‘What history books do they read?’: Obama slams Kushner for suggesting Black Americans must ‘want to be successful’

Chris Riotta
·2 min read
Former President Barack Obama speaks at a rally as he campaigns for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (AP)
Former President Barack Obama speaks at a rally as he campaigns for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (AP)

Former President Barack Obama has addressed controversial comments made by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner, in which he said Black people must “want to be successful” for the administration’s policies to work.

Speaking at a drive-in rally in Orlando, Florida earlier this week, Mr Obama touted his administration’s impact on the economy in the wake of the Great Recession while noting how Mr Trump “wants to take credit for it” and “says he’s the best president for Black folks since Abe Lincoln”.

He then directly referenced Mr Kushner’s comments made earlier in the week, telling the crowd: “Now his advisers are out there saying, including his son-in-law, his son-in-law says, Black folks have to want to be successful, that's the problem … Who are these folks? What history books do they read?”

His speech came just hours after Mr Kushner appeared on Fox News’ morning show Fox & Friends for an interview in which he seemingly attempted to appeal to Black voters but instead was criticized over how he addressed questions about racial inequality.

The White House adviser was accused of using a trope about Black Americans to suggest they were not motivated to excel, saying: “The thing we've seen in the Black community, which is mostly Democrat … is that President Trump's policies are the policies that can help people break out of the problems that they're complaining about, but he can't want them to be successful more than they want to be successful."

Mr Kushner’s comments were condemned online by Democrats and critics of the president alike, with Democratic National Committee spokesperson Brandon Gassaway describing them as “dismissive” in a statement that said: “We cannot afford another four years of a White House that does not take our voices seriously and tells us to be grateful for whatever scraps are leftover from the bargaining table.”

The White House has since defended Mr Kushner’s comments amid blowback, with press secretary Kayleigh McEnany blaming “internet trolls” for the controversy the comments stirred online following the morning show interview.

During his campaign stop for the former vice president, Mr Obama used Mr Kushner’s comments against the Trump campaign while urging Black voters to support Mr Biden.

Both campaigns have set their sights on Florida as a possible battleground state in the lead up to Election Day, with polls showing Mr Biden having a slight advantage in the state that went to Mr Trump by just over one percentage point in 2016. The president was expected to host an in-person rally in Tampa on Thursday, while Mr Biden was set to speak in the same city at a drive-in rally, and later at another campaign stop in Broward County.Â

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