Biden’s Speech at Howard Activates MAGA Disinformation Machine

Walter M. Kimbrough
4 min readMay 25, 2023

Howard University, known as The Mecca, could be considered the flagship for the historically Black college and university (HBCU) ecosystem. One of the largest HBCUs and the only one with a line item in the nation’s budget, each sitting Secretary of Education as an ex officio member of their Board of Trustees. Howard in many ways is America’s HBCU.

It is fitting for them to host sitting United States presidents. President Biden became the seventh sitting president to speak for commencement, hosting more presidents than any HBCU and perhaps more than any institution in the nation.

However, this was the first Howard commencement post MAGA movement. Donald Trump was masterful in creating narratives, and for a fan base that has had few experiences with HBCUs, they believed everything he told them about these institutions. Yet Trump was never invited to speak at Howard or any HBCU. In fact, almost none of his cabinet members were, with the most memorable one being Betsy DeVos at Bethune-Cookman University, an event where she was booed and some graduates stood and turned their back on her, and weeks later the president resigned.

HBCU students, alumni and supporters in general have no love for Donald Trump, and this has enraged his MAGA followers. They see Black college supporters as ungrateful for everything Trump said he did for their schools. Biden’s speech at Howard enraged his base, and they took to social media to remind each other how great Trump was for HBCUs, how he was so much better than Biden, and in fact Trump was the best president ever for HBCUs.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, it is all a lie.

They will tell you that Trump gave HBCUs more money than any president, but never reviewing any of his skinny budget proposals. Trump’s budgets every year proposed cuts to the main Title III funding programs for HBCUs and predominantly Black institutions, but the overall funding increased because both the House and the Senate committees replaced and/or increased funding. MAGA supporters don’t understand the adage that a president proposes but Congress disposes. Anytime you see some say Trump “gave” HBCUs money you know they don’t understand how government works.

They will tell you Trump permanently “fully funded” HBCUs when he signed the FUTURE Act. They don’t know that the program (Title III F), $85 million of it for HBCUs, began under President Bush through the 2007 College Cost Reduction Act as a two-year pilot, and later became a ten-year program under President Obama. Trump zeroed out the program in his FY20 budget, so Rep. Alma Adams wrote the new bill which became the FUTURE Act, and as she indicated, all Trump contributed was his signature. Since HBCUs receive about $2 billion annually from the government, this $85 million bucket is less than 5%.

In fact, many claim the $255 million in the FUTURE Act is all for HBCUs, using an algorithm derived Associated Press article, never closely reading the article which says HBCUs AND other minority serving institutions. When corrected, they point to propaganda from Trump saying $255 million, either an error or intentionally misleading, but enough for some to believe over the facts.

When confronted with this evidence they all have the same, final response. He signed it! But the act passed both chambers with a veto proof majority, so his signature was not needed as Congress could override his veto just as they did with the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. In fact, Trump never mentioned the FUTURE Act before it was passed, but they give him all the credit for something he tried to kill.

Finally, they take screen shots of articles saying HBCU funding fell from $45 billion to $2 billion in Biden’s spending plan. They never read the article that indicates this is new money being proposed for research. They never think critically that if HBCUs received $45 billion annually, this would be more than agriculture, FDA, DOJ, NASA, or the EPA receives.

Just about everything Trump claimed he did for HBCUs was either taken out of context, lacked context, or flat out lies. But his superpower is repeating these talking points often and with great confidence, so it sounds like it’s true. As the campaign gets into high gear, Trump and his supporters will continue to share their version of his impact on HBCUs.

Know that they don’t have a clue about HBCUs.

Unfortunately, or fortunately.

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Walter M. Kimbrough

12th president of Philander Smith College. 7th president of Dillard University. Now in an Intermission.