In the minutes following a closed-door meeting with black pastors on Monday afternoon, billionaire presidential candidate Donald Trump touted the event as a huge success. More than 100 leaders of the black Christian community were in attendance, he said, and virtually no one asked him to change his often controversial tone regarding minorities and immigrants.
“I thought it was an amazing meeting,” he said, flanked by about a half dozen pastors who said they would endorse the Republican frontrunner. “The beautiful thing [was] that they didn’t really ask me to change the tone. I think they really want to see victory, because ultimately it is about, we want to win and we want to win together.”
But not everyone who was present at the closed-door gathering fully agreed with Trump’s characterization of the event. Namely, Bishop Victor Couzens, who told ThinkProgress that the meeting was smaller and more critical than the candidate described.
“That’s not true,” Couzens said when told about Trump’s assertion that he wasn’t asked to change his rhetoric. “We spent a lot of time just discussing the overall tone of the campaign. I personally said to him, he needs to apologize. He needs to repent.”
Couzens said he thought the meeting was largely respectful, and that Trump had good intentions. “My immediate reaction was that he overall is very engaged,” he said. “All in all, I do think his intention would be to try to build bridges across minority communities.”
But Couzens also said he was disheartened that Trump did not seem receptive to repeated requests that he soften his brash rhetoric surrounding Mexican immigrants, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the disabled community. Indeed, Couzens said the conversation “began to break down” when Trump was asked to apologize for several inflammatory remarks.
“I told him, you should apologize and repent — we’re called to own up to our bad behavior. That’s when his staff interrupted and said, ‘Why should he, why this why that,’” Couzens said. “He let his people answer for him. He didn’t seem to mind that.”
Couzens added that he thought the purported size of the event was exaggerated.
“I’m pretty confident there weren’t 100 people there,” he said. “I would say maybe somewhere between 40 and 50.”
SOURCE: EMILY ATKIN