Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump clashed on Thursday over who would make a better US president for minority voters, accusing each other of posing a threat to the interests of blacks and Latinos.
Clinton needs to retain support from minority voters to defeat her Republican rival in the Nov 8 election and was delivering a speech in Nevada in which she blasted him as a divisive candidate stoking racist groups.
Trump criticized his Democratic opponent before her speech, saying she had let black Americans down and was falsely labeling Republicans as bigoted.
“When Democratic policies fail, they are left with only this one tired argument: You’re racist, you’re racist, you’re racist,” Trump told a crowd in Manchester, New Hampshire. “They keep saying it. It’s a tired, disgusted argument and is so totally predictable. They are failing so badly.”
Clinton argued that Trump’s campaign stoked hatred of minorities.
“From the start, Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia,” Clinton said in prepared remarks released by her campaign. “He’s taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over one of America’s two major political parties. His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous.”
Trump has polled poorly with minorities and has been heavily criticized for his proposals on immigration, which include deporting millions of undocumented foreigners, building a wall along the Mexican border, and suspending Muslim immigration to shore up national security.
But he has tried recently to broaden his appeal to them, hinting at a softening of his hard-line position on immigration.
In comments broadcast on Fox News on Wednesday night, Trump said he would be willing to work with immigrants who have abided by US laws while living in the country, backing away from his insistence during the primaries that he would try to deport all 11 million illegal immigrants.
He said on Thursday he would deliver an immigration speech detailing his updated positions at a later date, after canceling previous plans to address the issue.
He also met on Thursday morning with black and Hispanic Republicans at his New York headquarters.
‘SHAME ON YOU’
Clinton released a web video on Thursday ahead of her Nevada speech tying Trump to white supremacist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan. The video shows a Klan member praising Trump and plays a recording of former leader Klan leader David Duke calling on white people to vote for Trump.
The video also shows newly appointed Trump campaign chairman Steve Bannon, who ran the website Brietbart.com, which has been accused of stoking online racists and providing them a venue to spread information.
Bannon told the magazine Mother Jones during the Republican National Convention last month that the website was “the platform for the alt-right,” a brand of US political conservatism associated with white nationalism and nativism. For example, Breitbart has a section called “black crime.”
Trump’s campaign called for the Clinton campaign to withdraw the video.
“This type of rhetoric and repulsive advertising is revolting and completely beyond the pale,” Mark Burns, an African-American pastor who supports Trump, said in a statement. “I call on Hillary Clinton to disavow this video and her campaign for this sickening act that has no place in our world.”
Trump said on Thursday the Clinton attacks were not only an assault on him but on all his supporters. Those are people, he said, who want strong borders and to prevent Islamist militants from attacking Americans inside the United States.
“To Hillary Clinton, and to her donors and advisers, pushing her to spread smears and her lies about decent people, I have three words. I want you to remember these three words: Shame On You,” he said in New Hampshire.
A Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation poll for the week beginning Aug 15 found Clinton beating Trump among Hispanic voters by 15 percentage points – 45 per cent to 30 per cent – and by 57 percentage points among black voters – 69 per cent to 12 per cent.
Trump’s efforts to woo minorities were unlikely to work, said Bernard Fraga, a political science professor at Indiana University whose research involves race and politics.
“I don’t think these efforts will do a lot to help him in minority communities,” Fraga said. “Trump has gained a reputation of being more hostile to minority communities.”
But he added the effort could help him win over white moderates concerned by his reputation with minorities.