At a rally on Wednesday night in Jackson, Miss., Donald Trump declared that "Hillary Clinton is a bigot." Already widely branded a racist for his campaign trail commments about Mexicans and Muslims, Trump has been newly under fire on the racism front for naming Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen Bannon as his campaign CEO given that site's association with white nationalist/white supremacist movements (see: "Alt Right Rejoices at Donald Trump's Steve Bannon Hire"). Trump's words in Jackson in context:
Hillary Clinton is a bigot who sees people of color only as votes, not as human beings worthy of a better future. She's going to do nothing for African-Americans, she's going to do nothing for the Hispanics. She's only going to take care of herself, her husband, her consultants, her donors. These are the people she cares about. She doesn't care what her policies have done to your communities. She doesn't care. Remember this: You've had her policies, Democrats, running some of the inner cities for 50, 70, 80 -- even over 100 years. And look what you have right now. Poverty, no education, crime. You can't walk down the street with your child. We're going to fix it, we're going to fix it.
Though Trump had the obvious option to just keep hammering away at Clinton on her many vulnerabilities (particularly her seemingly unkillable, zombie-like private-server email scandal), he's now taking the less obvious tactic of also trying to chip away at her strong support among minority voters -- African-Americans in particular. (Clinton's unshakeable popularity among blacks is a large part of the reason why she ultimately beat Bernie Sanders during the primary season.)
Trump's words in Jackson weren't adlibbed -- they were scripted, prepared remarks -- which means "Hillary Clinton is a bigot" is a strategic part of the Trump campaign's messaging right now.
As NBC News pointed out on Tuesday, though, Trump has a troubled history with the black community. In 1973, the U.S. Justice Department came after the Trumps (Donald, then 27, was still working with his father, Fred) for violations of the Fair Housing Act:
The Trumps were accused of systematically discriminating against black tenants seeking rentals in their buildings, even using a code letter "C" to represent "colored" applicants. They pushed back and counter-sued the government (claiming they were being forced "to rent to welfare recipients"), but according to The New York Times, two years later, in 1975, "Trump Management was required to furnish the New York Urban League with a list of all apartment vacancies, every week, for two years. It was also to allow the league to present qualified applicants for every fifth vacancy in Trump buildings where fewer than 10 percent of the tenants were black." ...
The Trumps were emphatic that the agreement was not an admission of guilt; however, three years later they were still on the defensive. In 1978, the government filed another motion against Trump, this time alleging that he was not complying with the 1975 compromise. And by 1983, the situation had not improved dramatically, with the Times reporting that at least 95 percent of two Trump properties were populated by whites only.
Meanwhile, in 1972, Hillary Rodham went undercover in Alabama to investigate racial discrimination in education. As The New York Times recounted last December,
The future Mrs. Clinton, then a 24-year-old law student, was working for Marian Wright Edelman, the civil rights activist and prominent advocate for children. Mrs. Edelman had sent her to Alabama to help prove that the Nixon administration was not enforcing the legal ban on granting tax-exempt status to so-called segregation academies, the estimated 200 private academies that sprang up in the South to cater to white families after a 1969 Supreme Court decision forced public schools to integrate.
But, hey, maybe "Hillary Clinton is a bigot" will work? Stranger things have happened.
In fact, the Trump campaign might consider doubling down on the strategy of I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I-ism, painting Clinton as an unelectable Trump-like figure. Think of it as a form of marketing jiu-jitsu, a way of deflecting and repurposing the negative branding surrounding Trump's persona. For instance:
• Hillary is a sexist! She doesn't care about women. The only woman she cares about is herself, folks. That glass ceiling she's always talking about shattering -- does she have any idea how dangerous it would be for all the women right under it? I'm a builder, I've built the best buildings, classy buildings, all around the world, and I know ceilings. Trust me, folks, you don't want ceilings, no matter what they're made of, shattering. You don't want a ceiling collapse. Depending on how big the ceiling is and how many women are under it, you could be talking about hundreds of deaths, maybe even thousands. That's what Hillary Clinton, who is a sexist and a misogynist, wants. She wants other women dead, folks. So she can be the only woman.
• Hillary Clinton's hands are tiny. A lot of people are saying that. Tiny! She has people all around her whose job is to pick things up for her, because her tiny baby hands are too small -- she can't grip anything, except maybe a baby rattle. Get the baby out of here!
• What's with Hillary Clinton's hair? Is that some kind of wig or comb-over? What's under there, anyway? A lot of people are saying Hillary Clinton is bald. And a lot of people are saying very bad things about Hillary Clinton's health -- how bad Hillary Clinton's health is. She's sick, folks -- Hillary Clinton is dying. Her hair is falling out from how sick and weak she is -- that's why her hair looks like that. A lot of people are saying that's not her real hair, that's a wig. And her being as sick as she is, that's also why her skin is that strange color -- that's fake too. Who does she think she's fooling with that spray tan? She's going to lose the black vote, so is she trying to go after the orange vote? She's like a circus peanut -- a sexist, misogynist, bigoted circus peanut with tiny baby hands.
Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.