The campaign team of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced in November that Trump was meeting with 100 black pastors who would endorse his candidacy after a private meeting. A press conference was planned to follow the meeting. Shortly after the announcement, the press conference was cancelled. Many of the religious leaders invited to the event said they accepted because they wanted to challenge Trump about what he had said as a candidate and that they had no intention of endorsing Trump.
Rev. Darrell Scott, senior pastor of New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, helped arrange the meeting. He told CNN that some of the pastors “got scared” after receiving negative backlash from their congregants and others.
The strong negative reaction to the meeting by many black leaders followed several incidents. Prior to the planned meeting, a black protestor was physically attacked by Trump supporters at an Alabama rally, after which Trump responded, “Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.” Trump has also been criticized for use of inaccurate statistics that greatly over-represented the number of whites killed by blacks. Then there was the open letter from more than 100 black ministers, theologians, and religious activists posted on Ebony.com after announcement of the planned meeting. In the letter, the group backing Trump was asked to consider the impact that endorsing him could have on their congregations. The signatories wrote that Trump’s “racially inaccurate, insensitive, and incendiary rhetoric should give those charged with the care of the spirits and souls of black people great pause.” Concern was also expressed that the gathering would “give Trump the appearance of legitimacy among those who follow your leadership and respect your position as clergy.”
The meeting did occur. During an impromptu press conference afterward, Trump said “I saw love in that room”, that he had no plans to change his approach, and that he was expecting “many, many endorsements” to come. Several attendees described a meeting that became tense at times. Others left with the hope that their suggestion to tone down the rhetoric had received a sympathetic ear. Some of those in attendance emerged expressing full support for Trump.