WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday flatly rejected the need for direct action to address racism in the United States, dismissing his predecessor’s call for sweeping steps to boost civil and voting rights ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
The Republican president, in an interview on Fox News, criticized President Barack Obama’s speech last week, in which the Democrat urged Americans to protect democracy and outlined a list of needed reforms such as making election day a national holiday, expanding early voting and increasing polling sites.
“There is an attack on our democratic freedoms and we should treat it as such,” Obama said in a eulogy for the late U.S. Representative John Lewis, a Black civil rights icon.
Tensions over racism and social injustice flared anew after the May 25 death of a Black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a police officer, sparking nationwide protests and debate over the treatment of Blacks and minorities.
The coronavirus pandemic and resulting steep economic crash have also disproportionately hurt minorities.
Asked what could be done to heal the nation’s racial divisions, Trump cited jobs and the economy and blamed the pandemic.
“Success will bring us together,” he said. “We had this tremendous success going,” he added. “We’re doing it again but we got interrupted by the virus.”
Trump, who did not attend Lewis’ memorials, called Obama’s speech “a terrible, terrible representation of what our country is all about.”
Polls show most Americans, including Republicans, support protesters and back some changes to policing, with many rejecting Trump’s handling of the racial discord.
Efforts to address racism have gained recent traction with a wide swath of Americans, including some whites, suburban dwellers, corporations and professional sports.
Trump, whose base skews older and whiter, has denounced protesters and touted “law and order” as part of his re-election campaign.
Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum
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