President Barack Obama said Friday that 2016 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's stark warnings about America's fragility do not reflect reality.
"This idea that America is somehow on the verge of collapse, this vision of violence and chaos everywhere, doesn’t really jibe with the experience of most people," the president told reporters during a joint news conference with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Obama said he did not watch Trump deliver his nomination acceptance speech Thursday but did read Trump’s remarks painting a grim picture of the nation’s security and economic state.
The 76-minute speech, which capped a four-day convention, repeatedly accused the Obama administration and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton of plunging America into violence, chaos, terror and lawlessness.
Obama acknowledged that some cities across the country had experienced an increase in killings and violence, but said that's not the whole story.
“The fact of the matter is the murder rate today, the violence rate today, is far lower than it was when Ronald Reagan was president and lower than when I took office,” Obama said.
Shootings of officers
Trump, who has declared himself the “law and order” candidate, also blamed Obama for inflamed race relations in America and the recent fatal shootings of police officers in Dallas, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Tensions had flared after the release of two videos showing police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota fatally shooting two African-American men.
Trump called Obama’s admission that bias remains in America “irresponsible rhetoric” used to “divide us by race and color,” and that has “made America a more dangerous environment for everyone."
In acknowledging the recent killings, the president said “we’re all heartbroken by that, and we’re all puzzled by how we could rebuild trust and support law enforcement.”
However, he added, the rate of “intentional killings of police officers is also significantly lower than when Ronald Reagan was president.”
Trump also said that because of the Obama administration’s policies, “illegal immigrants with criminal records” who have been ordered to leave the country continue to stay.
Trump also claimed 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records who have been ordered to leave the country "are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens."
Fears without 'basis in fact'
Obama noted his administration has put “unprecedented resources in our courts” and said the current rate of illegal immigration is two-thirds lower than it was when Reagan was president. Although Democrats and Republicans are split on how to move the country forward, Obama said, “we are not going to make good decisions based on fears that don’t have basis in fact.”
Peña Nieto, making his first visit to the White House since January, declined to weigh in on the presidential race, instead saying he has the “deepest respect” for both Trump and Clinton. The Mexican leader has said Trump's comments about Mexicans bringing drugs, crime and rape to the U.S. have hurt relations between the two countries, but he vowed that his country would continue to work in a “constructive manner and in good faith” with whoever is elected president.
“I have respect for this process,” Peña Nieto said, adding it is up to Americans to decide who will be the leader their country.
The two leaders spoke after a meeting in which they agreed to deepen cooperation on issues ranging from security to trade to the environment.
Peña Nieto's visit, which was just announced this week, was expected to build on discussions from the North American Leaders' Summit in Ottawa less than a month ago. Obama met with Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to hail the benefits of the 22-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, at a time when international trade deals are being attacked in the United States and Europe.
Together, the three countries account for almost 27 percent of the world's economic output.
Obama said that in light of the “heated rhetoric” in politics, it is important to recall that Mexico is “critically important” to the United States.