John Legend took former President Obama advisor David Axelrod to task Friday night after the advisor said he doesn’t believe Trump is racist.
In a heated exchange on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, Axelrod explained that he doesn’t think Trump personally holds racist beliefs, but that he merely exploited racist sentiment to get elected. Axelrod said that while Trump has said “outrageous, offensive” things, he doesn’t believe Trump is actually racist.
John Legend responded by saying “I don’t care if he is,” and asserting that “What he’s saying is causing racial violence.”
Bill Maher chimed in to side with Legend, citing the 1973 civil rights case that accused Trump’s real estate business of refusing to rent apartments to black tenants, and his controversial remarks about the Central Park Five, where he still questioned the innocence of four black men and one Latino man who’d been accused of raping a white women, despite the fact that DNA evidence had exonerated them.
Axelrod said he thinks there’s a distinction between inciting racism and actually being racist, and that Trump’s use of race is arguably worse for the very fact that, according to Axelrod, “He knew better.” But Legend said “I don’t care if he knows better, I care what he’s saying and what it’s going to cause in the public.”
Axelrod held his opinion that Trump is not personally a racist, but did concede that Trump’s use of racial tension in his campaign was, as he put it, “insidious.”
Writer Ana Marie Cox, who was also a guest on the show, said it doesn’t matter how Trump feels about race personally. The fact is, she said, “There are people in America who woke up on Wednesday morning who feel that their lives are more in danger than they were on Tuesday.”
“And these are friends of mine,” added Legend.
After the interview, Legend fielded criticism about the interview on Twitter and continued the conversation about the election’s effects on racism.
Despite his skepticism, though, Legend says he still hopes for peace under a Trump presidency.