Donald Trump said here Friday that Philadelphia reflects the dire straits of major American cities, leaving African Americans with poor schools, unsafe neighborhoods, and a lack of jobs.

"I know the city so well, because I went to college here, but it's very sad to see what's going on inside Philadelphia," the Wharton School graduate told the Inquirer in an interview. "It's gotten so much worse than when I was going. It's dangerous; the crime numbers are up. Your mayor is doing a terrible job."

As often is the case, Trump's barbs drew a challenge.

In a statement, Mayor Kenney said the most serious violent crime has fallen compared with this time last year, and the city's unemployment rate in June fell to 6.9 percent, its lowest in that month since 2007.

"Those are actual facts: annoying little things to this candidate, who seems to live in his own odd version of reality," said Kenney, a Democrat. As for Trump himself, Kenney said: "Several words come to mind after reading the candidate's comments, but perhaps 'nincompoop' is the most family-friendly."

Trump's comments came as the GOP nominee visited the heavily Democratic city in a bid to catch Hillary Clinton in a state vital to the presidential race. Trailing badly with minority voters, Trump hoped a luncheon with local black leaders would help him gain momentum and show he cares about their concerns.

Afterward, he answered questions for about 10 minutes in an upstairs room at a catering hall run by People for People, a North Philadelphia nonprofit, while protesters massed outside.

Most recent polls show Clinton with a clear lead in Pennsylvania, but Trump said his message is catching on with minorities fed up with the state of their cities.

"You look at what's going on in Afghanistan - it's safer than some of our inner cities," Trump said in the interview. "And I tell people: What do you have to lose? I'll fix it. And African Americans are smart, and it's really resonating."

Delivering a familiar message - but in softer, more subdued tones than he often uses at his rallies - Trump argued that minorities have been shortchanged by decades of Democratic leadership in cities, including Philadelphia.

"It's very unfair to the African Americans; they're the ones that are suffering with it," Trump said, later adding, "They get bad education, they have no money, the jobs are a disaster, most of them don't have jobs, inner-city people. . . . They can't walk their child down the street - and people have heard my message."

Democrats have won Pennsylvania in the last six presidential contests. Trump argued he can reverse that trend, but still repeated warnings about possible cheating on Election Day.

"We're going to be watching it very closely," he said. "We've notified a lot of different people."

Staff writer Tricia L. Nadolny contributed to this article.