Gregory Cheadle, the black man singled out by President Trump as “my African-American” at a campaign rally in 2016, is leaving the Republican Party and pursuing a congressional run as an independent, PBS News reported Thursday.
The 62-year-old real estate broker told PBS that he sees the GOP as pursuing a “pro-white” agenda and is using black people like him as “political pawns.”
Cheadle, who switched from being an independent to a Republican in 2001, said he made his decision to leave the party when many Republicans failed to condemn Trump’s tweets telling four congresswomen of color to back to their countries and backed the president’s attacks on Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Baltimore.
“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” Trump wrote at the time. “Then come back and show us how it is done.”
That same month, Trump said Cummings’ Maryland district which includes parts of Baltimore was “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”
“President Trump is a rich guy who is mired in white privilege to the extreme,” Cheadle told PBS.
“Republicans are too sheepish to call him out on anything and they are afraid of losing their positions and losing any power themselves,” he said.
He said that after those attacks, many of his Republican friends defended Trump.
“They were sidestepping the people of color issue and saying that, ‘No, it’s not racist,’ ” he said. “They were saying these people were socialists and communists. That’s what they were saying. And I thought this is a classic case of whites not seeing racism because they want to put blinders on and make it about something else.”
Cheadle became widely known in June 2016 when Trump pointed to him at a rally in Redding, Calif. and said, “Look at my African American over here. Look at him. Are you the greatest?”
At the time, Cheadle laughed along with the president and the crowd and said he wasn’t offended by the incident.
“I’m more critical of it today than I was back then because today I wonder to what extent he said that for political gain or for attention,” he told PBS.