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July 15, 2020, 12:14 a.m. EDT

President Trump says George Floyd’s death was ‘terrible’ but says ‘more white people,’ die at hands of police than Blacks in U.S.

Trump explains position on Confederate battle flag to CBS’s Catherine Herridge: ‘All I say is freedom of speech. It’s very simple. My attitude is freedom of speech. Very strong views on the Confederate flag. With me, it’s freedom of speech.’

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By Mark DeCambre, MarketWatch


CBS
Trump speaks with Catherine Herridge of CBS.

‘So are white people. So are white people. What a terrible question to ask. So are white people. More white people, by the way. More white people’

That’s President Donald Trump during a CBS interview espousing the view that white people in the U.S. are killed by law enforcement more often than Blacks — a statement likely to be seen as particularly insensitive in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in May, as well as Breonna Taylor two months earlier.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Trump is consciously focusing on racial and cultural divides during his re-election campaign , with the U.S. in the midst of an economically debilitating pandemic and unrest over social justice centered on a recent series of acts of racially charged actions and police brutality directed at Black Americans.

Floyd, a black handcuffed man, died on May 25 after Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis officer, was captured on video driving his knee into his neck for nearly 9 minutes even as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe and stopped moving. That action helped to catalyze a wave of civil unrest.

Trump’s recent remarks on Twitter and in interviews have led some to believe that his comments may have the effect of deepening racial rifts in the country.

In recent weeks, Trump has been seen by some as championing the Confederate flag, which is considered a symbol of the era of slavery in America. The 45th president of the U.S. criticized Black Nascar driver Bubba Wallace, after a noose was reported to have been found in his garage and also questioned a Nascar ban on the Confederate flag that was advocated by Wallace.

Trump has referred to the words “Black Lives Matter” as a “symbol of hate,” and criticized New York Mayor Bill de Blasio for allowing those words to be stenciled on the street in front of Trump Tower in Manhattan. That sign was vandalized on Monday .

On Tuesday, Trump told CBS’s Catherine Herridge that his support of the Confederate flag was on the grounds of freedom of speech. “All I say is freedom of speech. It’s very simple. My attitude is freedom of speech. Very strong views on the Confederate flag. With me, it’s freedom of speech. Very simple. Like it, don’t like it, it’s freedom of speech.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s claims of disproportionate police violence against white people has been challenged with data. CBS in its report, citing a late June Harvard research report , noted that the number of white people killed by the police between 2013 and 2017 was higher than any other demographic but notably because that demographic represents a larger portion of the population. That study, however, notes that Black people are three times more likely to be killed than Whites by law enforcement.

Mark DeCambre is MarketWatch's markets editor. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter @mdecambre.

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