Donald J. Trump’s visit to a black church here on Saturday will be a major moment for a candidate with a history of offending the sensibilities of black Americans.
His team is leaving nothing to chance.
Instead of speaking to the congregation at Great Faith Ministries International, Mr. Trump will be interviewed by its pastor in a session that will be closed to the public and news media, with questions submitted in advance. And instead of letting Mr. Trump be his freewheeling self, his campaign has prepared lengthy answers for the submitted questions, consulting black Republicans to make sure he says the right things.
An eight-page draft script obtained by The New York Times shows 12 questions that Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, the church’s pastor, intends to ask Mr. Trump during the taped question-and-answer session, as well as the responses Mr. Trump is being advised to give.
The proposed answers were devised by aides working for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, according to an official who has been involved in the planning but declined to be identified while speaking about confidential strategy.
The document includes the exact wording of answers the aides are proposing for Mr. Trump to give to questions about police killings, racial tension and the perception among many black voters that he and the Republican Party are racist, among other topics.
The official said the answers could change based on feedback from the black Republicans they are consulting with.
It is not uncommon for a candidate to request interview questions in advance; aides to Hillary Clinton do it from time to time. But it is unusual for a campaign to go so far as to prepare a script for a candidate’s own responses, and highlights the sensitivity of Mr. Trump’s first appearance at a black church. Mr. Trump’s series of slights, including his questioning of President Obama’s birth certificate, has not endeared him to black voters.
The interview will be aired about a week later on the Impact Network, Bishop Jackson’s Christian cable television channel. The official said several Trump aides would be working with the network to edit the taped interview so that the final version reflected the campaign’s wishes.
The arrangement have angered several black Republicans who had been urging that Mr. Trump, who is widely seen as distant from the black community, speak for at least 10 minutes at the service, according to the official involved in the planning. The official said the Trump campaign was uncomfortable with the candidate speaking before the congregation and insisted instead on the private interview.
Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, did not respond to questions about the campaign’s requirements for the visit and interview. She also said she was not familiar with the script.
“I’m not aware of the document you reference but, as you know, Mr. Trump is an unscripted candidate,” she said in an email. “He is genuine and authentic, but not unprepared. Mr. Trump looks forward to attending what is sure to be an important event on Saturday.”
Mr. Trump is well known for veering from prepared remarks or throwing them away entirely. That could happen on Saturday: Many of the answers being prepared for him do not sound much like Mr. Trump as his usual self.
Source: The New York Times | YAMICHE ALCINDOR