Donald Trump’s attempt to appeal to African-American voters in Flint, Michigan, went awry when the pastor of a historically black church took the stage to remind him that he was not there to give a political speech. The pastor interrupted Trump as he disparaged Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent.
A group of about 50 people was gathered inside Bethel United Methodist Church at the time of Trump’s speech. “Hillary Clinton failed on the economy, just like she has failed on foreign policy,” Trump told the crowd. “Everything she touched didn’t work out, nothing.”
But then The Rev. Faith Green-Timmons, a church pastor, walked onstage and cut the speech short. “Mr. Trump, I invited you here to thank us for what we’ve done in Flint,” Green-Timmons said. “Not to give a political speech.” In a statement to reporters afterward, Green-Timmons said that “Trump’s presence at Bethel Methodist in no way represents an endorsement of his candidacy.”
Trump complied with the request. “OK, that’s good. I’m going to go back onto Flint,” he said, before discussing Flint’s current public health state of emergency due to lead poisoning in the city’s municipal water supply. He assured his audience that Flint’s water crisis would be “fixed quickly and effectively” if he wins the general election. “Most importantly we’ll bring jobs back to Flint,” Trump said. Before visiting the church, Trump received a 15-minute tour of the City of Flint’s Water Treatment Plant.
Trump taking tour of Flint Water Treatment Facility pic.twitter.com/UHM2jT3jnx
— John Santucci (@JTSantucci) September 14, 2016
The billionaire business mogul also claimed that the issues in Flint are the result of government incompetence. “Flint’s pain is a result of so many different failures,” Trump said. The outsourcing of the automobile industry, Trump said, has taken a significant toll on what was once a thriving city. “It used to be cars were made in Flint and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico,” Trump said. “Now the cars are made in Mexico and you can’t drink the water in Flint. That’s not good.”
Trump visited Flint with very little advance planning. Armstrong Williams, a former aide to Ben Carson, one of Trump’s former competitors for the Republican nomination, put together the trip, which is the latest in a string of outreach efforts from Trump’s campaign following a campaign shakeup last month. Trump has struggled to appeal to African-American voters, and polls indicate he has only 5 percent of the black voter bloc. Earlier in the week, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver implied Trump’s visit was an unnecessary distraction, saying in a statement “that city of Flint employees and the staff at the Flint Water Plant are focused on dealing with the continued contamination in the drinking water and cannot afford the disruption of a last-minute visit.”