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President Trump prompted more controversy this week by insulting a lawmaker of color, Rep. Elijah Cummings, and his Maryland district. Trump called Baltimore “filthy” and “infested,” terms he has used before to refer to urban areas with majority black populations. Ahead of Trump's rally in southwestern Ohio, Yamiche Alcindor asked voters there what they think of the president’s rhetoric on race.
But for much of the past week, President Trump has generated controversy with his comments directed at Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings and the city he represents, Baltimore.
The president continued his attacks on cities represented by Democrats during a rally last night in Ohio.
President Donald Trump:
For decades, these communities have been run exclusively by Democrat politicians, and it's been total one-party control of the inner cities.
For 100 years, it's been one-party control, and look at them. We can name one after another, but I won't do that, because I don't want to be controversial. The Democrat record is one of neglect and corruption and decay, total decay.
The president did go on to call out specific cities during that rally last night.
To find out how the language President Trump uses to describe politicians of color and diverse urban communities is resonating, White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor talked to voters in Southwest Ohio ahead of the president's rally there.
I'm construed — I'm construed as a racist, bigot, homophobe, you name it. But, if you knew me, that's not who I am at all.
Jennifer Casson supports President Trump, but is wrestling with his rhetoric. She's 47, Catholic and grew up here in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio.
In 2016, voters like her helped President Trump become the first Republican since 1988 to win Montgomery County. Now the president's language, which some see as racist, is testing their loyalty. It's also pitting voters in largely white conservative suburbs against other residents in the more diverse city of Dayton.
We have too many problems ourselves that we need to fix first before we give the money to someone who isn't from our community.
For years, the city has embraced pro-immigration policies. It provides English classes, legal aid and other resources to immigrants. Some like Casson resent those efforts.
It takes away some of our resources for the people that really need it and deserve it. And we have a lot of people that are still struggling. I mean, I have two jobs myself. Let's help our neighbors first. That's been my philosophy.
Ahead of 2020, President Trump is hoping many voters share that sentiment.
Ohio. Oh, I love Ohio. I love Ohio.
In 2016, longtime Republicans, along with a surge of new GOP voters, helped President Trump win the state of Ohio by a solid 8 percent.
But he narrowly won Montgomery County by just 1 percent. The Dayton area has long been considered a microcosm of America. Amid decades of deindustrialization and a growing immigrant population, white residents increasingly fled the city.
Casson lives 15 minutes from downtown Dayton in Kettering, Ohio, which is 91 percent white. She says she's aware of racial divisions in the area. But she doesn't believe that the president is stoking them.
What do you think of the president telling four congresswoman who are all American citizens to go back to their countries?
That, to me — I have said it all along. If you don't like it, we're a revolving door. You don't have to stay. And not just with them, with anyone.
Do I think it's racist what he says? No. I don't, because he didn't say he said, go — he said, you can leave.
You said racism isn't about telling people to go back to their country. What do you think racism is, then, if it's not that?
To me, it's how you treat other people of a different race. It's if you're a bully to them. I think it's also getting in someone's face and denying them service, denying them the right to live where they want to live, denying them the right to religious freedom, denying them the right to rent a house because of a certain race.
Down the road from Casson in Miamisburg, Republican state Representative Niraj Antani is pushing legislation to ban so-called sanctuary cities and school districts in the state.
Antani says many voters in his district share the president's attitude toward immigrants.
Would you be offended if someone told you to go back to your country because they didn't agree with your politics?
No, I think that I would think that they were saying that I should go back to India, which is where my family came from. But I'm also proud of my country. Right?
So if someone is not proud of this country, they should feel free to leave.
Immigrants in Dayton, though, fear the president's rhetoric puts them in danger.
Audria Ali Maki:
I worry about somebody who is not very stable taking those comments to heart.
Audria Ali Maki owns a coffee shop in downtown Dayton. Her husband, Ebi, emigrated from Iran when he was 17. Together, they are raising three young boys who are biracial and Muslim.
Ebi Ali Maki:
And, obviously, as somebody who is not — doesn't speak the language, the culture is absolutely foreign, it was really, really hard. Right? So you have to find ways to belong again to that group or that place.
Businesses like Audria and Ebi's are continuing to open across Dayton.
City officials say immigrants have helped boost the economy and are helping rebuild the city. But President Trump's insistence on putting race at the center of his campaign is complicating progress here.
A car goes by and screams at them, "You need to go home."
Nan Whaley, Dayton's Democratic mayor, says recently some people used the president's rhetoric to intimidate an immigrant family.
People feel emboldened to do that now because of the president's actions, which is really heartbreaking for me for a community that's working so hard on these issues.
She says people don't understand just how much immigrants have helped Dayton.
They are misunderstanding what immigrants and refugees do for our community. This place that we're sitting in is a great example. The story of immigrants runs through this place. It was an empty shell before they got here. And now it's a beautiful space for people to congregate of all folks here in Dayton.
But in the more rural Republican counties surrounding Dayton, some residents believe the opposite.
Greene County, just east of Dayton, is holding its annual county fair. Here at the fair, some voters find the president's controversial rhetoric appealing. And it's crowds like these that the president hopes will turnout and help reelect him.
His style excites people. I believe that the Republican Party needed a fighter.
This county is 86 percent white. In 2016, President Trump won here by 25 percent.
All they talk about is racist, this is racist, that is racist.
Dan Rader grew up here. He says Democrats are blowing the president's language way out of proportion.
He's defending us as Americans. He's defending our freedoms. He's defending our right to free speech. He's defending our right to, you know, be able to speak our mind and not get backlash about it.
After supporting President Obama in 2008 and 2012, Rader voted for President Trump in 2016.
Because of Obama, that's why we have a Trump. You know, people were really turned off by the whole thing.
The father of four works in I.T. for retail stores and says life has improved since the 2016 election. He credits the president.
I have got a good-paying job. I was laid off for a while. I was laid off for a pretty long time. And not only that. When I got the job, I got a good increase. And I'm making good money. I'm being able to take care of my family.
President Trump says he plans to continue his unfiltered style of politics.
And here in Ohio, he's banking on that strategy carrying him to victory one more time.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor in Greene County, Ohio.
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Yamiche Alcindor is the White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour; the moderator of Washington Week, the weekly public affairs show on PBS; and a political contributor for NBC News and MSNBC. She often tells stories about the intersection of race and politics as well as fatal police encounters. She is currently covering the administration of President Joe Biden and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
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