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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke May 22, 2019

Allegations of racism against Trump didn't start when he challenged the Democrats

President Donald Trump’s political allegiance has swayed between parties, and a recent Facebook post suggests that Democrats have only accused him of racism since he left their camp.

"Donald Trump has been in public eye for over 30 years," the May 16 post says, "and he was never once accused of being racist by anyone until he decided to run against the Democrats."

This post, which features photos of Trump with black figures such as civil rights activist Al Sharpton and The Apprentice winner Randal Pinkett, was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

But the truth is that Trump has battled charges of racism almost as long as he has been in the public eye — and long before he stepped into politics.

A January 2018 opinion article in the New York Times calls Trump a racist. "He talks about and treats people differently based on their race," the story says. "He has done so for years, and he is still doing so."

The piece compiles quotes from Trump from before he ran for president as a Republican in the 2016 election and cites incidents such as when, in the 1970s, Trump’s real estate company "tried to avoid renting apartments to African-Americans."

A February Vox article similarly documents what it calls the president’s "long history of racism" from the 1970s to date. The story references the first time Trump appeared in the New York Times — Oct. 16, 1973 — when the paper ran a front-page story about a lawsuit against the then-27-year-old and his father.

"Major landlord accused of antiblack bias in city," the headline said. The story begins:

"The Department of Justice, charging discrimination against blacks in apartment rentals, brought suit in Federal Court in Brooklyn yesterday against the Trump Management Corporation, a major owners and manager of real estate here.

The corporation, which owns and rents more than 14,000 apartments in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, was accused of violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968 in its operation of 39 buildings."

The DOJ claimed "Trump Management had refused to rent or negotiate rentals ‘because of race and color,’" the Times reported. "It also charged that the company had required different rental terms and conditions because of race and that it had misrepresented to blacks that apartments were not available."

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Trump, who was the company’s president, called the charges "absolutely ridiculous" and said "we have never discriminated and never would."

Trump Management then sued the U.S. government and under a June 1975 agreement the company was required to furnish the New York Urban League with a list of all apartment vacancies every week for two years.

Trump Management said the agreement was not an admission of guilt.

Nearly two decades later, in 1989, Trump ran an advertisement in New York City papers calling for the death penalty for the black suspects in the so-called "Central Park jogger" case, in which five juveniles were accused of raping and beating a young white woman. (The boys were found guilty but their convictions were overturned after another man admitted to the crime in 2002.) Two black ministers called Trump’s ad a "thinly veiled racist polemic" and questioned why he was concerned about the jogger but seemingly unconcerned about a black man who had been chased to his death by white teenagers in Howard Beach, Newsday reported.

In 1992, the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino lost its appeal of a $200,000 discrimination penalty "imposed because managers catered to the presumed prejudices of a high roller by removing a black dealer from his table," UPI then reported.

Recent news stories have also documented allegations of racism about incidents that happened before Trump ran for president. In 2015, for example, the New Yorker reported on Kip Brown, who used to work at Atlantic City casinos including Trump’s Castle.

"When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor," the magazine quotes Brown as saying. "It was the eighties, I was a teen-ager, but I remember it: they put us all in the back."

Searching for "Donald Trump" and the word "racist" in the Nexis news database, we found hundreds of results, including this headline from a May 2011 Hollywood Reporter story: "Donald Trump denies he’s racist because one ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ winner is black."

In 2012, after a campaign asking Macy’s to sever ties with Trump over his skepticism of Barack Obama’s birthplace, the singer Cher called him a "racist cretin" in a tweet.

Our ruling

A viral image suggests that Donald Trump was only ever accused of racism after he decided to run for public office against Democrats. The record is clear, however, that Trump has deflected allegations that he is a racist since the 1970s and many times since.

We rate this Facebook post False.

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PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
"Donald Trump has been in public eye for over 30 years and he was never once accused of being racist by anyone until he decided to run against the Democrats."
Thursday, May 16, 2019

Our Sources

Facebook post, May 16, 2019

The Washington Post, "Donald Trump’s got a particularly strange voting history," Nov. 7, 2015

The New York Times, "Donald Trump’s racism: The definitive list," Jan. 15, 2018

Vox, "Donald Trump’s long history of racism, from the 1970s to 2019," Feb. 14, 2019

The New York Times, "1973 | Meet Donald Trump," July 30, 2015

The New York Times, "Major landlord accused of antiblack bias in city," Oct. 16, 1973

UPI, "Trump Plaza loses appeal of discrimination penalty," Oct. 19, 1992

The New Yorker, "The death and life of Atlantic City," Aug. 31, 2015

The Hollywood Report, "Donald Trump denies he’s racist because one ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ winner is black," May 9, 2011, "Jon Stewart hits back at Donald Trump racism charge; comedian says he’s hurt by The Donald accusing him of a ‘very, very racist rant’ — especially given Trump’s self-described ‘great relationship with the blacks,’" Nov. 3, 2011

Asian News International, "Over 400,000 Americans sign petition urging US retail giant Macy’s to dump ‘racist’ Donald Trump," Nov. 13, 2012

Newsday, "Trump to pay victim’s bills," May 7, 1989


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Allegations of racism against Trump didn't start when he challenged the Democrats

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