President Donald Trump is pledging to expand opportunity for Americans of every race, religion and creed as he commemorates Black History Month.
Speaking to hundreds Thursday at a White House reception, Trump boasted about the economy and said the unemployment rate for African-Americans is at its ‘lowest ever.’
Black unemployment did reach a low, 5.9 percent, in May 2018. But that figure changes monthly and had increased to 6.8 percent by January.
Trump also touted passage of a criminal justice reform bill in December.
Trump delivers remarks during a reception in the East Room of the White House in honor of African American History Month
Trump with first lady Melania Trump, greets invited guests during a National African American History Month reception
Trump speaks during a National African American History Month reception in the East Room of the White House
He said the nation’s sentencing laws disproportionately ‘harm African-American communities far, far greater than anybody else.’
Catherine Toney, one of the first inmates released through the bill’s passage, thanked Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner for their efforts as the crowd applauded in approval.
Trump then also praised Kushner, saying ‘He doesn’t want praise.’
‘He does so much, thank you Jared…that was an amazing tribute to you,’ Trump added.
Trump also called to the stage community development leader Bob Woodson, who has spearheaded free enterprise initiatives to bring opportunities to low-income areas.
‘I just want to thank God and also President Trump for turning the tables over in the temples and attacking the status quo that is hostile to the interest of poor people,’ Woodson said.
Catherine Toney, one of the first inmates released through the criminal justice reform bill’s passage, thanks Trump
Trump listens as Tomey delivers remarks about her release from prison under the criminal justice reform law
First lady Melania Trump, with Pastor Darrell Scott (center) and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, reacts to President Donald Trump’s remarks during a National African American History Month reception in the East Room of the White House
Melania Trump attends a reception for National African American History Month, in the East Room of the White House
‘And I also want to bless you for your administration and the policies of Opportunity Zones and to giving low-income people an opportunity to help themselves. That’s all they want; they want an opportunity to achieve. And your administration is working with us to make that happen,’ Woodson continued.
Clarence Henderson, who was among the students at the Woolworth’s lunch-counter sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960, also spoke at the event.
Henderson compared Trump to the Old Testament figure of Nehemiah, who built walls around Jerusalem to to protect the Jews.
‘Nehemiah was told by God to build a wall. And that’s what you’re doing,’ Henderson said.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence greet invited guests during the reception on Wednesday
Trump poses for a selfie with a supporter after delivering remarks at a reception for National African American History Month
Several of the attendees at the reception wore Make America Great Again hats, including this man
Trump greets attendees at the National African American History Month Reception at the White House
Several of the few hundred attendees wore MAGA hats.
In his remarks, Trump also asked how Democrats could beat him in 2020 given the strength of the economy.
‘How do they beat us on the debate stand when we say we have the best unemployment numbers ever?’ he said.
First Lady Melania Trump joined her husband on the stage, as did Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence.