Maryland Democrats object to Trump's Baltimore comments

Trump talks about violence in Baltimore, elsewhere in speech last night.

Maryland Democrats rose to the defense of Baltimore on Friday after Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump spoke of violence in the city during his acceptance speech at the GOP convention.

Trump cited a 60 percent increase in killings in Baltimore last year. Homicides are down 7 percent this year.

Rep. Steny Hoyer said Trump "can mention Baltimore all he wants. It is rhetoric, not substance."

The Southern Maryland lawmaker, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, questioned whether Republicans would back Trump in making investments in the inner city. He noted the small number of African-American delegates at the convention, which some outlets have put at 18 out of thousands.

Trump also spoke of unemployment and poverty among black and Latino communities, an overall decline in household incomes, and racial divisions, which he said were made worse during the Obama administration.

"The irresponsible rhetoric of our president, who has used the pulpit of the presidency to divide us by race and color, has made America a more dangerous environment," Trump said. "This administration has failed America's inner cities."

President Barack Obama said Friday that Trump offered a deeply pessimistic outlook that didn't match reality.

Obama said he didn't watch Trump's acceptance speech on Thursday — "I've got a lot of stuff to do" — but read news coverage of the remarks.

"This idea that America is somehow on the verge of collapse, this vision of violence and chaos everywhere, doesn't really jibe with the experience of most people," Obama said during a news conference at the White House alongside Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

"America is much less violent than it was 20 or 30 years ago," Obama said, and cited statistics that he said showed crime rates have fallen under his presidency.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said she was "very disappointed" in the convention, which she said "was cliches, rhetoric and no real content about how they were going to create jobs, create opportunity, and make sure it's not limited to affluent ZIP codes."

"What I hear is a lot of rhetoric," Mikulski said, "but can you tell me what Trump's education plan is? How is he going to bring jobs back?"

Mikulski, a longtime supporter of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, said she supports "the goals of having a society where you want to make America great again," but doesn't see the same focus from Republicans.

"We want less right-wing flapping and more specifics about how we can able to do this in a way that is achievable and affordable," she said on rebuilding infrastructure.

A spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake declined to comment Friday on Trump's address.

Baltimore Democratic mayoral nominee Catherine E. Pugh was critical.

"It was hard to get through the speech, period," she said. "My hope that our convention is more positive."

Thursday was not the first time Trump has mentioned Baltimore.

During a Republican debate in September, he attributed violence in Baltimore and other cities to gangs of immigrants. He said his solution was to deport millions, build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and target the "really bad dudes in this country from outside."

"They go, if I get elected, first day they're gone," he said. "Gangs all over the place. Chicago, Baltimore, no matter where you look."

He made similar comments during a news conference in Iowa in August.

"You know a lot of the gangs that you see in Baltimore and in St. Louis and Ferguson and Chicago, do you know they're illegal immigrants?" Trump asked. "They're here illegally. And they're rough dudes. Rough people."

At the time, a Rawlings-Blake spokesman disputed the immigrant gang claims.

"I'm not sure where Mr. Trump gets his data from regarding our gang issues here in Baltimore," then-spokesman Howard Libit said. "We certainly have significant issues with gangs, but I have not seen any evidence that our gang problems are fueled in any substantial way by undocumented immigrants.

"We have prided ourselves here in Baltimore on welcoming immigrants," Libit said. "We think they are an important and growing segment of our population and contribute greatly to job creation and expanding the diversity of our neighborhoods."

Baltimore Sun reporters Andrew Dunn and John Fritze and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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