JACKSON, Miss. — As Donald Trump listed the ways that he would make life better for African Americans living in poverty, he suddenly shouted, "Hillary Clinton is a bigot!"
The line was included in prepared remarks distributed to reporters, and it seemed to catch many in the crowd by surprise, triggering a delayed and somewhat brief round of cheers and applause. A woman standing behind Trump grimaced at the comment, her eyes widening as she seemed unsure whether she should clap. Another woman seated in the upper tier of the arena approvingly shouted, "Yeah! Yeah!"
As the overwhelmingly white crowd tried to figure out how to respond to the loaded accusations, Trump kept talking.
" ... who sees people of color only as votes, not as human-beings worthy of a better future," Trump said. "She's going to do nothing for African Americans. She's going to do nothing for the Hispanics. She's only going to take care of herself, her husband, her consultants, her donors — these are the people she cares about. She doesn't care what her policies have done to your communities. She doesn't care."
More than a week ago, Trump launched an aggressive campaign to win over black voters — or at least weaken their wide and strong support for Clinton. He has accused Democrats of presiding over dangerous inner cities and not doing enough to pull African Americans out of poverty. At his rallies, Trump often speaks in broad generalities, suggesting that all blacks are underemployed or unemployed and living in dangerous neighborhoods that he has described as being more dangerous than war zones.
Trump has accused Clinton of bigotry before and said at a rally in Ohio on Monday: "We are also going to reject the bigotry of Hillary Clinton, who sees people of color only as votes and not as human beings worthy of a better future." But those comments did not land with the same impact as his comment did on Wednesday night in Mississippi.
After the rally, several of Trump's supporters continued to applaud the line.
"I agree," said Cathy Lott, who traveled about 60 miles to see Trump speak and said she cannot understand why African Americans continue to support Democrats. "They haven't done anything for them."
Parker Dykes, 72, of Bay Springs, Miss., said Trump was striking an inclusive tone.
"He wants unity between all of our different races," Dykes said.
Johnson reported from Washington.