Trump Visits Detroit Black Church In Outreach Effort

Sep 3, 2016
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was in Detroit today to visit a black church. It was part of what's being described by his campaign as outreach to black voters who, so far, have been indifferent to Trump's appeal. In fact, polls show Trump with single-digit approval with black voters. NPR's Sam Sanders was with the Trump campaign, and he's with us now. Sam, welcome.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Thanks so much, Michel.

MARTIN: So, Sam, what actually happened in Detroit today? There were a lot of conflicting reports about just what Donald Trump would do in the city and exactly to whom he would speak. So what happened?

SANDERS: Yeah, there were lots of different reports. Some said that he would go to a black church service, but not speak at the service. Others said that he would give a private interview with the black pastor but that the questions and the answers would all be scripted. There were also reports of a walking tour through Detroit with Dr. Ben Carson.

What did happen today is this. There was a private conversation with Bishop Wayne Jackson of Great Faith Ministries that should be televised later. And there were some talks with local media. Trump did sit front row during Saturday's service at Greater Faith church next to Ben Carson and Carson's wife, and Omarosa Manigault, his head of black outreach. Trump shook some hands. He held a baby. He even said a few words to the crowd there.

MARTIN: So how was he received? And what exactly did he say? And is this different from what we've heard him say about the black community before? Remember, of course, he's attracted a lot of attention for having things to say about the black community, but not actually saying things to predominantly black audiences, in fact, delivering most of his message to predominantly white suburban audiences. So what did he say and how was he received?

SANDERS: Well, the room was mostly black, so that was a new development for him. He got a warm reception, some nice applause, even some cheers - not overwhelming reception, though. People there said that they wanted to be respectful, though, lots told me that they are not going to vote for Trump. There were protesters outside - hundreds of them - and all throughout the neighborhood. But Trump, with his comments, took care to praise the legacy of the black church.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: For centuries, the African-American church has been the conscience of our country - so true. It's from the pews and pulpits and Christian teachings of black churches all across this land that the civil rights movement lifted up its soul and lifted up the soul of our nation.

SANDERS: You know, Trump also said that he understands the community still faces discrimination. He said he wants a, quote, "new civil rights agenda." He said he wants to bring jobs back - from Mexico, he said - and bring school choice to that city.

MARTIN: You know, just hearing the tone, it sounds very different from what we've been hearing so far.

SANDERS: It is very different. You know, his earlier outreach was led with this catchphrase that he would say to black voters - what have you got to lose? Lots of folks were turned off by that, and many said he was using those lines to talk more to white voters than to black voters. But today, the tone was very different, and Trump said that he was there to listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: We talk past each other, not to each other, and those who seek office do not do enough to step into the community and learn what is going on. They don't know. They have no clue. I'm here today to learn so that we can, together, remedy injustice in any form.

SANDERS: It was a very different side of Trump.

MARTIN: Now, that wasn't his only stop in Detroit, though, correct?

SANDERS: That is true. Trump also went, after the service, with Carson to Carson's childhood home in a Detroit suburb called River Rouge. They shook hands there, said some hellos, had a small photo op before going back to the airport. This was not the full on walking tour that had been discussed before.

Trump and Carson also spent some time with the current owner of Carson's old home. She actually told me afterwards that she was happy to meet Trump and talk with him, but she's not voting for him. She's voting for Hillary Clinton. I talked to a few other folks on the street in this black neighborhood, and they said the outreach from Trump was just too little, too late.

MARTIN: That was NPR's Sam Sanders in Detroit. Thank you, Sam.

SANDERS: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.