Fact Check: Was Trump’s Response to Spike Lee’s speech accurate?

The article, “Trump Calls Spike Lee’s Oscar Speech a ‘Racist Hit on Your President,'” appeared on NY Times’ website and was written by Alex Marshall. I first came upon this topic by seeing Trump’s tweet about Spike Lee on my social media. Of course, a tweet does not tell the entire story so I googled the controversy and this article was one of the first to come up. I chose NYTimes out of all the options because of the source’s credibility.

Marshall’s article focuses on the controversy between Lee and Trump that was brought to the light during Lee’s Oscar acceptance speech on Sunday night. After Lee won ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’ for his movie “BlacKkKlansman,” he closed his speech by bringing up the 2020 election and urging the audience to be “on the right side of history” by choosing love over hate. Trump responded the next morning in a tweet which accused Lee of taking a “racist hit” at him. He also stated that he “has done more for African Americans (Criminal Justice Reform, Lowest Unemployment numbers in History, Tax Cuts, etc.) than almost any other Pres!”

This led me to wonder if the President’s not so humble statements had any truth to them. To begin, I inspected Trump’s claim that his administration has produced the lowest unemployment numbers in history. According to factcheck.org’s “Trump Takes Undue Credit on Black Unemployment,” Trump’s claim is technically true despite the context being not as clear. In Trump’s tweet, he is implying that his administration is the reason for the lowest unemployment numbers among African Americans. However, what he fails to acknowledge is that African American unemployment numbers have been in a downward trend since 2013. So, his administration did not create low unemployment, they merely did nothing to reverse the downward trend that African American employment was already following.

The next claim I wanted to fact-check was Trump’s record on criminal justice reform. Some research on this topic led me to the source NBCNews. In Ann Caldwell’s article, she analyzes Trump’s first major criminal justice reform action since taking office. In December, Trump was able to pass a criminal justice bill that focused on inmate education and mental health support so they are more prepared once they were released. The bill also included sentencing reform which was considered a positive step for Democrats. Even though the bill was considered a win for the Trump administration, many see it is as not enough. The bill did not at all mention the unfair targeting of black men in our system. Although it is hard to compare this reform to other administrations, this article did point out that Obama did not pass legislation on criminal justice reform in all of his eight years.

All in all, through some fact-checking I found that Trump’s claims are exaggerated but not false. He has overseen an administration that has allowed for low African American unemployment rates, but he cannot possibly receive all the credit for that since it has been in a downward trend for six years now. He did pass criminal justice reform and that is a step in the right direction. However, more must be done to create a system that does not unfairly target African Americans.

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