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Milwaukee reacts to Trump comments


In just a month, Milwaukee will play host to the 2024 Republican National Convention. Former President Donald Trump will accept the Republican nomination. But comments that Trump reportedly made during a closed-door meeting on the Hill yesterday have caused an uproar. Democrats are now looking to turn those comments into a rallying cry ahead of the election. Wisconsin Public Radio's Evan Casey reports.

EVAN CASEY, BYLINE: When former President Trump met with U.S. House Republicans Thursday, he used the word horrible in a discussion about Milwaukee and other cities. It was first reported by Punchbowl News. Whether Trump was specifically calling Milwaukee horrible is a matter of debate, but Milwaukee residents are defending the city. Here's how Mayor Cavalier Johnson responded.


CAVALIER JOHNSON: I find it kind of perplexing. I find it kind of strange that he would insult the largest city in Wisconsin because he's running for president. He obviously wants to win Wisconsin, you know, win the election. And so to insult the state that's hosting your convention I think is kind of bizarre, actually. It's kind of unhinged in a way.

CASEY: Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said he's ready to prove Trump and other Republicans wrong when they come to the city for the four-day event.


DAVID CROWLEY: It is my hope that not only our former president, but everybody who's going to be embarking on Milwaukee sees everything that we have to offer.

CASEY: But a Trump spokesperson says those comments were falsely characterized and he was talking about crime. A source who was in the room also reiterated to NPR that Trump was talking about crime and said he mentioned several cities. The source asked to remain anonymous to discuss details of a private meeting. And the former President Trump discussed the comment himself during an interview with Fox News.


DONALD TRUMP: I think it was very clear what I meant. I said, we're very concerned with crime. I love Milwaukee. I have great friends in Milwaukee. But it's - as you know, the crime numbers are terrible, and we have to be very careful.

CASEY: While some crimes are up in Milwaukee, homicides are down 41% this year compared to two years ago. Nonfatal shootings are also down this year compared to last year, along with motor vehicle thefts and aggravated assault. However, in an interview on local Milwaukee TV station WISN 12, Republican U.S. Representative Bryan Steil also echoed that sentiment from the former president and said his comments related to crime.


BRYAN STEIL: The people of Milwaukee are terrific, and there's no place better to live than the state of Wisconsin. And so this is simply the media trying to not talk about the issues and the challenges that the city of Milwaukee faces.

CASEY: A statement from Trump's communication team also said the former president was referring to the way Milwaukee handled the election, alluding to false claims he's made that he won Wisconsin four years ago.

In light of the news, billboards are now going up across Milwaukee with the horrible city quote on them. President Biden's campaign is also now selling a shirt that says not a horrible city on the front. In a post on X, Biden posted a photo of him holding a Milwaukee Bucks Jersey when the Bucks visited the White House after winning the NBA championship in 2021. I happen to love Milwaukee, Biden wrote in the post. Trump is making a campaign stop in Racine, Wis., next week. For NPR News, I'm Evan Casey in Milwaukee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Evan Casey
[Copyright 2024 NPR]