FACT CHECK: Did Senate Candidate JD Vance Call Trump Voters Racist As Alleged By His Opponent?

August 14th, 2021
SUN VALLEY, ID - JULY 12: JD Vance, venture capitalist and author of 'Hillbilly Elegy,' attends the second day of the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 12, 2017 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Every July, some of the world's most wealthy and powerful businesspeople from the media, finance, technology and political spheres converge at the Sun Valley Resort for the exclusive weeklong conference. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel claimed on Twitter that fellow candidate JD Vance called former President Donald Trump’s voters racist.


Verdict: Misleading

While Vance did state that some Trump voters were racist, Mandel’s video clips cut off before Vance made comments pushing back on the notion that most are. He has disputed that most Trump voters are racist or driven by racial animus in the past.

Fact Check:

Both Mandel and Vance are running for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat in Ohio, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. The seat is up for grabs because Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman has chosen to retire rather than run for reelection in 2022, the outlet reported.

Mandel made the claim in an Aug. 12 tweet, where he shared a video containing two short clips of Vance talking about Trump supporters. In the first clip, Vance says, “And definitely some people who voted for Trump were racists and they voted for him for racist reasons,” while in the second one he says, “There is definitely an element of Donald Trump’s support that has its basis in racism or xenophobia.”

While Vance did say both of those things, the video Mandel shared misleadingly cuts Vance’s remarks off in a way that removes important context. (RELATED: Fact-Checking Rachel Maddow’s Math On Potential COVID-19 Herd Immunity Deaths)

The first clip comes from an appearance by Vance at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics in February 2017. The full discussion can be found on YouTube.

“Race definitely played a role in the 2016 election. I think race will always play a role in our country. It’s just sort of a constant fact of American life, and definitely some people who voted for Trump were racists and they voted for him for racist reasons,” he said at the event. “I always resist the idea that the real thing driving most Trump voters was racial anxiety or racial animus, partially because I didn’t see it. I mean, the thing that really motivated people to vote for Trump first in the primary and then in the general election was three words: jobs, jobs, jobs.”

He went on to say, “It strikes me as a little bizarre to chalk it up to sort of racial animus because, one, the country is less racist now than it was 15 years ago and we weren’t electing Donald Trump 15 years ago. And two, that wasn’t the core part of his message and that wasn’t what a lot of his voters were really connecting with.”

The second clip in Mandel’s video comes from a September 2016 PBS NewsHour interview. The comment came after Vance was asked whether former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying half of Trump supporters were a “basket of deplorables” was accurate or off-base, a review of the video found.

“There is definitely an element of Donald Trump’s support that has its basis in racism or xenophobia, but a lot of these folks are just really hard-working people who are struggling in really important ways,” Vance said. (RELATED: Viral Video Claims To Show Joe Biden Using Race To Justify Sentencing Disparity For Crack And Cocaine)

Vance has said on other occasions that he thinks most Trump supporters are not racist. For example, Vance said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” in August 2016 that the media “has to be nuanced in how it recognizes that there are some parts that are racial to Donald Trump’s appeal, but there are some significant chunk of his voters and his supporters who are not racists, who are just hurting in a lot of different ways, some economic, some social, some, like I said, seeing heroin overdoses in the newspaper,” according to a transcript.

“I certainly don’t think that most of Trump’s voters are racist or bigots,” he said on “CNN Tonight” in November 2016, according to a transcript. “And I think that the view of Trump’s voters as racist or bigots, is in fact one of the things that drove people to Trump, that drove people away from the mainstream institutions in the Democratic party in the first place.”

Vance also told NPR in November 2016: “There is obviously an element of sort of racial anxiety that animates at least part of Trump’s appeal. But, you know, my sense is the gross majority of people who voted for Trump were not primarily motivated by anything like racial animus.”

Taylor van Kirk, the press secretary for Vance’s campaign, told Check Your Fact in an emailed statement Friday that Vance “certainly does not believe Trump voters are racist.”

“It’s unfortunate that others would purposely edit clips out of context, but as JD has said repeatedly since 2015, he certainly does not believe Trump voters are racist, especially seeing as how an overwhelming majority of his own family and friends voted for him,” the statement said. “JD was proud to support and vote for President Trump in 2020.”

Check Your Fact reached out to Mandel’s spokesperson for comment and will update this article if a response is provided.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter