There has been a dramatic escalation in the war of words between US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. The candidates exchanged sharp accusations in extraordinary consecutive speeches on Thursday that put the politically heated issue of race in the US at the forefront of the presidential campaign.
Trump accused Clinton of tainting his supporters as racists, while she accused him of inciting the racial resentment of hate groups and turning his party over to fringe elements.
“Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia,” Clinton said in Reno, Nevada. “He’s taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over one of America’s two major political parties. His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous.”
Clinton cited actions and statements by Trump that she said have encouraged the views of white supremacists and other extremists, including the so-called alt-right movement, which is vocally opposed to racial diversity and immigration.
Last week, Trump hired Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, as CEO of his presidential campaign. The politically conservative news website has assumed a central role in the alt-right movement, targeting not just Democrats but Republican lawmakers who don’t share its anti-immigration views.
Trump dismissed Clinton’s accusations in New Hampshire earlier Thursday, saying that she “paints decent Americans as racists.” “She bullies voters who only want a better future and tries to intimidate them out of voting for a change,” Trump said at a campaign event in Manchester. “Hillary Clinton isn’t just attacking me, she’s attacking all of the decent people of all backgrounds — doesn’t matter — of all backgrounds who support this incredible, once in a lifetime movement.”
Amazingly, he also said that people who speak out against Muslims and who warn about Middle Eastern refugees are not Islamophobic. Clinton has led Trump throughout most of the 2016 presidential campaign but her lead has been shrinking, recent polls show. The realclearpolitics average polling shows that the former secretary of state currently leads the celebrity businessman by just over 4 points. Surveys continue to indicate that a majority of Americans hold a strongly unfavorable view of both Trump and Clinton.