In a brief video released Friday evening, Donald Trump somberly looked into the camera and told Americans that the attack on police officers at a peaceful protest in Dallas on Thursday "is an attack on our country and an attack on our families." He added that racial division in the United States has worsened and that "too many Americans are living in terrible poverty and violence," although he did not share specific ideas for how to change this.
"The shooting of the 12 police officers in Dallas, Texas, has shaken the soul of our nation," Trump said in opening his remarks, which were broadcast by major television networks on Friday evening.
Trump said he met with some members of the Dallas police force last month when he visited the city for a political rally, describing the force as "mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters."
"They are all on my mind today; they are on everybody's mind," Trump said. "A brutal attack on our police force is an attack on our country and an attack on our families. We must stand in solidarity with law enforcement, which we must remember is the force between civilization and total chaos. Every American has the right to live in safety and peace."
Trump then mentioned by name two black men who were shot and killed by white police officers this week, prompting the peaceful rally in Dallas where a sniper opened fire and killed five officers and wounded several others. Trump faced criticism earlier in the day for releasing a statement that referenced "two motorists," even though only one of the men was in a car, and for not naming them. Later in the day, the statement on Trump's campaign website was changed to say "two people."
"The deaths of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota also make clear how much more work we have to do to make every American feel that their safety is protected," Trump said. "Too many Americans are living in terrible poverty and violence. We need jobs, and we are going to produce those jobs. Racial divisions have gotten worse, not better. Too many headlines flash across our screens every day about the rising crime and rising death tolls in our cities."
Trump did not offer specifics as to how he would end racial division, create jobs or reduce crime. Over the past several months, Trump has repeatedly blamed President Obama for racially dividing the country, and he has been an outspoken defender of police officers, saying that many are afraid to do their jobs and that sometimes they have to be rough with suspected criminals.
Trump's response to the shooting in Dallas was remarkably different from his response to the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando last month. In the wake of that tragedy, Trump circulated inaccurate or unsubstantiated information about the shooting, did a series of television interviews, implied that Obama was sympathetic to the gunman and tweeted that he was being congratulated for being "right on radical Islamic terrorism."
On Friday morning, Trump issued a statement and canceled a policy speech he had planned to give Friday afternoon in Miami. He then stayed uncharacteristically quiet. As of Friday evening, Trump had not done any televised interviews and sent only a handful of tweets, including one linking to the statement and another that criticized Clinton for appearing on CNN: "Isn't it sad that on a day of national tragedy Hillary Clinton is answering softball questions about her email lies on @CNN?"
New York City Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton said that Trump's campaign asked whether the candidate could visit with police officers during a roll call, but he turned down the request.
"Our interest is staying out of the politics of the moment, not to provide photo ops," Bratton said in response to a question from a reporter during a news conference. "If Mr. Trump wants to speak to me, I would be happy to brief him on what we’re doing... But we are not in the business of providing photo ops for our candidates.”
Trump ended his brief video remarks by calling for "prayers, love, unity and leadership."
"Our children deserve a better future than what we are making them live through today," Trump said. "But to get them there, we must work together and stand together. We will make America safe again."