The trip was the latest chapter in Trump’s much-watched outreach to African-American voters, who polls say are not likely to support the GOP nominee in November.
Still, the roundtable was held behind closed doors.
Attendees included Republican city ward leaders, former officials under then-Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (R), and real estate investor/reality show contestant/former NFL player Shawn Bullard.
As the roundtable meeting wrapped up (and press was allowed back in), Bullard praised Trump. “I appreciate you coming here today,” said Bullard. “I have been a Trump supporter since I was in college back in 2001. I believe that you are the answer. I’m a full supporter. And also ... you have actually inspired me.”
Daphne Goggins, the Republican leader of Philadelphia’s 16th Ward, told Trump, “What you’re saying about the Democratic plan ― that plantation that they want black people on ― it’s the truth. I will say it again.”
The Huffington Post asked the Trump campaign about the implication of Goggins’ remark ― that at the meeting, he had characterized Democrats’ economic policy as “a plantation” ― but a campaign spokeswoman did not reply.
Right after the roundtable discussion, Trump talked with Shalga Hightower, whose 20-year-old daughter Iofemi was killed in neighboring New Jersey in 2007 by gang members, some of whom were undocumented immigrants.
In his comments, Trump returned to a familiar theme: all the violent crimes he claims are committed by undocumented immigrants. “These people coming in and they shouldn’t be here. And they’re killing not only children, they’re killing people that are in the military, retired military people. A 90-year-old man was killed. It’s a terrible situation,” he said.
An estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently live in the United States. There is no evidence that they commit crimes at higher rates than American citizens.
Together, the two Philadelphia events showcase the difficulty that Trump faces in seeking to appear concerned about problems of poverty and crime in communities of color, while also pushing his law-and-order platform, which has been accused of painting minorities as imminent threats to their neighbors.
On Saturday, he is set to visit Detroit for a much-hyped visit to a black church. The candidate will sit down privately with Bishop Wayne Jackson and discuss issues of race, opportunity and education. Their talk will be aired later.
But even before he goes, that trip too has highlighted Trump’s struggles with speaking to communities of color. Earlier this week, he canceled a planned speech at the black church in favor of the pre-taped interview with pre-approved questions.
On Wednesday, Trump made a quick trip to Mexico to met with President Enrique Peña Nieto, an apparent attempt to mend some fences with Latino voters. Yet just hours later, the GOP nominee took the stage in Phoenix and delivered a dark and scathingly angry speech about the perils of both legal immigration and undocumented migration.
The following day, nearly a half-dozen members of his newly formed National Hispanic Advisory Council resigned.