Obama says he will consider it a 'personal insult' if black people don't vote in US election

US President Barack Obama speaks during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Phoenix Awards Dinner on Sept 17, 2016 in Washington, DC.
US President Barack Obama speaks during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Phoenix Awards Dinner on Sept 17, 2016 in Washington, DC.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) - United States President Barack Obama said if black voters fail to vote in sufficient numbers and billionaire Donald Trump wins the presidency, he will consider it a "personal insult".

"I will consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy, if this community lets down its guard," Mr Obama said on Saturday (Sept 17) at an awards dinner hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in Washington. "You want to give me a good send off? Go vote!"

At times raising his voice during an impassioned 25-minute speech, Mr Obama sought to rally his most loyal supporters to elect former secretary of state Hillary Clinton as his successor.

Mr Obama's remarks came a day after Mr Trump acknowledged that the President was born in the US. Without apologising, the Republican presidential nominee reversed himself after years of promoting a conspiracy theory that Mr Obama was born in Kenya.

Mr Obama took the opportunity to mock Mr Trump during the speech to the mostly black audience.

"I don't know about you guys, but I am so relieved that the whole birther things is over," the President said, smiling. "In other breaking news, the world is round, not flat."

Mr Obama also took aim at Mr Trump's outreach to black voters. Mr Trump has spent much of the past month making overt attempts to reach out to black voters, often describing their lives in apocalyptic terms. He has said Democrats are responsible for the challenges in the urban communities.

In several rallies in recent months, Mr Trump has said blacks live in crime-ridden communities and can't walk down the street without getting shot.

"You're living in poverty. Your schools are no good," Mr Trump said at a Michigan rally last month. "You have no jobs. Fifty- eight percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?"

Mr Obama's remarks followed a speech by Mrs Clinton, who accepted an award from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and attacked Mr Trump's candidacy without naming the candidate directly. 

"You may have heard Hillary's opponent in this election say that there's never been a worse time in America to be a black person," Mr Obama said. "He missed that whole civics lesson about slavery and Jim Crow, but we've got a museum for him to visit. So he can tune in. We will educate him."

Polls show Mr Trump has little support from black voters, who supported Mr Obama in record numbers during his run for the presidency.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus held a press conference on Friday after Mr Trump said he believed Mr Obama "was born in the United States, period" and credited himself with putting an end to the controversy.

"Donald Trump is a disgusting fraud," said Representative G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat from North Carolina and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. "He started this silliness years ago by saying President Obama is not an American citizen. He had no proof of it."

Mrs Clinton addressed the birther issue in her speech to the group as well.

"I know I speak for not just everyone in this room but so many tens of millions of Americans: Mr President, not only do we know you are an American, you're a great American. And you make us all proud to be Americans, too," she said.