YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A conversation that a Valley businesswoman and Donald Trump supporter had with a British reporter has now cost her both her position with the campaign as well as what could have been a spot in the nation’s electoral college later this year.
Kathy Miller resigned as volunteer chair for Mahoning County’s Trump campaign Thursday morning after portions of her interview with The Guardian were released online. In it, she’s heard claiming racism wasn’t a problem in the U.S. until Barack Obama became president. She also told a reporter that African Americans who haven’t succeeded over the past 50 years only have themselves to blame.
The video quickly went viral, and within hours, Miller was also removed as one of Ohio’s 18 electors.
When questioned Thursday about the interview, Miller said she made the comments after she said the reporter repeatedly asked her whether she thought Trump was racist.
“Maybe my guard wasn’t up that this was going to be a little bit of a hit piece,” she said.
She added that she believed the point of view of the story was unfair and said locally, Trump is supported by all races.
“I think they always take things out of context… I think the one comment about was voting. When I was in school, civics was very important. I don’t think it’s taught like it is like it was in my age group,” she said.
The Guardian quoted Miller as saying that only a small portion of the African American population turns out to vote in elections. She attributed what she called low numbers to “the way they’re raised.”
Congressman Tim Ryan, a Democrat, said the comments made by Miller are “a new low in the Trump campaign’s race.”
“Donald J.Trump has inspired, reinforced, and added fuel to these sorts of racist and divisive comments over the course of his life and his candidacy. I call on Donald Trump to disavow her comments immediately,” he said in a statement. “It is disrespectful to the real, lived experience of African Americans to assign blame, and it paints over the serious work that needs to be done to create a safer and more prosperous nation for everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity.”
Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said comments like this keep the country divided.
“They are not productive in any single sense of the word and I think that we all need to go in together, whether you are Democrat or Republican, to denounce these kind of statements that further polarize our country and cause greater problems for our cities and communities throughout this country.”
Following the interview, Trump’s Ohio campaign released a statement:
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. I have accepted Kathy Miller’s resignation as the Mahoning County chair in light of these inappropriate comments. We have asked Tracey Winbush, who has been actively involved in our Mahoning County and statewide campaign, to take her place and serve as our new volunteer Mahoning County Trump Chair and to replace her as an elector to the Electoral College,” said Bob Paduchik, Ohio’s director of Donald J. Trump For President, Inc.
Youngstown State University Political Science Chair Dr. Paul Sracic said the decision was made quickly to help contain the backlash.
“This was extremely quick, and I think because what they realized is some of what was in that video is indefensible, and I think they didn’t want to go in that direction. They wanted to end that story quickly,” he said.
Sracic admits whether that strategy succeeds isn’t certain yet, depending on how the Clinton campaign and its supporters react to it.
While Mahoning County’s new campaign chair, Tracey Winbush, isn’t talking about incident, others say they found Miller’s comments offensive.
“She’s out of touch, number one. Secondly, insensitive, and thirdly, she really needs to walk a mile in an African American’s shoes,” said Youngstown Pastor Kenny Simon, whose late father Lonnie was part of the civil rights movement of the 60s and 70s.
Others say Miller’s comments reflect the message being spread by Trump’s campaign, even though he appeared in Cleveland Wednesday with a number of black religious leaders.
“All he wants to do is to convince decent white people that he’s not a racist, number one; and number two, to try to shave off just a little bit of Hillary Clinton’s large lead with people of color,” said Jaladah Aslam, a Clinton supporter.
Mahoning County Republican Party Chair Mark Munroe denounced Miller’s comments, saying they are “shocking, offensive, and in no way reflect the views of the Mahoning County Republican Party.” He went on to say:
Miller’s comments indicate that she does not have the understanding of the many unique challenges faced by our friends in the black community. One of the primary reasons we are excited about the Trump campaign is the hope and promise of bringing economic opportunity to all Americans.
Meanwhile, Miller says locally, she believes a large number of people of all races support Trump, because she says he will bring jobs to the area.
Winbush replaced Miller as local campaign coordinator on Thursday.
A YouTube video of Winbush that shows her admitting to spending several months “bashing the crap out of Trump” resurfaced, along with some retweets against the candidate from her Twitter account.
Winbush responded to the public criticism over the tweets by saying, “I do talk radio. The comments are not mine, but it was retweeted because of the article.”
The Trump campaign released a statement attributed to Winbush. In it, she says she is “100 percent behind Mr. Trump.”