, 2016
Of course, grassroots Black Lives Matter advocates who were unlikely Trump voters in the first place were not pleased with Trump’s response.
— Roslyn P. (@RoslynRena) February 7, 2016
— FreeSpirit (@spiritmefree1) February 7, 2016
— livepraylove (@mjcrumpler) February 7, 2016
— Ashley Nicole (@ashleynicole807) February 7, 2016
— Jamia Lauren (@_justjamia_) February 7, 2016
Seven years into Barack Obama’s presidency, racial tensions are at an all-time high and defending the police has become controversial.
Lee Stranahan is the lead investigative journalist at Breitbart News and founder of Citizen Journalism School, where you can take a free course on building your own media empire.