Harris was scheduled to speak Saturday at the 2019 Second Step Presidential Justice Forum at Benedict College, a historically black college. However, she reneged after the school honored Trump on Friday, saying she would not be complicit in “pandering” to the president’s record on racial issues.
“As the only candidate who attended an [Historically Black College or University], I know the importance that these spaces hold for young Black Americans,” said Harris in a statement Friday.
“Today, when it became clear Donald Trump would receive an award after decades of celebrating mass incarceration, pushing the death penalty for innocent Black Americans, rolling back police accountability measures and racist behavior that puts people’s lives at risk … I cannot in good faith be complicit in papering over his record.”
Harris, one of two major African American 2020 contenders, will instead host students from around Columbia, S.C., for a criminal justice roundtable. The California Democrat previously served as her state’s attorney general.
Trump at his event Friday touted his administration’s achievements for African Americans, noting his efforts on criminal justice reform and the record-low unemployment rate among blacks.
However, earlier this week he received bipartisan rebukes for comparing House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry to a “lynching,” with critics saying he ignored the racial history of such attacks.
The president has a long history of facing accusations of racism, including allegations that he would not rent out property to black residents and his persistent claims that the now-exonerated “Central Park Five,” five young men of color who were wrongfully convicted, should have been put to death.
Saturday will be Harris’s 13th visit to South Carolina as a presidential candidate. The California lawmaker is hoping to make up ground to win over black voters, who comprise a majority of the Democratic primary electorate in the Palmetto State.