WASHINGTON (AP) — Members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Friday called Donald Trump a "disgusting fraud" and demanded that he apologize to President Barack Obama for repeatedly challenging the first African-American president's U.S. citizenship before retreating from the claim on Friday.
One by one, outraged members of the CBC denounced the Republican presidential nominee who for five years was the chief promoter of the false notion that Obama was born somewhere other than Hawaii. Trump said in a brief statement Friday morning that Obama was "born in the United States, period."
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., called Trump a "two-bit racial arsonist" who has fanned the flames of bigotry and hatred. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., called Trump a "disgusting fraud" who had no proof of his false claims. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said Trump is a liar.
The African-American members of Congress sought to use the turn of events to energize not only minority voters but moderates and independents who might be offended by Trump's repeated questioning of Obama's citizenship.
"Don't walk to the polls, don't jog to the polls, run to the polls," Jeffries told potential voters.
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, said their Washington news conference was a calling to African-Americans — "this man cannot be elected."
The appeal from the CBC came as polls showed a tightening in the race between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
In a subsequent interview with The Associated Press, Butterfield acknowledged an "enthusiasm issue in the African-American community" but said Clinton was working to address it by appearing more frequently in the black community and speaking to issues that black voters care about, including criminal justice reform and jobs.
"It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is," Butterfield said of the reasons for the enthusiasm gap. "We elected Barack Obama in 2008 and that was a moment in history, and now they need to understand that electing the first woman president is also a moment in history, but even more than that they must understand that it really matters who occupies the Oval Office."
He added that Trump's incendiary remarks, on birtherism and other topics, were proving energizing to black voters to get out and vote against him.
This story has been corrected to fix the quote from Rep. Jeffries to "jog to the polls."