Flint pastor cuts off Trump mid-speech to prevent him from criticizing Clinton

The pastor at a historically black church in Flint, Michigan stepped in and interrupted a speech by Donald Trump when the candidate began to criticize Hillary Clinton.


“Hillary Clinton failed on the economy, just like she has failed on foreign policy. Everything she touched didn’t work out, nothing,” Trump told 50 or so people inside Bethel United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Faith Green-Timmons, an African-American pastor in this predominantly Democratic city, didn't want to hear it and stepped in to stop him.

“Mr. Trump, I invited you here to thank us for what we’ve done in Flint,” Green-Timmons said as she approached Trump. “Not to give a political speech.”

A chastened Trump quickly looked to smooth things over.

“OK, that’s good. I’m going to go back onto Flint,” he said, pivoting back to a discussion of the city’s troubles with a lead-contaminated infrastructure that has left its water supply undrinkable. “Flint's pain is a result of so many different failures.”

Trump is attempting to fit Flint's water problem into his broader argument that government incompetency is to blame for most problems and that he will be able to fix things. But as he was wrapping up, a few people seated in the pews had questions.

“You’ve discriminated against black tenants,” one said, seeming to reference a New York Times report detailing how Trump and his father frequently denied African-Americans applying to buy or rent in their buildings.

“No, I never,” Trump said, as he was leaving.

Flint’s water crisis drew attention and visits from Clinton and Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary but not from Republicans until Wednesday. But Trump’s short-but-messy visit is the latest evidence of the difficulties he faces in making headway with African-American voters, a bloc that has almost completely written him off according to polls showing him winning under 5 percent of the black vote.

You have to credit Trump with bearding the lion in its den by making the effort to reach out to black voters.  This is something Republicans rarely do, and whether it will pay dividends at the ballot box isn't really the point.  If Trump is elected, he will be president of all Americans, and trying to communicate with the black community through historically black churches in Detroit and Flint shows he's at least willing to listen.

But the pastor was right.  The church could lose its tax-exempt status if it sponsored an event where partisan politics play a role. A surprised Trump recovered quickly and handled the interruption gracefully.