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NAACP president to CNN: Donald Trump declined invitation to speak at convention

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Posted at 7:50 PM, Jul 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-13 07:34:07-04

CINCINNATI -- Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump declined an invitation to speak at the NAACP Annual Convention, NAACP president and CEO Cornell William Brooks told CNN Tuesday evening.

The civil rights organization invited both Trump and his apparent rival, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, to appear at the convention, which hosted both Republican Mitt Romney and Democratic nominee Barack Obama in 2012. Only Clinton accepted, according to Brooks.

"Mr. Trump has declined our invitation, so we will hear from Secretary Clinton," Brooks said on CNN's Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. "Namely, the explanation given was that (the Republicans) are holding their convention at the same time. We are, of course, in Cincinnati; they are in Cleveland. We were hoping he would make the short trip from Cleveland to Cincinnati."

Trump's campaign has struggled since its inception to connect with non-white voters, many of whom have pointed to Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States and his characterization of many Mexican immigrants as "criminals, rapists and drug dealers" as evidence that his campaign is built on a foundation of racist rhetoric. 

Brooks expressed disappointment that the candidate would not address the convention, which will feature many other speakers addressing topics like civic engagement, grassroots organizing and education, and said it could have been a valuable opportunity for Trump to connect with attendees on issues that have dominated the national conversation in recent years.

"I will just say this: the NAACP represents millions of Americans. We represent an occasion for those running for president to speak to the nation's most critical issues at a critical hour in this country," Brooks said. "You can't run for president and not talk about police misconduct and police brutality. You can't run for president and not talk about this country's civil rights agenda, so this is an important moment, and our convention really will be an opportunity for anyone running for president to provide a window into not only their policies, but into their heart and character as a candidate."

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"At a critical time in our country, where people are concerned about justice, civil rights and unity, Donald Trump's refusal to address the oldest African American civil rights organization and thousands of members who will be in Cincinnati from all over the country speaks for itself," said Ohio Legislative Black Caucus President and State Rep. Alicia Reece in a news release. "The NAACP has been on the front lines of voting rights and social justice for 100 years, and their role is as essential as ever today."

Although declining to address the NAACP convention might be a missed opportunity, the candidate will definitely have his hands full in Cleveland as he attempts to court delegates at one of the most embattled Republican National Conventions in recent history.

Hillary Clinton will speak to the NAACP Annual Convention, where the theme is "Our Lives Matter, Our Votes Count," July 18.