Just days away from the presidential election, Republican nominee Donald Trump is training his attacks on a target with arguably greater star power than his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. At a campaign event in Tampa, Florida, Trump went after hip hop performer Jay Z Saturday, criticizing the musician’s “language” following his appearance at a pro-Clinton rally the previous night.
“I actually like Jay Z, but you know the language last night,” Trump said Saturday. “I was thinking. Maybe I’ll just try it. Should I use that language for one event? Can you imagine if I said that? So, he used every word in the book. I won’t even use the initials because I’ll get in trouble. They’ll get me in trouble. He used every word in the book last night.”
On Friday, Jay Z took the stage alongside his wife Beyonce in a get-out-the-vote effort with other big names like Chance the Rapper, Big Sean and J. Cole. The concert was held at Cleveland State University in Ohio, a crucial battleground state.
Trump did not make clear what words he took issue with, but Jay Z kicked off his performance with his hit song “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” -- which contains some explicit language, including the n-word. A political message blasted on the gigantic screen behind him: “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.”
Later, Jay Z urged the crowd to vote with an appeal to civility.
“We are on the doorsteps of history,” he said. “We are here tonight. I’m here tonight because respect matters. Respect matters to me.”
Jay Z didn’t name the Republican nominee during the rally, but he alluded to the dangers of Trump’s rhetoric.
“This other guy -- I don’t have any ill will towards him,” the rapper said. “But his conversation is divisive and that’s not an evolved soul to me. So he cannot be my president, he cannot be our president. Once you divide us you weaken us. We’re stronger together.”
At his own rally, Trump continued to hold up Jay Z’s profanity as an example of political hypocrisy, even mentioning Beyonce in his criticism.
“And Beyonce. And I like them both. But he used language last night that was so bad,” he went on. “And then Hillary said, ‘I don’t like Donald Trump’s lewd language.’ My lewd language! Tell you what. I’ve never said what he said in my life. But that shows you the phoniness of politicians and the phoniness of the whole system, folks.”
Trump has been criticized for his own use of explicit language, especially after a 2005 tape recording from unaired “Access Hollywood” footage showed Trump bragging about his sexually aggressive behavior toward women and saying that he would sometimes “grab [women] by the p----.” The GOP nominee has defended his language, calling it “locker room talk.”
And though Trump has not been heard using the n-word this election cycle, he has also had a celebrity surrogate use that language at his campaign rallies.
In September, boxing promoter and Trump surrogate Don King, who was once convicted of manslaughter, gave a controversial speech at an Ohio church where he invoked the n-word in his introduction to Trump.
“America needs Donald Trump. We need Donald Trump, especially black people,” said King, as a smiling Trump sat directly behind him during the pastors event. “Because you have to understand, brothers and sisters -- they tried to tell me you have to emulate and imitate the white man and then you can be successful. So we tried that.”
“I told Michael Jackson -- I said, if you poor, you are a poor negro,” King, who was pardoned for his manslaughter conviction by the Ohio governor in 1983, went on. “I would use the n-word. But if you rich, you are a rich negro. If you are intelligent, intellectual, you are an intellectual negro.”
King continued -- and seemed to slip in his language. “If you are dancing and sliding and gliding n-----,” he said. He laughed, before adding, “I mean, I mean, negro. You are dancing and sliding and gliding negro. So dare not alienate because you cannot assimilate. So you know, you going to be a negro till you die.”
At the time, Trump, who has prided himself on his no-holds-barred rhetoric while on the campaign trail, continued smiling.