NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – At a black business conference in the key early primary state of South Carolina on Wednesday, Donald Trump addressed a half-full room of white people.
The speech — billed as an address to the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce at their annual conference — turned out to be an address to more than 500 Trump supporters with a few dozen conference-goers in attendance.
The event came as polls suggest Trump’s decisive lead in the GOP presidential contest has begun to shrink, as other outsider candidates rise.
Those who did attend the real estate mogul’s speech — far fewer than the 1,500 RSVPs the campaign told msnbc they’d received — cheered as Trump boasted of his strong poll numbers and slammed the media.
Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that he’d stop appearing on Fox News shows, prompting the network to fire back Wednesday afternoon that the candidate’s latest declaration was the result of Fox News cancelling his scheduled Thursday appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor.”
“The press predictably jumped to cover his tweet, creating yet another distraction from any real issues that Mr. Trump might be questioned about. When coverage doesn’t go his way, he engages in personal attacks on our anchors and hosts, which has grown stale and tiresome,” a spokesperson for Fox News said in a statement. ”He doesn’t seem to grasp that candidates telling journalists what to ask is not how the media works in this country.”
Trump has been embroiled in conflict with Fox and its star anchor, Megyn Kelly, ever since the network hosted the first GOP debate in August. While his performance in last week’s CNN debate was generally considered to lack standout moments, Trump told the small crowd he’d been victorious.
“Every single poll said Trump won the debate,” the GOP front-runner boasted. “The pundits don’t say that, they really hate me, the people say it, the pundits don’t say it. The people are really smart, they really know what’s going on.”
But the view from the media area in the back of the ballroom wasn’t so bright: the last seven rows of seats were empty and while Trump’s largely-white supporters jumped and cheered for their candidate, black conference-goers looked on with far less enthusiasm.
“He’s very entertaining,” conference attendee Donna Newton told msnbc after the event as she laughed with two friends. “The stuff that comes out of his mouth is unbelievable.”
Nonetheless, Trump used his remarks to tout his support with African-American voters.
“Here’s a poll,” Trump said. “Trump receives 25% of the black vote in general election … If you win 25% of the black vote, it’s over, you win!”
In addition to disparaging the media, Trump spent a good portion of his 45-minute address complaining about other candidates – ribbing Marco Rubio for having worse hair than himself and poking fun at how sweaty Mike Huckabee got during the last GOP debate. He also threw fuel on the growing debate over whether Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign was behind rumors that then-Sen. Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., calling her “the original birther – but don’t let that change your vote.”
“I respect women more than I respect men!” he declared, though during his address he disparaged Clinton as “shrill,” Fiorina for fundraising, and another woman who sued him as “a horrible woman, who just happened to be elderly, but a horrible woman.”