New York real estate mogul Donald Trump called the fatal police shooting of Walter Scott a “catastrophe” and “horrible,” but said he didn’t think the death should be politicized as part of the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
“I think that the police do a phenomenal job and you’ll always have some bad apples, no matter what industry you’re talking about,” Trump said immediately following one of two speaking engagements in Charleston on Monday. ”I think you’ll have to keep the politics out of it.”
Trump’s comments about Scott, who was shot four times in the back and once in the ear by a North Charleston police officer as he tried to flee after a traffic stop April 4, come as he contemplates running for the Republican presidential nomination.
On Sunday, controversial activist the Rev. Al Sharpton told the congregation at the Charity Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston that candidates need to be held accountable and that South Carolina will play an important role in selecting the next president.
“Don’t let them come through here and eat some sweet potato pie and sing with the choir and then get your vote on the cheap,” he said. “Make them stand up and discuss your issues.”
Trump said he believes most Americans don’t think there is a widespread problem with bad officers at local departments.
“Most people feel the police and the police forces in this country have done a great job, and you have to keep that as non-political as possible,” he said.
Trump made two local appearances Monday, at the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and the spring gathering of the State Financial Officers Foundation, which drew treasurers and other state officials from as far away as Idaho and Nevada.
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who also is considering a GOP White House run, was to speak to the finance group later Monday evening.
“Obviously what happened in South Carolina is a tragedy and I think officials reacted exactly right,” Friorina said of the North Charleston shooting before her speaking to the group.
Trump’s speech continued his drumbeat against the policies of President Barack Obama, Republicans in Congress, the nuclear treaty with Iran and a dysfunctional Washington — targets he has focused on while playing the role of D.C. outsider.
“Politicians are all talk and no action,” he said.
He singled out Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton for formally announcing her candidacy Sunday through social media.
“Hillary just announced,” he said. “It’s something I’ve never seen before. She announced on the Internet.” He added, “when you announce, you’re supposed to announce. Do you think the late-great Abraham Lincoln would have said ’Oh great, I’ll announce on the Internet.’ I don’t think so.”
Trump spent part of last week in Myrtle Beach before visiting Charleston on Monday. If he does get in the race, a large part of his efforts are expected to be targeted at voters living along the South Carolina coast, where Republicans are considered less aligned with the evangelical wing of the party centered in the Upstate.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551