Morning Joe’s Donny Deutsch did not think he would have this much trouble getting Al Sharpton to call Donald Trump a “racist.” Especially after a weekend in which the president condemned violence “on many sides” of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“I think that Donald Trump has demonstrated down through the years that he is not above whistle-blowing that have had feelings and real beliefs in bigotry,” Sharpton said Monday morning, trying to explain why Trump refused to single out the neo-Nazis marching in his name.
Sharpton cited Trump’s full-page ad calling for the execution of the Central Park Five, a position he has stood by even after DNA evidence exonerated them, as well as the “birtherism” campaign against President Barack Obama that launched his latest foray into politics. Through all of this, Sharpton said Trump has “played on divisiveness.”
“But you are even dancing around it,” Deutsch immediately pushed back. “We've done this for years where he plays to it versus saying he is. Don't you need to now come out—enough is enough. Can you say he is a racist?”
In response, Sharpton argued that you “trivialize” racism when you make it “personal.” He said, “I’ve been fighting this a long time. They want us to make it just — then we’re going to debate on Donald Trump, is he a racist? He is a proponent of racism. He has been one to sell that. I’m not trying to be his psychiatrist.”
Asked what the “difference” between being “racist” and a “proponent of racist” is, Sharpton explained, “The difference is I don’t want to put him on a couch and deal with his psychological personal problems. I’m dealing with his public policies.” When the president will not use the words “domestic terrorist attack” to describe the violent death of Heather Heyer and “has not taken a position on people that are going to white supremacist rallies with his name on their hats and with his slogan on their hats,” Sharpton said all you need to do is focus on his public statements—or lack thereof.
“You can’t say that the president is a racist,” Deutsch replied, practically goading Sharpton to say those words.
Sharpton didn’t take the bait. “I think you are trivializing it, because you make it Donny or Al against Donald,” he said. “We’re talking about the president and his policies.”
After decades in his position as spokesperson for the African-American community, Sharpton likely knew what the headlines would read if he declared Donald Trump “a racist.” And he wasn’t going to go there.