The 2016 Republican presidential candidates have talked about immigration, national security, and abortion to no end, but a new Guardian analysis shows that they've been steering pretty clear of the Black Lives Matter movement, on which the press has focused heavily on since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. So what have Republicans said about Black Lives Matter? Well, the few who have spoken up about the issue haven't shown the movement much support.
The first Republican debate took place in Cleveland, Ohio, which was the recent focus of a Department of Justice investigation into police misconduct. The DOJ report listed example after example of Cleveland police officers using excessive force against residents, according to The Washington Post. Despite these circumstances, the first GOP debate in Cleveland spent less than a minute on police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, according to Think Progress. That trend continued for the second and third GOP debates, where moderators in each debate asked one question about police brutality, without any specific mention of Black Lives Matter in either question. Here are the 11 Republicans who have said something about Black Lives Matter.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is one of the many Republican candidates who doesn't offer a specific platform stance on police brutality, but he did respond to an incident where former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley apologized for telling Black Lives Matter protesters that "All lives matter," according to The Guardian:
I know in the political context it's a slogan, and should he have apologized? No. If he believes that white lives matter, which I hope he does, then he shouldn't apologize to a group that seemed to disagree with it.
He also responded to questions about racial inequality during a town hall his campaign held in Las Vegas in August. He said problems like racially-motivated, excessive uses of force by police officers "have gotten worse in the last few years" and that "perception becomes reality, and there is racism in America," according to CNN. The town-hall style meeting ended with protesters chanting "Black lives matter," according to CNN.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is not the BLM movement's favorite candidate, to say the least. Carson told CBS News in September that small, grassroots movements aimed at drawing attention to police brutality against black people were different than "the Black Lives Matter movement, where it's foisting yourself on people — rather than engaging in dialogue — and bullying people. I never liked the idea of bullying on behalf of anybody."
He told the network that he hates political correctness, which he said BLM protesters are using to "bully" people into saying "Black lives matter" instead of "All lives matter." He also said he didn't believe O'Malley should've apologized for saying "All lives matter," according to CBS News:
He got so much grief he came back and apologized. That's bullying. Of course all lives matter. Of course we need to be concerned about everyone. Of course we need to extend respect to everyone. And you know, when we get off into a little thing that says "no, this is the only thing you can say" — that's sickening to me.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said he believes the movement needs to rename itself, according to The Guardian:
I think they should change their name maybe — if they were All Lives Matter, or Innocent Lives Matter. ... I am about justice, and frankly I think a lot of poor people in our country, and many African Americans, are trapped in this war on drugs, and I want to change it. ... But commandeering the microphone, and bullying people, and pushing people out of the way — I think that really isn't a way to get their message across.
Paul's message is particularly troubling because it does what so many BLM protesters say is part of the problem: his comment seems to tell black people how they should carry out their movement for racial equality.
According to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the Black Lives Matter movement is contributing to the deaths of police officers, Cruz told Think Progress in October:
If you look at the Black Lives Matter movement, one of the most disturbing things is more than one of their protests have embraced rabid rhetoric, rabid anti-police language, literally suggesting and embracing and celebrating the murder of police officers. That is disgraceful.
Black Lives Matter leader Johnetta "Netta” Elzie told Think Progress that the movement has never celebrated the death of police officers. She and other BLM leaders have said that the real disgrace is how politicians paint black people standing up against injustice as an aggressive, murderous movement:
It's amazing to me that black people and their allies affirming that Black Lives Matter is somehow celebrating murder. Nothing about us affirming our own lives has anything to do with "embracing and celebrating the murder of police officers." ... We came out our houses because we were tired of seeing police officers hurt, harm and murder black bodies with impunity. Not because we want to see any police officer killed.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told CBS News in an interview just last week that President Barack Obama shouldn't be supporting civil rights movements like the Black Lives Matter movement, which he said encourages "lawlessness":
They've been chanting in the streets for the murder of police officers. ... That's what the movement is creating. And the president of the United States is justifying that, but not only that, he hasn't backed up police officers from the minute he's gotten into office. And we can cite instance after instance.
