Donald Trump showered praise on the African American faith community during a Saturday visit to Detroit’s Great Faith Ministries, as dozens of protesters holding “divider in chief” and “no hate in the White House” signs gathered outside.
Saturday’s trip marked Trump’s first visit to a black community on the 2016 campaign trail, part of his recent outreach to minority voters who have declined to embrace his message.
“I am here today to listen to your message and I hope my presence here will also help your voice reach new audiences in our country,” Trump said at the start of a 15-minute address in which he praised the “spirit” of the black church and said he would bring jobs back to minority urban communities like Detroit.
Trump, who has dismissed Black Lives Matter and told black Americans that they should vote for him because they live in crime-addled, poor communities, took a softer tone in his church appearance, calling for a “civil rights agenda for our time” and promising that “tomorrow will be better.”
“We’re all brothers and sisters and we all created by the same god,” he said.
Trump was originally scheduled to attend the church service but not address the congregation. Those plans changed late in the week after critics claimed he was using the black church visit as a photo op.
The audience in the room, which was about half-full, seemed to receive Trump warmly. He received a standing ovation when he said that bishop Wayne T. Jackson, with whom he recorded an interview before the service, was a better interviewer “than the people who do that professionally.”
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) September 3, 2016
Jackson too seemed to embrace Trump, presenting him with a prayer shawl and Bible at the end of his speech and telling him he now deserved the title of “preacher.”
In the lead-up to Trump’s visit this week, Jackson insisted the interview was “not an endorsement” and said that he would not ask softball questions. A leaked script obtained by the New York Times showed that Trump staffers had drafted answers to Jackson’s questions, which they had received ahead of the interview.
Detractors have accused the Detroit bishop of hosting a propaganda event for Trump and even being paid off by the campaign, which he denied.
Before and during the event, protesters gathered outside the building with signs criticizing Trump’s rhetoric towards minorities.
“What do you have to lose? Everything!” they chanted, playing off the question Trump has posed to black voters in recent campaign speeches.
Mayor Mike Duggan, a Democrat, gave a press conference criticizing Trump’s campaign and asking him to provide real “plans for reducing poverty.”
“This is the most phony major party nominee that I’ve seen in my lifetime, and that’s why we’re skeptical,” he said, according to the Detroit Free Press.