ABOVE PHOTO: Pastor Mark Burns, co-founder & CEO of Christian Television Network, from Easley, S.C., right, speaks to the members of the media outside Trump Tower in New York, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
By Jill Colvin
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cancelled a press conference in which his campaign said he would be endorsed by as many as 100 black evangelical religious leaders. Many of those invited to the event say they had no intention of endorsing the billionaire businessman and former reality television star.
“It’s a miscommunication,” said Darrell Scott, the senior pastor of New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, who has helped to arrange meetings between Trump and black pastors in recent months. Trump’s campaign “thought it was going to be a press conference for an endorsement when it wasn’t,” Scott said Sunday in an interview.
Trump held a private meeting with the group of ministers on Monday before departing for a rally in Georgia.
Trump has been courting the support of evangelical black clergy members as he works to broaden his appeal in a crowded Republican field. He has held several meetings with pastors from across the country in recent months.
His campaign issued a press release last week that read: “Mr. Trump will be joined by a coalition of 100 African American evangelical pastors and religious leaders who will endorse the GOP front-runner after a private meeting at Trump Tower.”
An open letter from more than 100 black religious leaders in Ebony magazine criticized the move.
In the letter, the group 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.” They also expressed concern that the meeting on Monday would “give Trump the appearance of legitimacy among those who follow your leadership and respect your position as clergy.”
Earlier this month, a black protester was roughed up by Trump supporters at a rally in Birmingham, Alabama. Trump said after the incident, “Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”
Trump also drew criticism recently for re-tweeting an image of inaccurate statistics that vastly over-represented the number of whites killed by blacks.