Opinion: Is President Trump racist? He doesn’t mind sounding like one

To those who complain that I never seem to have anything positive to say about President Donald Trump, now hear this: I appreciate his lack of ability to hide his sexism and racism, among other odious -isms. Or maybe it’s simply a lack of interest.

I try to use the S-word and the R-word sparingly. The words spark so many different reactions that the result often sheds more heat than light. But in this president’s case, when the shoe fits, he should wear it.

Sure. Trump is an equal-opportunity offender in many ways. But race and gender have special power politically. Imagine, I often ask myself, how Americans would react if President Barack Obama behaved as Trump does?

Remember the uproar in 2009 that followed Obama’s comment that Cambridge, Mass., police behaved “stupidly” in arresting his friend, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, for breaking into his own home?

Yet the uproar was considerably more muted after Trump singled out and belittled three African-American female journalists — for simply doing their jobs, which is to ask our president questions that the public would like to have answered.

For that, Yamiche Alcindor of “PBS NewsHour,” Abby Phillip of CNN and April Ryan, a reporter for American Urban Radio Networks and a CNN contributor, ignited his contempt.

Alcindor’s offense? In the news conference a day after the midterm elections, she asked Trump whether his recent characterization of himself as “a nationalist” was “emboldening white nationalists,” as many observers believe it does.

Trump interrupted her with a groan and responded, “I don’t know why you say that, that is such a racist question.” He repeated that “racist” characterization twice more. Why did he think the question about racism was racist?

Yet, Alcindor asked a legitimate question. When Trump recently claimed the “nationalist” label to describe his “America first” views, David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, immediately tweeted his delight.

“Sit down! I didn’t call you,” Trump barked at Ryan on Friday after she tried to ask him about alleged voter suppression in the midterm elections. “Such a hostile media, it’s so sad.”

Right. It’s the media who are hostile for seeking presidential accountability. “You talk about someone who’s a loser,” Trump said of Ryan. “She doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing. She gets publicity and then she gets a pay raise, or she gets a contract with, I think, CNN. But she’s very nasty and she shouldn’t be. You’ve got to treat the White House and the office of the presidency with respect.”

Phillip drew Trump’s contempt after she asked whether he hoped Matthew Whitaker, Trump’s appointee as acting attorney general, would “rein in” special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Trump’s presidential campaign.

“What a stupid question that is,” Trump responded. “What a stupid question. But I watch you a lot. You ask a lot of stupid questions.”

Of course, these presidential run-ins were overshadowed by the president’s biggest blowup of the week, the lifting of CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s White House press pass for continuing to ask a question after the president told him to sit down. CNN filed a lawsuit Tuesday morning against the president and others in Team Trump, alleging the suspension violated Acosta’s and CNN’s First and Fifth Amendment rights.

Acosta’s not black, and he’s not a woman. (His father was a refugee from Cuba.) But like the aforementioned black women — plus a white male reporter who tried to defend Acosta to Trump — the president lashed out at journalists for doing what journalists do.

Since I can’t read his mind, I can’t call Trump a full-on racist. But his candid expressions of whatever happens to be on his mind make it easy for everyone to judge for themselves.

Writes for Tribune Content Agency.

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