Donald Trump’s campaign chair in a crucial Ohio county has resigned after an interview with the Guardian in which she said there was no racism in America until the election of Barack Obama.
Kathy Miller, who was coordinating the Republican nominee’s campaign in Mahoning County, apologized for her “inappropriate” remarks on Thursday and said she would no longer have a role with the campaign.
Her resignation came just hours after the release of the first film in a series of election videos, Anywhere but Washington.
The video included an interview with Miller in which she said there was “no racism” during the 1960s and claimed black people who have not succeeded over the past half-century only have themselves to blame.
“If you’re black and you haven’t been successful in the last 50 years, it’s your own fault. You’ve had every opportunity, it was given to you,” she said.
“You’ve had the same schools everybody else went to. You had benefits to go to college that white kids didn’t have. You had all the advantages and didn’t take advantage of it. It’s not our fault, certainly.”
Miller added: “I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected. We never had problems like this … Now, with the people with the guns, and shooting up neighborhoods, and not being responsible citizens, that’s a big change, and I think that’s the philosophy that Obama has perpetuated on America.”
Mark Munroe, the Mahoning chair for the GOP, said he immediately contacted the Trump campaign in Ohio asking for Miller to be dismissed over her “insane comments”.
He told the Guardian that Trump had undertaken impressive steps to appeal to minority voters and that Miller’s remarks risked jeopardizing his standing in Ohio. “We should not let those really inappropriate comments affect the Trump campaign.”
Miller’s resignation follows in the wake of months of commentary from Trump about race that African American commentators have widely interpreted as offensive.
During the primaries Trump was condemned for initially failing to disavow support from a former Ku Klux Klan leader and last month asked black voters “what do you have to lose?” by supporting his bid for the White House.
On Tuesday, Trump told supporters in North Carolina: “African American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before. Ever, ever ever.”
Mahoning, the eastern Ohio county where Miller was coordinating Trump’s campaign, is a historically Democratic stronghold that includes Youngstown, a former steel city that has experienced decades of economic decline.
The county is reputedly “ground zero” for disaffected white, working-class Democrats who are drawn to Trump’s promise to boost manufacturing by renegotiating international free-trade agreements.
Before the primaries, some 6,000 Democrats in Mahoning switched party affiliation to Republican, reportedly to vote for Trump.
As well as chairing the campaign in Mahoning, a volunteer role, Miller was an official Ohio elector to the electoral college for the Trump campaign. She said in a statement that she had decided to resign from both positions.
“My personal comments were inappropriate, and I apologize. I am not a spokesperson for the campaign and was not speaking on its behalf,” she said. “I have resigned as the volunteer campaign chair in Mahoning County and as an elector to the electoral college to avoid any unnecessary distractions.”
Bob Paduchik, Ohio state director for the Trump campaign, said he had replaced Miller with another local campaigner. “Our county chairs are volunteers who signed up to help organize grassroots outreach like door-knocking and phone calls, they are not spokespeople for the campaign.”
(h/t The Guardian)