In this Jan. 21, 2019, students from Benedict College line up for a march during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Dome event in Columbia, S.C., an event that regularly draws presidential candidates. Now, the college will be the site of political interest once again, with Donald Trump set to speak at the school on Oct. 25, 2019, at a criminal justice forum.
Photo: Sean Rayford (Getty)

Benedict College will play host to a criminal-justice forum this weekend, and Donald Trump is slated to be one of the speakers at the HBCU.

Located in election 2020 battleground South Carolina, Benedict is hosting the 2019 Second Step Presidential Justice Forum from Friday to Sunday, and Trump is set to headline Friday’s one-day symposium, “The Conservative Case for Criminal Justice Reform,” according to the college.


On Saturday and Sunday, Democrats vying to win the Oval Office in next year’s presidential elections are set to appear on the campus for a “Democratic Candidates Forum.”

Expected for that portion, according to The State, are former Vice President Joe Biden, former U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, ex-Housing Secretary Julian Castro, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and U.S. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

“We are excited for our students who will witness, first-hand, this historical bipartisan engagement,” college President Roslyn Artis said in a statement released by the college, “... tangible evidence for our students of how the diversity of thought and positive social action work together in the democracy of our country.”

Despite the college’s announcement, The State reports that event organizers were keeping news of Trump’s involvement under wraps as much as possible, for fear “the president would either change his mind or alienate those who had already committed to attending or participating.”


With polls showing support for Trump among African Americans at a dismal 4 percent, it’s no stretch to think Trump’s appearance at an HBCU may cause some ripple. According to The State, the weekend conference is expected to feature “the first-ever HBCU ‘straw poll’” where Trump may be, uhm, trounced.

And while college officials stated that Trump would be appearing in his capacity as the occupant of the Oval Office, and not as a candidate for re-election, neither his Democratic opponents nor anyone else, given Trump’s track record, (is he ever not in “rally” mode?) are likely to let him forget that the race is on—especially at a criminal justice forum.


Per The State:

soon after learning the news that Trump planned to participate in the event as well, candidates were making it clear that they would also be using the venue to draw contrast between, and directly attack, Trump.

“Donald Trump still believes the Central Park 5 are guilty and refuses to adequately apologize for stoking racism in the wake of a terrible crime,” said Jerusalem Demsas, the South Carolina campaign spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., referring to how Trump called for the death penalty for five young men of color who were ultimately exonerated after being convicted for assault of a white jogger in 1989.


However, as The State notes, the Benedict forum is pegged as being a follow-up to the First Step Act, the criminal justice reform bill passed last year under Trump’s watch, and legislation that has resulted in the release from prison of “thousands” of nonviolent offenders.

The forum could serve as an opportunity for Trump to speak to those issues.

Maybe he’ll bring up Kanye and Kim, or A$AP Rocky?

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