President Donald Trump likes to boast that he enjoys huge support among Black folks in this country. Of course, every word that comes out of his mouth must be fact-checked.
And so it was when Trump delivered an awkward 30-minute speech to hundreds of leaders of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) attending a White House conference. No other administration has done more for what he called “pillars of excellence” and “engines of advancement” than his.
To tepid applause, Trump told attendees gathered for the 2019 National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Conference, hosted annually by the White House, that he was “protecting and promoting and supporting HBCUs like never before.”
Fact-check: “There were a lot of things to fact-check in his speech,” said Pamela Bingham, a consultant to various HBCUs. “I had gone to these conferences for probably a decade or more and they’re different with different presidents. But I wrote down, a few things [Trump said] that I was going to personally check into that I just did not believe were true. He took credit for an increase in funding to Howard [University]. I believe he took credit. He said that he has been the best president for HBCUs, but you know, he always says that everything that he does is the best.”
“The fierce dedication to strengthening HBCUs is a core part of my administration’s unwavering focus on national renewal,” Trump said.
Fact-check: “He actually claimed an increase in funding to Howard, which I have never heard,” said Bingham, who worked in grants administration at Howard last year. “I was not aware of any increase in funding from the federal government. He said that he worked with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to lift the ban on Pell Grants for summer classes. He said that he made sure that there was Hurricane Katrina loan forgiveness for Southern and Xavier and Dillard. I think we need to check that. There was so much to be fact-checked. He said he was responsible for the most funding and he took a lot of credit for a lot of things that I just didn’t feel were necessarily true.”
It never got any better in Bingham’s view: “The response was pretty tepid most of the time and I really felt like people had to be there because their institutions are involved with all the federal loan programs and the federal grant programs and Title III. They had to be there, but I didn’t feel that they were incredibly supportive.”
And Trump did not actually meet with any presidents — not that many of them were stumbling over themselves to hug up with him.
“We were told we had to get in the room, eat lunch and stay in the room,” Bingham said. “He was really late and we think it was because he was still dealing with the aftermath of the firing of John Bolton. The audience was not particularly enthusiastic, but it was sort of a voyeurism thing.
“I did feel that people did not feel they could speak freely and there were definitely people from the administration and supporters of the president in the audience who were actually clapping,” she said. “They were, like, professional clappers. That’s what really struck me.
“I think they knew they had to be there. It felt very forced and uncomfortable, and people just felt like they needed to get it over with,” Bingham added. “There wasn’t any rousing applause at the end, and people just kind of did it, and left.
“People didn’t want to be in the photo op like the last time,” she said. So a lot of people like me sat in the back. I actually walked out at some point because it was so ridiculous. The comments were so ridiculous. … I couldn’t take it anymore and I didn’t have to be there. So I left, and several others left, and the Secret Service allowed us to leave.”
Bravo, Secret Service.
More than 20 percent of Black college graduates receive their degree from an HBCU, according to Department of Education data, even though the schools only offer 3 percent of all college offerings. HBCUs are responsible for producing a significant proportion of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) degrees earned by Black students, including 31 percent of biology and math degrees.