In a 1997 legal deposition, Donald Trump argued that educators lack intelligence, saying that teachers are “very stupid.”
Trump’s attack on educators, which came to light in a recent examination of his views on education, come as the Republican nominee is still reeling from the fallout from his previous remarks, many of which have been decried as sexist, racist, or simply intolerant.
Trump’s comments about teachers first appeared in a decades-old Los Angeles Times article and have not been reported upon since. At the time, Trump sued the Los Angeles School Board to obtain development rights to a piece of land in downtown Los Angeles.
During the deposition in Los Angeles, Trump said: “I assumed that the people essentially teaching the kids were not stupid. They turned out to be very stupid.” He also assailed the school board, describing the members as “fools,” and complained about the city, saying that the development rights were taken from him “as viciously as in Nazi Germany.”
These comments fit into a long-standing pattern of anti-teacher rhetoric from the Republican nominee.
Trump’s writings show that he has long viewed teachers as a type of societal punching bag. In at least one instance, Trump bragged about literally assaulting an educator, and in his 1987 book, Art of the Deal, Trump boasted about hitting his grade-school music teacher for not “knowing anything about music.”
In his book The America We Deserve, Trump goes further, blaming teachers unions for America’s education ills, arguing that the organizations are nothing more than self-interested monopolies that harm education with their anti-choice agenda.
Trump’s anti-teacher views are also reflected in his recent policy statements. On the campaign trail, Trump often promotes dismantling the nation’s public education system, which would result in significant educator job loss. Trump has also repeatedly called for the elimination of the Department of Education, which would spark the loss of almost half a million teacher jobs.
Some of Trump’s closest advisers have advocated similar views. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), for example, once said that teachers unions “deserve a punch in the face.”
Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr. has also attacked teachers, criticizing the Democratic Party for being “more concerned about protecting the jobs of tenured teachers than serving the students in desperate need of a good education.” In that same speech, Trump Jr. also implied teachers were only in the profession for their own self-serving agenda.
The approach of the Trump campaign standards in marked contrast to Hillary Clinton’s approach. In recent remarks, the Democratic presidential hopeful has proposed a campaign to “elevate” the teaching profession.
“One of my main goals as president will be to launch a national campaign to modernize and elevate the profession of teaching,” Clinton said. “To reach out to encourage more talented young people to become teachers. To reach out and encourage more talented mid-career professionals to do the same.”
As for the teacher who Trump allegedly gave a black eye, the educator appeared to have the last word: near his death, the teacher told his family that “when that kid [Trump] was 10, even then he was a little shit.”
Ulrich Boser is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress focusing on education, crime, and other social issues.