Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told a black Detroit pastor he’s the “least racist person you have ever met” during an interview filmed at an African-American church on the city’s west side.
Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, pastor of Great Faith Ministries International church, promised before his much publicized interview with Trump that he would confront the New York businessman about the perception that he’s racist.
“Are you a racist?” Jackson asked Trump in the Sept. 3 interview that aired Wednesday night on the Impact Network.
“Absolutely not,” Trump replied.
Trump has been dogged by accusations of racism because his company was sued for racial discrimination in housing in New York in the 1970s. Trump settled one lawsuit without admitting that his company turned away black applicants when his New York apartments had vacancies.
In June, Trump claimed a federal judge handling a fraud lawsuit against his Trump University was biased because he is “of Mexican heritage.” Trump has been critical of Mexico in his campaign for the White House, arguing the country is feasting on American manufacturing jobs while criminals cross the southern border.
Trump also was slow to disavow support from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Trump said he’s been tagged a racist because the race for president against Democrat Hillary Clinton is tightening.
“They called Romney a racist, they called McCain a racist, they call everybody that’s a Republican a racist,” Trump told Jackson. “Usually when they start to lose. ... But I am the least racist person that you’ve ever met.”
Trump told the pastor that African-American boxing promoter Don King could vouch for him that he’s not a racist.
“They say — so many of my friends who are black — they say ‘You are the least racist person,’” Trump said.
Jackson and his Impact Network filmed the interview before Trump briefly attended worship service at Jackson’s church inside a former shopping center on Grand River.
The Impact Network, which Jackson owns, says it is the largest African-American owned and operated Christian television station in the country.
Before the interview aired, Jackson said neither he, his church nor TV network were paid to interview Trump. The Impact Network has also invited Clinton onto the programming.
“We as Christians should look at this interview as a chance to touch the lives of people who might be the next leader of our country,” Jackson said.
Trump’s interview, which aired Wednesday hours after Trump visited Flint, and the candidate’s appearance at Jackson’s church were part of his ongoing effort to appeal to black voters, who typically vote for Democrats.
During the interview, Trump acknowledged the Republican National Convention in Cleveland was largely a gathering of white people, while the Democratic National Convention attracted delegates of different races and ethnicity.
“I didn’t like it,” Trump said of the lack of diversity at his nominating convention. “I noticed it. I didn’t like it.”
Trump added: “With that being said, I don’t like the job the Democrats have done representing African-Americans and, frankly, Hispanics and others.”
The pastor attempted to press Trump for details about how he would turn around inner cities like Detroit and lower the high unemployment rate of black men.
The businessman largely stayed on his message that he will bring jobs back to the country but didn’t divulge a specific job-creation plan.
“My policy’s jobs, and I’m going to be a cheerleader for the country,” Trump said.