Bench Memos

Does Donald Trump Support Racial Preferences?

Yes. And over the weekend, presidential candidate Donald Trump decided to weigh in on last week’s oral arguments in Fisher II, a case about racial preferences in college admissions. The specific issue was Justice Scalia’s question about academic “mismatch”, which gave Trump the opportunity to level baseless criticism at Justice Scalia while demonstrating his own ignorance of the Constitution.

CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Trump in an interview what he thought of Scalia’s question about racial preferences:

TRUMP: Well, I thought [Scalia’s] remarks were very tough. I mean, I don’t want to comment on them, I mean he’s a respected Supreme Court judge, but I thought his remarks actually were very very tough.

Q: Tough in a bad way, or in a good way, or . . .

TRUMP: Well, I thought they were very very tough to a certain community, no question about that. I though he was very tough to the African-American community, actually.

Q: It sounds like you’re not supporting what he said.

TRUMP: I don’t like what he said, no. I don’t like what he said. I heard him, I was like, ‘Let me read it again,’ ‘cause I actually saw it in print, and I’m going — I read a lot of stuff! — I go, ‘Whoa!’

Q: So you still support affirmative action?

TRUMP: Look, I have great African-American friendships. I have just amazing relationships, and so many positive things have happened. 

Trump called Scalia’s question “tough,” but had Trump actually read Scalia’s question in its entirety or even asked someone knowledgeable, he would have known that it wasn’t “tough” at all. Rather, the justice was asking about an academic theory previously endorsed by Justice Thomas (supposedly Trump’s favorite justice) and espoused in amicus briefs. If Trump were even passingly aware of Justice Thomas’s views on affirmative action, he would know Justice Thomas’s view that the Constitution forbids racial discrimination like that challenged in Fisher II.

When Tapper pressed Trump for his own opinion on racial preferences, Trump refused to answer. For a man whose entire public persona is based on saying godawful things about anything and everything, Trump’s silence is deafening. The obvious implication is that Trump still likes affirmative action – after all, he admitted that in August – but doesn’t want to admit it anymore. So much for being a bold truthteller.

Carrie Severino — Carrie Severino is chief counsel and policy director to the Judicial Crisis Network.

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