Fact Check

Did Trump Say 'Laziness Is a Trait in Blacks; No Black President Again Any Time Soon'?

A meme created the impression that Donald Trump claimed that there wouldn't be a black president again any time soon because 'laziness is a trait in blacks.'

Published Aug 8, 2016

 (Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia)
Image Via Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia
Donald Trump said, "Laziness is a trait in blacks ... I believe that. No black person will be president again any time soon."
What's True

Donald Trump once tweeted, "Sadly, because president Obama has done such a poor job as president, you won't see another black president for generations!"

What's False

Trump did not utter the full statement, "Laziness is a trait in blacks ... I believe that ... No black person will be president again any time soon."

What's Undetermined

Whether Trump ever said "Laziness is a trait in blacks" is not certain.

An Internet meme circulating in August 2016 paired two racially charged statements previously attributed separately to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump:

While neither attribution was new, the conjunction of the two statements created the impression that Trump must have at some time opined that no black person would be President of the United States again any time soon because "laziness is a trait in blacks."

There is a public record of Donald Trump's having stated, more or less, that no black person would be president again any time soon because of the poor performance of his predecessor in the White House, Barack Obama:

When called upon to explain the statement in a 2 August 2015 interview with Jonathan Karl on ABC News' This Week, Trump offered:

TRUMP: Well, I think he's been a very poor president. I think he has done a very poor job as president. We have $18 trillion right now in debt and going up rapidly.

KARL: But what did you mean? What —

TRUMP: Wait a minute.

The world is — we don't have victories anymore. China is killing us on trade. Mexico's killing us at the border and also killing us on trade. Mexico's doing unbelievably against us in trade.

You look at what's going on with Japan. You look at what's going on with Vietnam. You look at Saudi Arabia, makes $1 billion a day and we defend them. We get nothing.

KARL: I understand your critique. But why do you say that means we won't see another black president for generations?

TRUMP: Because I think that he has set a very poor standard. I think that he has set a very low bar and I think it's a shame for the African American people.

And by the way, he has done nothing for African Americans. You look at what's gone on with their income levels. You look at what's gone on with their youth. I thought that he would be a great cheerleader for this country. I thought he'd do a fabulous job for the African American citizens of this country.

A source attributing the statement "Laziness is a trait in blacks" to Donald Trump dates to the early 1990s. It should be noted, however, that that source was a book written by a disgruntled former employee of Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, John R. O'Donnell, and neither the statement nor the sentiment behind it has been corroborated elsewhere.

As one might expect, O'Donnell's account, Trumped!, paints an unflattering portrait of its subject overall but offers this anecdote specifically as evidence of Trump's low opinion of the African Americans in his employ:

"What do you think of him?" Donald asked.

I said I was familiar with his abilities, and he had shortcomings. "To be honest, I don't think he's the best we can have," I said. "I'd like to see him either come up to speed, where he can help me a lot more, or maybe there's something else he can do."

Instantly, Donald was enthused. "Yeah, I never liked the guy. I don't think he knows what the fuck he's doing. My accountants up in New York are always complaining about him. He's not responsive. And isn't it funny, I've got black accountants at Trump Castle and at Trump Plaza. Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. Those are the kind of people I want counting my money. Nobody else."

I couldn't believe I was hearing this But Donald went on, "Besides that, I've got to tell you something else. I think that the guy is lazy. And it's probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It's not anything they can control.... Don't you agree?" He looked at me square in the eye and waited for my reply.

"Donald, you really shouldn't say things like that to me or anybody else," I said. "That is not the kind of image you want to project. We shouldn't even be having this conversation, even if it's the way you feel."

"Yeah, you're right," he said. "If anybody ever heard me say that ... holy shit ... I'd be in a lot of trouble. But I have to tell you, that's the way I feel."

Although Trump didn't deny any of O'Donnell's specific allegations in a subsequent (1997)Playboy magazine interview -- "The stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true," Trump said at the time -- he vehemently denied O'Donnell's account of the conversation when asked about it during a 24 October 1999 interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press:

MR. TRUMP: I never said it. I don't even know ...

MR. RUSSERT: Donald Trump ...

MR. TRUMP: I hardly know this guy. He was running one of my casinos for a short period of time. He was fired—, we fired him because he wasn't doing a very good job. He wrote this nasty book. He made up stuff. This is like Jon Lovitz on "Saturday Night Live," the liar. "I went to Harvard. Yeah, I went to Harvard." This guy, I hardly know him. He made up this quote. I've heard the quote before, and it's nonsense.

MR. RUSSERT: You've never said anything like that?

MR. TRUMP: I've never said anything like it, ever.

As the Washington Post noted, it is, at best, a secondhand quote from a private conversation, written down years after the fact, and should be viewed "with some skepticism."


Kessler, Glenn.  "Did Donald Trump Really Say Those Things?"     The Washington Post.   25 July 2016.

O'Donnell, John R. and James Rutherford.   Trumped! The Inside Story of the Real Donald Trump -- His Cunning Rise and Spectacular Fall.     New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.   ISBN 0-67173-735-X.

Reilly, Ryan J.  "Donald Trump: No Black Presidents for Awhile Because of Obama."     Huffington Post.   15 August 2015.

David Emery is a West Coast-based writer and editor with 25 years of experience fact-checking rumors, hoaxes, and contemporary legends.