Donald Trump has promised on Monday that he will meet with over 100 black religious leaders. Although the event is billed as a meeting and not an endorsement event, certainly comes as a surprise that black clergy would be compelled to support Trump, given his stances on issues of race, among myriad other detractions. (Of course, it also comes as a surprise that anybody would support Trump.) There are recent incidents, namely his suggestion that a Black Lives Matter protester at his campaign rally might deserve to be “roughed up,” or his recent Tweeting of fake crime statistics from a Neo-Nazi website exaggerating the percentages of homicides by black people.
And his racial insensitivity dates back much further: there was the incident of the Central Park Five, five young black and Hispanic teens who were coerced into confessing to a gang rape they never did. Trump took out full page ads in New York’s dailies calling for them to be put to death. When they were ultimately exonerated thirteen years later, Trump showed no remorse, saying, “They confessed. Now they say they didn’t do it. Who am I supposed to believe?” And as recently as two years ago, Trump doubled down on his stance, Tweeting, “Tell me, what were they doing in the Park, playing checkers?” (He then deleted it.) He also penned an op-ed calling it a “disgrace” for the city to settle the longstanding lawsuit with the five, noting that “These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels.”
So I couldn’t help but look into the black clergy who are supporting Trump, of whom only a few have so far been revealed to the media.
One endorser is Bishop Clarence McClendon. (I think so; at the very least he has top billing.) I suppose he can sympathize with Trump on some fronts: like Trump, McClendon is a reality TV star, having taken part in the show Preachers of LA, a show that drew criticism because the clergy featured were shown living decadent lives with mansions, luxury cars, designer suits, and – in McClendon’s case – an entourage.
His defense for living the high life? “The Bible says that ‘I wish above all things that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers.’ I believe that.” Apparently he doesn’t believe in Matthew 19:21, where Jesus says,”If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” But who am I to tell someone what passages to believe?
And the entourage? “Jesus didn’t have a mega church, but he had 12 disciples. Some people would refer to that as entourage [sic],” he said. Ah, of course.
McClendon can also, I suppose, empathize with Trump because he has also divorced and remarried, albeit only once. Although it seems unusual for any clergy, McClendon’s now ex-wife claims he said God sent him a vision that another woman was supposed to be his wife. (Maybe it was the Greek god Eros.) “When I finally said yes to Clarence, he asked me to file because it would look bad if he divorced me–which could hurt his ministry,” she said. McClendon claims his wife is the one who wanted out, and says he engaged in no infidelity.
Already, though, it seems that Trump might be – gasp – exaggerating things. Because at least one person billed as attending, Bishop Hezekiah Walker, says on Instagram that he is not endorsing Trump at the event, but is actually there to confront him on the issues.
Regardless, it should be an interesting event Monday.
UPDATE: Bishop McClendon has stated on his Facebook that he is neither endorsing Trump nor attending the event on Monday:
Bishop McClendon was INVITED to attend Monday’s meeting and his name was used as an invitee, but had made no plans to attend the meeting and indeed will NOT be in attendance. The meeting was presented not as a meeting to endorse but as a meeting to engage in dialogue.
He does believe that African American spiritual leaders should be listening and engaging in dialogue with any candidate who is currently, based on the polls, exhibiting a real potential for occupying the Oval Office.
Bishop McClendon has NOT made up his mind for whom he will vote in the upcoming election and had previously determined that he would not make any decision until after January 2016. He exhorts all serious minded believers to not vote on allegiance to any political party but on the basis of the Judeo-Christian ethic and their spiritually inspired conscience.
So yet again, Donald Trump might have been caught in, shall we say, an untruth.
UPDATE 2: This post has been updated to clarify that Monday’s meeting is not an endorsement, as was erroneously stated in a previous version of this post. This was based on a press advisory from the campaign saying “a coalition of 100 African American Evangelical pastors and religious leaders who will endorse the GOP front-runner after a private meeting at Trump Tower” according to the Wall Street Journal. Meeting Participant Mark Burns stated this was never the case, although did not speak to the press advisory. Event organizers Pastor Mark Burns and Dr. Darrell Scott, for their part, claim McClendon had confirmed.