He told CBS News that officers who act irresponsibly should be prosecuted, but didn't offer any suggestions for how to fix the criminal justice system, which BLM protesters have said consistently lets off officers who commit acts of injustice against black people.
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has quite an interesting take on Black Lives Matter. She didn't discredit the movement or say that it advocated for murder. Instead, she said that the movement would actually do better under a Republican president, according to Fox News:
First of all, of course all lives matter. Secondly, black lives have been diminished under Democratic policies. That's just true.
She told Megyn Kelly on The Kelly File that liberal policies on education and economics actually hurt poor families and increase poverty. Then, she said that the "abortion industry" targets black people.
In August, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wrote an op-ed for Politico where he said minorities place "undue emphasis" on their differences and their heritage. The op-ed has since disappeared from Politico's website, but Think Progress published portions of it. He said racism only "rears its ugly head" from "time to time," and that minorities who focus on their "separateness" are actually contributing to the racism against them.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio refused to put down the BLM movement, even when Bill O'Reilly tried to tell him that police officers are becoming more afraid of doing their jobs out of a fear that they'll get caught for using excessive force, according to The Guardian. Rubio said that the issue of black men being disproportionately targeted by police officers was "legitimate," and that we should always question whether a white police officer who shot an unarmed black man made the right choice.
The one strange thing Rubio did admit to O'Reilly during their interview was that the press focus too much on the deaths of civilians over the deaths of police officers, according to The Guardian:
The overwhelming and vast majority of law enforcement officers in this country are just trying to do their jobs. They're the only things standing between my family and danger. They're the first people we call when we get in trouble. And it is troubling that there are groups and rhetoric out there now that is encouraging people to demonize law enforcement, to target law enforcement or in some cases, quite frankly, to misrepresent what law enforcement is trying to do.
Out of all the comments on Black Lives Matter, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee takes the cake for level of inappropriateness. In August, Huckabee suggested that racism was "more of a sin problem than a skin problem," according to Politico. Then, Huckabee made the common mistake of thinking that the BLM movement is trying to make black lives more important than other lives, which pretty clearly isn't the case, since recent cases of police brutality against black people have ended with the police officers being cleared of wrongdoing. Huckabee said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wouldn't support the movement:
When I hear people scream, "black lives matter," I think, of course they do. But all lives matter. It's not that any life matters more than another. That's the whole message that Dr. King tried to present, and I think he'd be appalled by the notion that we're elevating some lives above others.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose state was the subject of the previously mentioned DOJ investigation, said that he is a governor who has lead on issues concerning racial inequality. He seemed to understand that strong relationships between police officers and the communities they serve are one important part of reforming how officers interact with citizens, according to CBS News:
Now we've moved to a different collaborative, where we're trying to get the community to understand that there is a police officer whose family waits every night for them to get home, and they love that police officer because that's their mom or dad. And the police have to understand the concerns inside of the community. It's about getting people together, people talking, understanding one another, and the right policing policies.
Not shockingly, the business mogul doesn't support the phrase "Black lives matter" and also advocated that it be changed to "All lives matter," according to Business Insider. In an interview with Fox News, Trump called O'Malley a "disgusting, little, weak, pathetic baby" for apologizing when he told BLM protesters "All lives matter." Trump also said that "it's disgraceful" the way Democrats are catering to protesters, whom he said are "trouble," according to Business Insider:
I think they're trouble. I think they're looking for trouble. ... I looked at a couple of the people that were interviewed from the group. I saw them with hate coming down the street last week talking about cops and police, and what should be done to them. And that was not good. And I think it's a disgrace that they're getting away with it.
It's strange that some of the candidates seem to turn a movement that's about stopping the disproportionate deaths of one group into something that's attacking American "values."