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Trump Surrogate Tweets Cartoon Of Hillary Clinton In Blackface

Pastor Mark Burns spoke at the Republican National Convention last month, calling on Republicans to "come together to defeat Hillary Clinton and those race-baiting Democrats."
Chip Somodevilla
Getty Images
Pastor Mark Burns spoke at the Republican National Convention last month, calling on Republicans to "come together to defeat Hillary Clinton and those race-baiting Democrats."

Pastor Mark Burns, an African-American supporter of Donald Trump who has been defending the candidate's recent outreach to minority voters in the media, tweeted a cartoon Monday of Hillary Clinton in blackface, mocking her outreach to black voters.

In the cartoon, Clinton is standing at a podium holding a sign reading, "#@!* the police" and "I ain't no ways tired of pandering to African-Americans."

Burns apologized for the tweet Monday night in a video. "Obviously many people were offended by my tweet and it was not at all my intention. ... I really am a shepherd to God's people and the last thing I would want to do is offend people." The tweet, he continued, was intended to shed light on how the Democratic Party has "been pandering and using black people just for their votes."

The cartoon, according to a watermark on the image, comes from the website ComicallyIncorrect.com. Burns tweeted it with a caption poking fun at Clinton: "Black Americans, THANK YOU FOR YOUR VOTES and letting me use you again ... See you again in 4 years."

Burns had defended the tweet in a fiery interview on MSNBC earlier Monday afternoon, saying, "I am standing by that picture" and adding that Democrats should "beg" for African-American votes. "The tweet is a frustration that I have as a black man here in America and how I see African-Americans in many cases ... are suffering throughout this country. And to see how, en masse, we have been voting for the Democratic Party, en masse, and yet we have very little to show for it."

He added he felt that Clinton was in a "tap dance" with the black vote every four years and that she then "disappear[s] for four more years."

He acknowledged that blackface is offensive to black people, but added, "What's more offensive is not so much that there's just blackface, but that millions of African-Americans are on welfare, thousands of African-Americans" — and that there is a large disparity in net worth between black and white families.

Burns also retweeted an altered image of Clinton in braids:

Last week, Burns appeared on several media outlets to defend Trump's outreach to minority voters and met with Trump along with other African-American and Hispanic Republicans. He told NPR's Weekend Edition, "I do support a strong nation. I do support unified blacks and whites and Asians and Hispanics and getting us to stop focusing on those cultures that divide us and bring us together as Americans."

Burns also had a testy exchange with MSNBC Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski last Friday in which the co-host asked repeatedly about comments Trump made about Judge Gonzalo Curiel's Mexican heritage.

"Was that racist or not?" Brzezinski asked, interrupting Burns several times to repeat a version of the question when he tried to give a longer answer.

"I understand what racism is," Burns finally said, answering that if he was Trump he wouldn't consider that comment racist. "I'm a black man from the Deep South."

The Trump campaign has also emailed statements from Burns defending Trump's rhetoric about minority voters. "Black lives don't matter to Hillary Clinton; Black Voting Power Matters to Hillary Clinton," one statement from last week read.

Last month, Burns gave a rousing speech in support of Trump at the Republican National Convention. "Listen, Republicans, it is so important Republicans, that we come together to defeat Hillary Clinton and those race-baiting Democrats," he said. "And those Democrats will do whatever it takes to keep us Americans focusing on the colors that divide us and not the colors that unite us."

Trump has made a targeted effort to court African-American voters recently. At several rallies last week, he argued that current government policy has "failed" African-Americans and Hispanics and that he would be the candidate to improve inner cities, poverty, education and crime.

"What do you have to lose?" he asked repeatedly.

The candidate has been criticized, however, for missing the mark with that argument — some voters feel his outreach is condescending or pandering. He has also faced criticism for his tweet about the shooting death of NBA basketball star Dwyane Wade's cousin, Nykea Aldridge:

Hours later, Trump added "condolences" and "thoughts and prayers" for Wade's family:

He followed up with another tweet Monday criticizing "Hillary type policy" for "inner-cities":

This weekend, Trump is scheduled to visit Detroit to speak at the Impact Network — which a statement from Burns sent out by the Trump campaign describes as the "only African-American owned and operated national Christian television network." Burns said Trump will answer questions relevant to the African-American community including education, unemployment and crime.

"Citizens around the country will see, as I've have seen, the heart and compassion Mr. Trump has for all Americans," Burns said, "which includes minority communities whose votes have been taken for granted for far too long."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: September 2, 2016 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Hillary Clinton had dreadlocks in an image that Pastor Burns retweeted. They are actually braids.
Amita Kelly is a Washington editor, where she works across beats and platforms to edit election, politics and policy news and features stories.

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