Real-estate tycoon Donald Trump’s presidential campaign suddenly announced on Sunday that it was no longer holding an endorsement press conference with 100 black pastors the next day.
During a Monday interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump suggested that Black Lives Matter activists had pressured the pastors out of endorsing the Republican front-runner.
“I think what happened, probably: It gets publicity, unfortunately, as everything I do gets publicity,” Trump lamented.
“And probably some of the Black Lives Matter folks called them up, say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be meeting with Trump because he believes that all lives matter,'” he continued. “I believe black lives do matter but I believe all lives matter very strongly. … What I think happened is a lot of pressure was put on them.”
Last Wednesday, Trump’s campaign announced to reporters that it would be holding a Monday-afternoon “press conference,” and that he would 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.”
But that press conference and endorsement event got downgraded to an “informational meet and greet,” according to a note from the Trump campaign Sunday.
“Mr. Trump will host a private, informational meet and greet with many members of the Coalition of African American Ministers at Trump Tower after which a number of attendees are expected to endorse Mr. Trump,” the new advisory stated. “This is closed to press and therefore no media credentials will be provided.”
That scheduling shift followed reports indicating that some of the pastors involved did not plan to endorse Trump.
“I am not officially endorsing ANY candidate and when I do you will NOT need to hear it from pulpitting courtjesters who suffer from intellectual and spiritual myopia,” one of the pastors, Bishop Clarence McClendon, wrote on Facebook, according to The Daily Beast.
A “Trump insider” told Politico that 40 pastors were prepared to endorse the billionaire after their Monday meeting, but when the group expanded to 100 pastors, it also included some religious leaders who opposed Trump’s candidacy.
Trump has ignited a number of racial controversies on the campaign trail, such as when he suggested a Black Lives Matter heckler “should have been roughed up.” Last weekend, Trump also shared an image containing false statistics about black-on-white violence.
For his part, Trump shrugged off the confusion during his Monday “Morning Joe” interview.
“Whether it is [an endorsement event] or not, that’s fine,” Trump said. “I think having a meeting is a good thing anyway. And there were quite a few.”
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