ATLANTA (AP) — The NAACP says Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has declined an invitation to address the group’s upcoming convention, flouting established precedent and highlighting anew the GOP standard-bearer’s struggle to attract support from nonwhite voters.
NAACP president Cornell William Brooks told CNN Tuesday that Trump had declined the group’s invitation to speak at the Cincinnati gathering, scheduled from Saturday through Wednesday. Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is slated to speak there next Monday, which is also opening day of the Republican National Convention across the state in Cleveland.
The Trump campaign did not respond immediately Tuesday night to an Associated Press request for comment.
Brooks said the Trump campaign cited scheduling conflicts with the GOP convention, where Trump will formally accept the party’s nomination. Brooks argued Trump should have made the time amid the racially charged fallout of videotaped killings of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, followed by the killings of five Dallas police officers by a black sniper.
“We represent an occasion for those running for president to speak to the nation’s most critical issues at a critical hour in this country,” Brooks said on CNN. “You can’t run for president and not talk about police misconduct and police brutality. You can’t run for president and not talk about the nation’s civil rights agenda.”
He called the gathering an opportunity for Clinton and Trump to give civil rights leaders “a window into not only their policies, but into their heart and character as a candidate.”
The NAACP’s official Twitter account used part of Brooks’ interview to chide Trump. That tweet was quickly recirculated on Clinton’s official account.
Republican nominees John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 addressed the NAACP convention, though Romney was booed when he told attendees he’d be better for black families than President Barack Obama had been during his first term.
Black voters, who already helped propel Clinton to the Democratic nomination over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, will be integral to the general election outcome.
African-Americans cast about 13 percent of presidential ballots in 2012, according to exit polls conducted for the AP and television networks. Obama drew about 93 percent of the black vote, critical to his margins in such battlegrounds as Ohio and Florida.
Trump has boasted that he could win as much as one-quarter of the black vote nationally. The largest share won by any Republican nominee since 1980 is about 12 percent.