WASHINGTON — During the 2016 campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump consistently tried to reach black voters with one controversial question: 'What the hell do you have to lose?"
Friday, in front of hundreds of young black conservatives attending a leadership summit at the White House, Trump recalled members of his campaign telling him the question was disrespectful to African-Americans.
“I said, ‘What’s disrespectful? What the hell do you have to lose?’ What’s disrespectful?" Trump told the lively crowd. "And then I said it over and over at every speech. And you know what, my poll numbers, you saw, with African-Americans went up, up, up, up. Because [African-Americans] started saying, ‘He’s right.”
"So much for so-called handlers folks, right?" Trump quipped.
To him, the question resonated with black voters.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus disagreed.
In response to his remarks and months after his inauguration, the CBC met with Trump and presented a 130-page document, "We Have A Lot to Lose," outlining issues affecting the African-American community. In September, the CBC released "We Have Lost A lot," a video detailing what African-Americans have lost under the Trump Administration, including Trump remarks on the NFL kneeling controversy and voter suppression.
Trump received 8 percent of the African-American vote in the 2016 election.
His appearance Friday was part of the 4-day Young Black Leadership Summit, sponsored by the conservative non-profit Turning Points USA. Throughout his speech, the president blamed Democrats for “wiping out good paying jobs” in the black community and for contributing to high crime and poverty rates in inner cities.
Trump mentioned the unemployment rate has fallen to 3.7 percent and is the lowest in nearly 50 years, according to a jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Trump praised former NFL player Jim Brown and Kanye West citing his meeting with them earlier this month in the Oval Office
“I think Kanye may be the most powerful man in all of politics,” Trump said, adding that the rapper was a "little different," but "smart."
He touched on criminal justice reform, how he's trying to lower drug prices, and execute trade deals - all familiar themes Trump discussed on the campaign trail.
The rousing group of supporters, mostly clad in red MAGA hats, cheered throughout the roughly 40 minute speech. At times, the group burst into “USA," chants. When he mentioned cracking down on illegal immigration and the migrant caravan, the group boo’ed and chanted, “Build that wall!”“Illegal immigration has been especially harmful to the African-American communities and also to Hispanic American communities by depressing wages and replacing workers. It’s been happening and it’s very unfair,” he said.
Candace Owens, Trump surrogate and communications director of Turning Points USA, tweeted Thursday night the "the black conservative movement has descended upon Washington D.C." Donald Trump Jr. heaped similar boasts online, calling the gathering "The largest ever young conservative black summit.”