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Ohio Trump Volunteer Chair Quits After Racially-Charged Comments

Kathy Miller, a volunteer in Mahoning County, said there "wasn't any racism" before Obama was elected. The Trump campaign called the remarks inappropriate.
Image: Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, in Toledo, Ohio. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)Evan Vucci / AP

A Ohio campaign chair for Donald Trump’s presidential bid has resigned after saying various racially insensitive comments in an on-camera interview, including "I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected."

Kathy Miller, a volunteer chair for Mahoning County, made the comments to the Guardian newspaper, in an article and video that was published Thursday.

"If you’re black and you haven’t been successful in the last 50 years, it’s your own fault. You’ve had every opportunity, it was given to you," Miller, who is white, said in video posted by the Guardian.

"You’ve had the same schools everybody else went to. You had benefits to go to college that white kids didn’t have. You had all the advantages and didn’t take advantage of it. It’s not our fault, certainly," she said.

Miller also suggested African-Americans vote less because it’s "part of the way they’re raised” and she called the "Black Lives Matter" movement "a stupid waste of time."

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The Guardian interview was published the morning after a second night of violent protests in Charlotte, North Carolina, following the fatal police shooting of a black man who authorities said was armed, and in the same week as an unarmed black man was killed by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Trump campaign in Ohio said in a statement Thursday that it has accepted Miller’s resignation, and called her comments "inappropriate."

County chairs like Miller "are not spokespeople for the campaign," Bob Paduchik, Ohio State Director for Donald J. Trump For President, Inc., said in a statement.

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The racially-charged comments come as Trump has sought to appeal to African-American voters, and as the GOP nominee has increasingly portrayed himself as a law-and-order candidate.

The Ohio Trump campaign later released a statement from Miller that said: "My personal comments were inappropriate, and I apologize."

Miller in an interview with NBC News attempted to walk back her comments, and said she was unfairly being attacked as a racist.

"I’m thinking, 'What did I say that was racist?'" Miller told NBC News. "I didn’t murder anybody, I didn’t kill anybody, I didn’t steal from anybody, I didn’t call them a liar — what did I say that was racist, other than you should take responsibility for yourself? But that’s not racism ... I don’t know, maybe I’m clueless.”

In the Guardian interview, Miller also said: "I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected. We never had problems like this ... Now, with the people with the guns, and shooting up neighborhoods, and not being responsible citizens, that’s a big change, and I think that’s the philosophy that Obama has perpetuated on America."

Miller said her comments were "more of a general observation on what was going on."

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But Miller in attempting to clarify her position made more comments that were tinged with racially-charged references.

"It's across the board, minorities aren’t the only ones," Miller said. "It’s not about race, this is about just people in general. It’s easier to not go to work, easier to stay at home, get my free phone, free rent and free utilities."

The reference to a “free phone” reflects a widespread but false belief that Obama launched a program to give low-income Americans free phones with taxpayer dollars, that often crops up on conservative message boards and Facebook groups. The meme often features a photo of an African American woman.

And asked directly about her contention that if African Americans haven’t succeeded over the past 50 years it’s “their fault,” Miller didn’t back away from the comment, drawing a comparison between her own experience as a white woman and that of African Americans.

“For 50 years, we’re gonna talk about the same thing? My first job, I was discriminated against. I was a white woman and I was paid less than the men. I saw what way that was going, so I started my own business,” she said. "I saw the way things were going and I didn’t sit back and whine about it.”

Later in the conversation, asked again about those comments, she again repeated:“If you haven’t done okay in the last 50 years look at yourself.”

"Why does anybody have any responsibility for anybody but themselves? If you’re still not working, and doing drugs, why is that my fault?” Miller added, referencing all Americans.

But Miller insisted that, overall, in her interview with the Guardian she was talking more about “discrimination” than “racism,” saying the former seems to have increased since Obama took office.

Echoing comments she made to the Guardian, Miller said: “I don’t see racism anywhere, I see discrimination, but not even that much. This is about how people behave, how people are doing things today, how did we get here, how did this all take place? Growing up, we didn’t have problems like this."

Miller said she resigned because she didn't want to become a distraction.