On Saturday evening, President Trump held a rally in Michigan where he addressed an adoring crowd that donned Make America Great Again hats and cheered enthusiastically during his speech. Among the talking points that earned the most rapturous applause in Michigan was when Trump praised Kanye West, then touted the low African-American unemployment rate.
"In all fairness, Kanye West gets it," Trump said as the crowd erupted in delight. "He gets it. ... When he sees that African-American unemployment is the lowest in history — you know, people are watching. That's a very important thing he's done for his legacy."
West was near-certain to get a shout-out from the president as he spoke in front of a friendly crowd on Saturday. For days, West, who is expected to release new music soon, had been tweeting supportive messages about Trump, sparking widespread criticism from his fans and leading to many of his peers to publicly denounce his stance.
"You don't have to agree with trump but the mob can't make me not love him," West tweeted on Wednesday. "We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone. I don't agree with everything anyone does. That's what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought."
Later that day, he tweeted that his wife, Kim Kardashian West, told him to clarify his stance on Trump. "I don't agree with everything Trump does. I don't agree 100% with anyone but myself," he tweeted. Hours later, West tweeted a photo of him in a Make America Great Again hat, then another of that hat signed by Trump.
The president himself responded on Twitter, sharing West's tweet about their "dragon energy." Trump wrote in that tweet, "Thank you Kanye, very cool!"
West's tweets were retweeted by many supporters of the president; he also got shout-outs from Trump's children, who retweeted him. His peers and longtime fans, however, were none too pleased.
Hours after West sent out his tweets expressing support for Trump, Chance The Rapper tweeted a defense of West that further outraged many people. "Talked to him two days ago. He’s in a great space and not affected by folk tryna question his mental or physical health," Chance tweeted. Later, he added: "Black people don’t have to be democrats."
But when Trump thanked West and Chance in a tweet later on, the latter quickly apologized for his defense of West. "Kanye West has performed a great service to the Black Community - Big things are happening and eyes are being opened for the first time in Decades - Legacy Stuff!" Trump tweeted. "Thank you also to Chance and Dr. Darrell Scott, they really get it (lowest Black & Hispanic unemployment in history)."
In response to Trump's tweet, Chance released a statement online that read in part:
I didn't speak up because I agree with what Kanye had to say or cause I f*ck with trump, I did it because I wanted to help my friend and cause I felt like I was being used to attack him. Unfortunately, my attempt to support Kanye is being used to discredit my brothers and sisters in the movement and I can't sit by and let that happen either. ... I'd never support anyone who has made a career out of hatred, racism, and discrimination.
Trump often falls back on the black unemployment rate when praising prominent black figures. But his comments, many say, lack context. While the unemployment rate among African-Americans is lower than ever before, that number has been steadily decreasing for the past eight years.
At the Michigan rally on Saturday, Trump, as he typically does when bringing up the black unemployment rate, also touted the record low unemployment rate among Hispanics and women. While mostly true, Trump's comments obscure the context in which unemployment is falling. And it's something that President Obama, rather than Trump, is likely more deserving of praise for.