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PolitiFact FL: Trump says he's 'fine with affirmative action', but has worked against it

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday in Orlando, Fla.
John Raoux
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday in Orlando, Fla.

The same day the U.S. Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in college admissions, the presidential campaign of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pounced on fellow Republican candidate and former President Donald Trump to paint him as supporting affirmative action — a stance unpopular with many in the GOP.

"Sad day for affirmative-action advocates," read the June 29 tweet from the DeSantis War Room, a rapid response arm of DeSantis’ campaign. The tweet included a clip of an Aug. 16, 2015, interview in which Trump discussed affirmative action on NBC’s "Meet the Press."

READ MORE: PolitiFact FL: DeSantis said not ‘a single book’ was banned. Districts have removed dozens

DeSantis separately tweeted his support for the court ruling without mentioning Trump.

Trump expressed support for affirmative action during the "Meet the Press" interview. But that example is an outlier compared with Trump’s presidential record and his more recent comments on affirmative action.

Neither the DeSantis nor the Trump campaign responded to requests for comment.

Trump's 2015 interview

The 2015 interview with host Chuck Todd briefly touched on affirmative action.

Here’s the exchange between Todd and Trump:

Todd: Affirmative action. Should we keep it, yes or no?

Trump: I’m fine with affirmative action. I mean I … We’ve been having …

Todd: Should it be expanded, or should it be limited?

Trump: Well it should be … you have to also go free market, you have to go capability, you have to do a lot of things. But I’m fine with affirmative action. We’ve lived with it for a long time and I’ve lived with it for a long time, and I’ve had great relationships with lots of people, so I’m fine with it.

However, Trump’s more recent actions and comments suggest he changed his stance on affirmative action.

What Trump has said and done since 2015

By focusing on the 8-year-old "Meet the Press" interview, the DeSantis campaign ignores what has transpired since, including actions by Trump’s presidential administration.

The Trump administration’s actions opposing affirmative action include:

  • In an August 2018 court filing, the Justice Department signaled its support for Students for Fair Admissions, a group that had sued Harvard University over its affirmative action admissions policy. That was one of two cases that produced the June 29 Supreme Court rulings that overturned affirmative action. Trump’s then-attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said in a statement about the court filing, "No American should be denied admission to school because of their race."
  • In April 2019, following pressure from the Office for Civil Rights in Trump’s Education Department, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center entered an agreement to stop using race as a factor for admissions, according to news reports.
  • In February 2020, the administration filed an amicus brief in the Harvard case, arguing that "Harvard’s expansive use of race in its admissions process violates federal civil-rights law and Supreme Court precedent."
  • In October 2020, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Yale University, arguing that it had discriminated against applicants on the basis of race and national origin. The department dropped the lawsuit in February 2021, shortly after President Joe Biden took office.

Then there’s Trump’s role in nominating three of the conservative Supreme Court justices who were among the majority in the recent cases: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

After the affirmative action ruling was made public June 29, Trump posted on his social media platform, Truth Social, to show his support for the decision, calling it a "great day for America."

Our ruling

In a tweet, DeSantis’ campaign labeled Trump an "affirmative action advocate."

Trump expressed support for affirmative action during a 2015 "Meet the Press" interview.

But focusing on the interview ignores what has transpired since, including actions Trump’s presidential administration took to oppose affirmative action. And Trump appointed three justices to the Supreme Court who signed on to the June 29 majority opinion that overturned the policy.

Trump also applauded the Supreme Court ruling in a June 29 Truth Social post.

The statement contains an element of truth but ignores facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Our sources

Jeff Cercone is a staff writer for PolitiFact.
Louis Jacobson has been with PolitiFact since 2009, currently as senior correspondent.