Rep. Byron Donalds Faces Backlash for Jim Crow Comments at Trump Campaign Event

Jimmy Williams

Rep. Byron Donalds, a prominent ally of former President Donald Trump, sparked controversy with remarks at a Black voter outreach event in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Donalds suggested that Black families were more unified and better off during the Jim Crow era, prompting swift backlash from top Black Democratic officials.

Speaking at the event, Donalds, a Florida Republican, argued that conditions for Black people deteriorated after they began supporting Democrats following President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs in the 1960s. These programs included expansions of federal food stamps, housing, welfare, and Medicaid for low-income Americans.

“You see, during Jim Crow, the Black family was together. During Jim Crow, more Black people were not just conservative — Black people have always been conservative-minded — but more Black people voted conservatively,” Donalds said, as reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer. He blamed the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare under Johnson for current issues in the Black community.

Donalds also mentioned a “reinvigoration of Black families” in recent times, describing it as younger people forming nuclear family units, which he believes is helping to revive the Black middle class in America.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., responded strongly on the House floor Wednesday, condemning Donalds’ remarks. “It has come to my attention that a so-called leader has made the factually inaccurate statement that Black folks were better off during Jim Crow. That’s an outlandish, outrageous, and out-of-pocket observation,” Jeffries said. He cited numerous examples of the suffering Black people endured under racial segregation, including the brutal murder of Emmett Till and unchecked sexual assaults against Black women.

The Biden-Harris campaign also criticized Donalds’ comments. Spokesperson Sarafina Chitika said, “Donald Trump spent his adult life, and then his presidency undermining the progress Black communities fought so hard for — so it actually tracks that his campaign’s ‘Black outreach’ is going to a white neighborhood and promising to take America back to Jim Crow.”

The Congressional Black Caucus demanded an apology from Donalds, accusing him of misrepresenting a dark chapter in American history for political gain. They called him a “mouthpiece who will say the quiet parts out loud that many will not say themselves.”

In response, Donalds posted a video of his full remarks and another video accusing the Biden campaign of “lying” and “gaslighting.” He clarified, “I never said that Black people were doing better under Jim Crow. What I said was that you had more Black families under Jim Crow and it was the Democrat policies under H.E.W., under the welfare state, that did help to destroy the Black family.”

Rep. Wesley Hunt, a Black Republican from Texas, defended Donalds on social media, arguing that Democrats had replaced the father in Black homes with government support and that strong Black leaders pointing this out made Democrats uncomfortable.

The Black Conservative Federation, chaired by Donalds, condemned the criticism from Jeffries, calling his remarks tasteless and unbecoming of a House Minority Leader.

Trump campaign spokesman Brian Hughes defended Donalds as a “respected Black leader” and referenced comments made by Biden in 2020 that African Americans “ain’t Black” if they vote for Trump.

The event, titled “Congress, Cognac and Cigars,” is part of a broader effort by the Trump campaign to connect with Black voters in swing states like Pennsylvania.

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