Bishop Wayne T. Jackson doesn’t understand the controversy.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was criticized for his lack of outreach to black America, so Jackson was thrilled to land a one-on-one Trump interview for his Impact Network, an African-American-owned Christian broadcast network.
It should be a match made in heaven, except to all those folks saying that Jackson is going to hell.
“My phone has been burning up,” the bishop said Tuesday in the office where he will interview Trump on Saturday after an 11 a.m. church service. “And the things people are asking: ‘Is Donald Trump paying me off?’ They haven’t paid me off. You haven’t looked at me and seen a man who’s needed things. I’ve always been blessed. It’s not about being a Judas to my people. I love my people. I feel that we should be better off than what we are. This is not an endorsement. This is engagement, for him to tell us what he wants to do.”
That Jackson landed the big whale should come as no surprise — and quite frankly shouldn’t spark outrage. Why wouldn’t someone with a broadcast network want to put the most bombastic person currently on TV on his air?
“I owe this to my viewers,” Jackson said.
The problem came when Jackson also agreed to let Trump come and “experience” the Saturday service at Great Faith Ministries International. Ministers across the country thought Jackson was lending Trump credibility by lending him his pulpit and giving him a chance to re-ask the question that had offended so many: “What the hell do you have to lose?”
You’d have thought Jackson had invited the Devil himself (who had been investigated for discriminating against black folks in housing) to sit on the altar. Critics questioned everything from his loyalty to his congregation to whether he’d been paid.
Jackson said the critics insult his congregation and black people in general.
“Do you think Donald Trump will manipulate the people? Black folks, we’re not stupid. We know when someone is running a game,” said Jackson, who confirmed that Trump will not speak at the church. “If anybody knows, we know. And I’m saying, ‘We don’t need a guardian. We don’t need a guardian from one party or the other.’ ”
But Jackson also may have pulled back the curtain on some internal political drama in the Democratic Party, raising questions about whether the Donald Trump phenomenon — not the candidate most black Americans will ignore Election Day, but the traveling road show — is revealing cracks in the relationship between black voters and the Democratic Party.
Bishop Edgar Vann, pastor of the 5,000-member Second Ebenezer Church in east Detroit, said it might be.
“I had hoped for a credible Republican candidate who would have given us the type of vigorous debate on the issues that face us especially at such a critical time in our history,” said Vann, who initially was critical of Jackson but now is less so when he learned that the Trump interview would not be during the church service. “It would have made Hillary a stronger candidate. I’m a little tired of hearing people tell me well ‘You don’t have a choice. You have to vote this way because you don’t have a choice.’ In this election, I don’t.”
That pause is for the next time, when a credible candidate runs, and black people are assessing the state of their lives. What an opportunity the GOP squandered by letting this moment belong to a bombastic bigoted billionaire rather than seeking to be inclusive.
The Detroit visit will come just days after a new poll reminds that Trump is no fringe candidate. On Wednesday, an ABC/Washington Post poll revealed that Hillary Clinton’s approval ratings had sunk to 41%, only four percentage points above Trump and down from 48% in early August. That wiped out the bump to 48% that Clinton reached after the Democratic National Convention. It also comes as Detroit will see a Labor Day without a presidential candidate, which here in union and autos country is like a December without a Christmas.
But back to Bishop Jackson, who will have a chat with a man who still, despite the math: Could. Become. President.
Can’t a brother get some credit for questioning a candidate who, like Hillary Clinton, has horrible unfavorable ratings for someone who could be inaugurated as leader of the free world in five months?
The interview is a coup for the network that began as an idea that came in a spiritual revelation after a couple had finished raising their nine children. Impact began life as a local power station. By 2011, it was broadcasting into 200,000 homes. Five years later, the broadcasts now are reaching 50 million homes in the U.S., including Puerto Rico and several countries in Africa and Canada, said Royal Jackson, the network’s content manager and the bishop’s son. The Trump interview can be seen on Dish satellite, Comcast regional cable, Direct TV and via livestream at www.watchimpact.com.
“We want not only to satisfy the spiritual man,” the bishop said. “We want to make sure we are being innovative in getting the message. … We talk about spiritual issues. We talk about racial issues. We talk about political issues. We talk about health issues. We want to impact the whole man.”
Nothing impacts black America more than the politics of inclusion, racism, economics and opportunity — all issues a presidential candidate has to know resonate among black voters. Hearing from both candidates on these issues is vital, Jackson said.
“I’m an independent thinker, and I say this over and over: One gift God gave man was the power of choice. Free will. And he lets us use that free will and the vote that we inherited from martyrs, who were Jewish, Hispanic, white, black …
Jackson said he wants his congregation and millions of black Americans to focus on the future we’re leaving children under siege.
“You can’t be afraid to be criticized for making right decisions, for not being politically correct,” he said. “We should all sit down and see what’s going to be the best thing for this country. We should be independent and not go with the crowd but make sure in our hearts of what we’re voting for. When I go into that ballot booth, I vote with my heart and not what somebody told me to vote.”
That doesn’t sound like an endorsement, but some might consider it close. It is clear that Jackson is asking people, particularly black people, perhaps even his congregants, to keep an open mind.
The Trump visit is not the first time the bishop has faced a controversy such as this. He was roundly criticized when he joined four other prominent ministers — four of them black — to bring George W. Bush to Detroit when he was running for president.
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SOURCE: Detroit Free Press – Rochelle Riley