Video: Ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Concerned DeSantis Campaign Using His Name Unfairly

June 29, 2023, 10:20 PM by  Allan Lengel

Kwame Kilpatrick in video

Ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is concerned about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's presidential campaign unfairly using his early release from prison as cheap fodder to attack ex-President Donald Trump.

"Let's have a real conversation, let's not do one-liners" about criminal justice reform, Kilpatrick said in a statement issued Thursday night in a video released to Deadline Detroit. 

In January 2021, Trump commuted his 28-year-sentence to time served for public corruption convictions. Kilpatrick, 53, ended up serving nearly eight years. Trump leads the polls among Republican presidential candidates, followed by DeSantis. 

A recent campaign video released by a pro-DeSantis super Pac, "Never Back Down," attacked Trump for commuting Kilpatrick's sentence and portrayed the ex-mayor as a "stone-cold crook." It said even President Barack Obama did not commute the sentence. Kilpatrick says the ad unfairly characterizes him and his federal case. 

Kilpatrick also noted that Marc Short, who was Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, recently appeared on Fox News and criticized Trump's pardons and commutations. He did not mention Kilpatrick by name. But Kilpatrick says another Pence supporter did mention his early release in social media.

"I had just heard that my name had recently come up in conversations and speeches," Kilpatrick said, adding: "I'm so looking forward to talking to either of them about the serious issues that they're discussing regarding criminal justice."

The DeSantis video demonizes Kilpatrick, and could be viewed by some as reminiscent of the Willie Horton Republican presidential ad in 1988 that tried to portray convicted murderer Horton as a scary Black man who went on a crime spree after being released on a weekend furlough in Massachusetts.

"It's the anicient politics that puts the big Black boogeyman in front of people and makes people scared to support him," Kilpatrick said in a phone interview Thursday.

"I just pray that this time people are a little smarter than that. I really want to engage the issues that matter in our country; particularly, you look at second chances, mercy and also violence and police reform. All of these issues fall into this banner. To oversimplify it with the big Black boogeyman, I think is a disservice, not just to politics but to Americans."

During his video he makes brief reference to the "First Step Act," signed into law by Trump in 2018. The law is designed to "improve criminal justice outcomes, as well as to reduce the size of the federal prison population while also creating mechanisms to maintain public safety."

Kilpatrick currently runs a virtual ministry from Georgia called Movemental Ministries.

He says he still looks forward to shaking Trump's hand and thanking him for helping him and his family. But he added: "I haven't thrown my support for anyone" in the 2024 race.

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