By JORDYN PHELPS, ABC NEWS
(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump grew defensive and claimed “more white people” than Black people die at the hands of law enforcement during an interview with CBS News Monday, despite the reality that unarmed Black people are disproportionately more likely to die at the hands of police than white people.
Asked by CBS News’ Catherine Herridge why African Americans are still dying at the hands of law enforcement, Trump shot back, “And so are white people, so are white people, what a terrible question to ask,” Trump said.
“So are white people, more white people by the way, more white people,” Trump continued.
Beyond the remarkable nature of the president’s reaction to the question, calling it “terrible” as the nation is having a reckoning about racial profiling and police brutality, the statement appeared misleading and racially insensitive.
There is a body of research that police disproportionately shoot and kill Black Americans.
In March, Dr. Matthew Miller, a veteran gun violence researcher and professor of health sciences and epidemiology at Northeastern University, co-authored a study on civilians who were shot and killed by police officers between 2014 and 2015.
Roughly 1,000 people are shot to death by police officers every year, and after analyzing those deaths, Miller and his co-authors found that black Americans were twice as likely to be shot and killed by police officers, compared with their representation in the population.
Previous research, including the Washington Post’s fatal force project, which had logged deadly police shootings since 2015, has come to similar conclusions about police officers disproportionately killing black Americans.
In the new study, black Americans were three times more likely to be shot and killed by police officers during interactions where the victim appeared to pose little or no threat to officers, the researchers found.
The president went on to offer a defense for the flying of the Confederate flag, saying “People love it, and I know people that like the Confederate flag and they’re not thinking of slavery, I look at NASCAR you had the flags all over the place.”
Trump did not reveal his personal opinion on the flag other than to repeat his insistence that he supports “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’s freedom of speech,”
“I am comfortable with freedom of speech, it’s very simple,” Trump said.
In another interview addressing race relations Monday, — this one with conservative outlet Townhall — President Trump offered a full throated defense for the actions of a white St. Louis couple who pointed guns at protesters who marched by their mansion.
“They were going to be beat up badly if they were lucky, if they were lucky they were going to be beat up badly,” the president said of the couple, without providing any evidence of that and authorities have not said so. “And the house was going to be totally ransacked and probably burned down like they’ve tried to burn down churches,” he continued.
In defending the couple, Trump claimed that they legally owned the firearms and called it a “disgrace” that they could be prosecuted for their actions.
“And these people were standing there never used it, and they were legal, the weapons, and now I understand someone local, they want to prosecute these people,” Trump said.
Also in the CBS News interview, responding to a growing number of school districts making the choice to remain online in the fall, Trump said it’s a mistake and argues their decisions were designed to hurt him politically.
Asked what he’d tell parents and teachers who are concerned it’s not safe to return to in person instruction, the president claims that people are “dying” as a result of staying home.
“I would tell parents and teachers that you should find a new person, whoever is in charge of that decision, because it’s a terrible decision because children and parents are dying from that trauma too, they’re dying because they can’t do what they’re doing. Mothers can’t go to work because all of a sudden they have to stay home and watch their child,” Trump continued.
He said the decision not to reopen schools is politically designed to hurt him and insists that schools have to open.
“I also say a decision like that is politics because we’re starting to do very well in the polls, because I’m for law and order, I’m for strong business, our jobs are coming back in a record level,” he added. “They don’t want that to happen.”
Asked who they is, the president says it’s “the Democrats.”
ABC News’ Erin Schumaker and Libby Cathey contributed to this report.
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