Trump's Milwaukee 'horrible city' controversy; leaders respond

Former President Donald Trump used the phrase "horrible city" when talking about Milwaukee during a private meeting with House Republicans on Thursday, June 13. Now, Mr. Trump is explaining the words.

"Milwaukee, where we are having our convention, is a horrible city," Jake Sherman of Punchbowl News first reported the former president said behind closed doors.


LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 09: Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during his campaign rally at Sunset Park on June 09, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The former president continues campaigning around the country am

The former president later explained his words in an interview with FOX News, after receiving backlash from Milwaukee leaders, Democrats and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

"It was very clear what I meant. We're very concerned with crime. I love Milwaukee. I have great friends in Milwaukee. But, as you know, the crime numbers are terrible. We have to be very careful. But I was referring to also the election, the ballots, the, the way it went down. It was very bad in Milwaukee. Very, very bad."    

Recounts, random audits and legal challenges could not change that Joe Biden won Wisconsin.

Democrats immediately pounced on the "horrible city" comment.

"If Donald Trump was talking about things that he thinks are horrible, all of us lived through his presidency, so right back at you, buddy," said Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson. "He’s running for president, he obviously wants to win Wisconsin, you know, win the election. So, to insult the state that is hosting your convention, I think is kind of bizarre, actually. It’s kind of unhinged in a way."


Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson

House Republicans in the private meeting with former President Trump either said context was missing or denied the words were even said.

"We're in there for an hour. I don't recall him talking about that at all," said Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska.

"I was in the room. President Trump did not say this. There is no better place than Wisconsin in July," Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Wisconsin) posted on X.

"Do you retract your original tweet where you said he didn’t say these comments?" FOX6's Jason Calvi asked Steil on Thursday.

"I don’t think he was talking about the city of Milwaukee. I think he was talking about specific issues that are challenges that we face in the city of Milwaukee and across the country," Steil replied.

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Wisconsin Republican Derrick Van Orden said the president was talking about crime. But other Republicans said the former president was talking about elections.

Rep. Scott Fitzgerald of Wisconsin said a Congresswoman asked about election integrity – and Fitzgerald said the president brought up worries with 19 places. 

"In that context, he said the sentence about Milwaukee and he was absolutely referring to the elections and the way the elections are run in the city of Milwaukee," Fitzgerald said. 

"The quote was correct, right?" Calvi asked Fitzgerald. 

"Again, in regard to elections," responded Fitzgerald.

President Joe Biden tweeted a photo with the Milwaukee Bucks at the White House with the caption "I happen to love Milwaukee."

The former president made the "horrible city" comment Thursday morning while meeting with House Republicans behind closed doors in Washington, D.C. Later in the day, he met with Senate Republicans. He also spoke to business leaders at an event for the Business Roundtable, which is a group made up of more than 200 CEOs of some of the country's largest companies. 

The visit to Washington came less than five months before election day and nearly a month before the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee. Milwaukee will host the Republican National Convention July 15-18.

"It is my hope that not only our former president and everybody who is going to be embarking on Milwaukee sees everything we have to offer," said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. "I can't wait to really prove him wrong and let him know what we have to offer."


Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) - X post

"Milwaukee makes the greatest beer, brats, and motorcycles in the world. It's home to some of our most vibrant communities, hardest workers, and is a part of what makes Wisconsin the best state in the nation. 

"Donald Trump wouldn’t understand even if a jury told him so."

Eric Hovde, Republican Candidate for U.S. Senate 

"I love the city of Milwaukee and it's sad to see how poorly Democrats have run it for generations — and that includes Sen. Baldwin and President Biden. Milwaukeeans deserve better and that’s why I’m campaigning across the city to show people there’s a different path forward."

Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce (MMAC)

"Donald Trump's comments are flatly wrong. Milwaukee, in a word, is vibrant. We’re proud of our people – diverse in makeup and hard-working to the core. We’re proud of our strong history and bright future in economic development - deeply rooted in innovation, with a tradition of driving progress in American manufacturing for over a century. We’re proud of the Fortune 500 companies headquartered in our city, employing thousands of talented Milwaukeeans. We're proud of our cultural assets which stand among the best regardless of metro. We look forward to showing the world what Milwaukee has to offer next month. We know this city will impress."