WASHINGTON (CNN) — Donald Trump on Friday continued his outreach to African-American voters, presenting them with a stark question: “What the hell do you have to lose?”
Speaking in Dimondale, Michigan — a predominantly white suburb of Lansing — Trump lamented the collapse of American manufacturing and criticized free trade deals as he laced into Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, saying they are taking black voters for granted.
“You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed — what the hell do you have to lose?” Trump asked the audience in an unscripted moment from a speech in which he otherwise stuck to his teleprompter.
Trump has cited the 58% statistic before, a figure likely extrapolated from the employment-population ratio, which shows that 42.7% of blacks ages 16 to 24 had a job in July. But that doesn’t mean that those without a job are necessarily looking for one, so a CNNMoney Reality Check earlier this month found Trump’s claim to be true, but misleading.
Clinton, responding to Trump’s appeal, fired back Friday evening, tweeting, “This is so ignorant it’s staggering.”
Trump later accused Clinton of wanting to give jobs to refugees rather than unemployed African-Americans in the US, saying they have “become refugees in their own country.”
Trump — speaking to an overwhelmingly white audience that featured only a smattering of African-Americans and other minorities — also promised that were he to run for re-election at the end of his first term, he would win 95% of the black vote.
Such support would be a tall order for Trump — a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Clinton beating Trump 91%-1% among African-Americans.
Friday’s speech follows major changes in Trump’s campaign. Earlier in the day, campaign chairman Paul Manafort resigned, and on Wednesday, Trump announced a new campaign manager and CEO. The changes coincided with a startlingly contrite campaign appearance by Trump on Thursday, when he acknowledged that several statements he’s made on the trail have been hurtful to others.
Trump has spent the week appealing to African-American voters in his speeches, saying he would fix poverty in ways that Democrats have been unable to since Lyndon Johnson was in the White House.
At a campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, Thursday night, Trump also appealed to African-Americans, asking them to “give Donald Trump a chance.”
“The result for them will be amazing,” he said. “What do you have to lose by trying something new?”
Trump’s trouble with African-Americans
Trump’s outreach efforts to African-Americans have largely fallen flat.
Trump promised in November that a group of 100 black pastors would be endorsing him at a meeting at Trump Tower in New York, but some of those pastors said they knew nothing about the request to endorse him and openly criticized him.
Trump sought the meeting with black leaders after a half-dozen white Trump supporters shoved a Black Lives Matter protester to the ground at one of his rallies and kicked and punched him.
“Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing,” Trump said at the time.
And a white Trump supporter in North Carolina was charged with assault after video surfaced of him sucker-punching a black protester who was being carried out of a March Trump rally by police.
As Trump was recalling the March incident in June, trying to play up his support among African-Americans, he pointed to a black supporter in the crowd and said, “Oh, look at my African-American over here. Look at him.”
Trump has occasionally featured Internet stars Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson in his campaign, bringing them on stage at multiple rallies.