Black unemployment reached a record low of 5.5 percent in the month of August. While CNN Tonight host Don Lemon and his panel acknowledged the statistic Friday night, they did their best to downplay it and rejected the notion that President Trump deserved any credit for the strong economy. In addition, Lemon argued that when black voters go to the polls in 2020, they should prioritize the President’s “racist behavior” over the strong economy.
Lemon argued that President Obama deserved the credit for the low black unemployment numbers because after reaching 16.8 percent in March 2010, the black unemployment rate dropped to 7.9 percent by the end of his term; a difference of 8.9 percent. Lemon pointed out that the highest black unemployment rate during President Trump’s term in office was 8 percent while the lowest is 5.5 percent; a difference of only 2.5 percent.
Based on difference alone, it would be impossible for President Trump to meet President Obama’s number because the difference between 8 and 8.9 percent is a negative number. Nonetheless, Lemon stressed that “it is good news, it is a good trend but it didn’t start under this President and the numbers actually declined much stronger under the former President.”
At this point, Lemon began playing the race card by asking “how do black voters in 2020 weigh these low employment numbers against the President’s racist behavior?” Lemon cited “Charlottesville” and “slamming Baltimore” as “rodent infested” as examples of President Trump’s “racist behavior.”
"Republican strategist" Joseph Pinion, who appears to share Lemon’s disdain for President Trump, argued that “the message” should outweigh “the numbers.” According to Pinion, “if someone spits in your face and hands you a napkin, you don’t get to say thank you.”
Echoing the position of a church in Alabama claiming that “a black vote for Trump is mental illness,” Lemon implied that blacks who support President Trump because of the economy are misguided: “Does that mean the only part of your brain or the only part of our being that matters is money? Rather than how someone treats you and what someone says about you?”
CNN commentator Keith Boykin, a former aide to President Clinton, closed the conversation by contending that “Donald Trump had little to nothing to do with…the drop in unemployment for African-Americans,” adding “no one who talks about this in the Republican Party can cite a single policy contributed by Donald Trump that is responsible for the drop in black unemployment.” Boykin made sure to credit the drop in black unemployment to “policies started long ago in the Obama administration,” rejecting the idea that it was “the tax cut or anything like that.”
One prominent member of the African-American community, BET founder Bob Johnson, disagrees with the notion that President Trump deserves no credit for the economy, telling CNBC “I give the president a lot of credit for moving the economy in a positive direction that’s benefitting a large amount of Americans.” He also argued that “the “tax cuts clearly helped stimulate the economy.” It appears that Trump Derangement Syndrome prevents Lemon and his panel from reaching the same conclusion.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Friday’s edition of CNN Tonight is below. Click “expand” to read more.
CNN Tonight With Don Lemon
DON LEMON: And we’re back. We want to talk about new numbers from the Labor Department showing that black unemployment is down to a record low. Take a look…look at your screen. It’s at a 5.5 percent right now for the month of August; down half a percent from last month. President has boasted, as you know, about strong black unemployment numbers throughout his first term.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Numbers just came out; African-American unemployment lowest in history. What do you have to lose? The African-American unemployment rate has reached the lowest level in history. African-American unemployment has reached another all-time in history record low; in history. I say what do you…
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
LEMON: Well, joining me now to discuss; Democratic strategist Keith Boykin, Republican strategist, Joseph Pinion. What do you have to lose? Good evening. What do you have to lose, y’all? The black unemployment rate falling to a record low, good news; only part of the story. Give us the rest of the story.
KEITH BOYKIN: Well, it is good news.
LEMON: Yeah, it’s good news.
BOYKIN: It’s a…it’s a good trend. The black unemployment rate is 5.5 percent right now in August. It started cutting…it started going down though, in the Obama administration. It was 16.8 percent in March of 2010. And it dropped to 7.8 percent; a 54 percent reduction under President Obama. And Trump while…while this was happening denied that it was even happening. He called the numbers fake news; until he came into office and suddenly all the numbers he said were fake were magically real. And so, he took credit for the momentum that has…has occurred since that time.
LEMON: Okay. So, let me just, because…I want to put, if you could put those back up; just so you know. So, under Obama, as you said, March 2010, 16.8 percent; the end of his presidency, 7.9 percent. That is a difference of 8.9 percent. Okay? So, Trump’s highest was 8 percent. That was in February of 2017. Now it’s at 5.5 percent. That is down 2.5 percent. So, we have 8.9 president in the Obama presidency and down by 2.5 percent in this presidency. As you said, it is good news. It is a good trend. But it didn’t start under this President and the numbers actually declined much stronger under the former President. How do…how do black voters in 2020 weigh these low employment numbers against the President’s racist behavior, Joseph? Charlottesville. Slamming Baltimore. Rodent infested. And you know, go on and on.
JOSEPH PINION: Look, I…I think there’s, we have the numbers and then we have the message. Right? The numbers, to your point, are encouraging. I think that again, we…I think, you know, no one gives…
LEMON: More of that. Keep going. Right?
PINION: Yeah…yeah, so, we need more of that, but I think the message is something that does not resonate with black communities and brown communities simply because of the rhetoric that has come out of the White House. And so, I think I said almost two years ago to the day on this program that if someone spits in your face and then hands you a napkin, you don’t get to say thank you.
LEMON: Can…can we, can we talk about this? Because I often hear that; not only on this show, not only from…but also in my personal life. Well, I don’t understand. It’s…black unemployment is down and you know, people are doing better. But as you say, if someone spits in your face and hands you a napkin, how…what is that supposed to…I don’t understand that argument. Does that mean that the only part of your brain, or the only part of our being that matters is money? Rather than how someone treats you and what someone says about you? And…
PINION: I think that there is a disconnect in the sense of the fact that people don’t seem to understand that you can’t view people as ungrateful for critiquing you as for things that anybody else would critique them for in a personal interaction. And so when you have people, even something as trivial as A$AP Rocky getting released from prison and then the White House saying that, oh well, no one ever called me to say thank you. Well, I mean it’s…you know, I…I always say, you know, my favorite comedian is Chris Rock. And Chris Rock says, well, people say they want a cookie for taking care of their kids. You’re supposed to take care of your kids. Right? But when Americans get locked up abroad, you’re supposed to make sure that Americans get out of jail.
LEMON: They get home safe.
PINION: And so, I think that’s just the reality; that when it comes to communities of colors, you want to talk about issues in Chicago, that we have mass violence? Let’s talk about it. But where’s the plan to fix that? You want to talk about the fact that we have issues with black unemployment and those numbers are trending downwards. That’s great. But let’s also talk about the fact that rich white people inherit more money than rich black people. Poor white people inherit more money than poor white black people. And that’s all related to these intrinsic issues that have rooted up in the kind of history of America.
LEMON: Keith, button up; 10 seconds.
BOYKIN: Not to mention the fact that Donald Trump had little to nothing to do with the…the drop in unemployment for African-Americans. No one can…no one who talks about this in the Republican Party can cite a single policy contributed by Donald Trump that is responsible for the drop in black unemployment. It’s all because of policies that…that started long ago. It wasn’t the tax cut or anything like that. Policies started long ago in the Obama administration when we started to see the drop. And the other thing is that Obama had the good sense not to go out and brag about it every time that there was a drop in unemployment, because he knew that it’s still too high compared to the white unemployment rate.
LEMON: Well, he didn’t…he didn’t need to do that. He was a very secure.
PINION: Rising tide raises all boats, but at the end of the day, I think we just have to be able to say to the administration, hey, hold everyone to the same standard.
LEMON: Thank you. Thank you both. I appreciate it. We’ll be right back.