Members of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s extended family came out in support of President Trump this week, on the national day of recognition for the civil rights leader.
Isaac Newton Farris Jr. and Alveda King, Dr. King’s nephew and niece, respectively, asserted in interviews that Trump is not a racist.
Their statements came amid a new round of criticism of the president’s stance on race. When an agreement on immigration reform failed to solidify late last week, lawmakers present at a meeting with Trump said the president referred to African nations as “shithole countries” and questioned “Why do we need more Haitians?”
The singling out and disparaging of Haitians was reframed as “fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation,” by White House Spokesman Raj Shah.
“‘Racism’ is just a word that’s being bandied and thrown about and thrown at the president, in my opinion, unjustly. President Trump is not a racist,” Alveda King said during an interview on “Fox & Friends.” King cited Trump’s signature on a bill that upgraded Atlanta’s Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site to a National Park.
She called the accusations of racism “outrageous” in the light of how much respect the president has shown her uncle.
“There was no offense to the people, a lot of dignity to the people,” Alveda King said of Trump’s comments on Haiti and Africa. “But the hellholes, in that some of their own leaders in Africa and Haiti have taken advantage of them and the area and done a disservice to the people.”
Alveda King has been a Republican since the 1990s and previously said she voted for Trump in the 2016 election.
Isaac Newton Farris Jr. told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Trump is not a racist “in the traditional sense that we have known racists,” the newspaper reported.
Farris said he doesn’t see President Trump as one who “looks at people who don’t look like him or come from a different culture as being less than a human being,” according to the Journal-Constitution.
“That’s what we were confronted with in 1960,” Farris said. “Donald Trump is not walking around saying we should have a segregated society.”
Among the president’s alleged comments during the immigration meeting was a preference for immigrants from majority-White countries such as Norway. Trump campaigned on a promise to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and in 2016 stated that the “Central Park Five” were guilty of a notorious 1989 New York City rape incident, despite DNA evidence exonerating them.
“I’m not saying he does not say racist stuff, but I’m trying to tell you, that it’s possible to say something racist and not be racist yourself or intending to be racist,” Farris told the newspaper.
Farris is the son of Willie Christine King Farris, Dr. King’s oldest living sibling. He was the president of the King-founded Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 2009 until 2012.