Donald Trump’s meeting with black evangelical pastors Monday may not have happened the way his campaign initially envisioned it would, but he still says he received endorsements from it.
In a brief press conference after the meeting, Trump said, “I’ve had many endorsements today.” He claimed “most” of the pastors in attendance endorsed him, but declined to give an exact number. He also said he had not made any financial contributions to any of the pastors who were in attendance.
One reporter asked the business mogul and Republican frontrunner whether he has been surprised that critics have called his campaign rhetoric racist. “No, they say it about everybody. That’s a very commonly used term nowadays,” Trump replied.
This meeting erupted in controversy before it began, when the Trump team sent a press email on Nov. 25 saying, “Mr. Trump will be joined by a coalition of 100 African American Evangelical pastors and religious leaders who will endorse the GOP frontrunner after a private meeting at Trump Tower.”
Some of the invitees spoke out and said that they were not planning on endorsing Trump, Politico reports. Los Angeles Bishop Clarence McClendon wrote on Facebook, “The meeting was presented not as a meeting to endorse but as a meeting to engage in dialogue.”
On Sunday, Trump’s team sent a new press email canceling the public press conference and changing the language of the event to read: “Mr. Trump will host a private, informational meet and greet with many members of the Coalition of African American Ministers at Trump Tower after which a number of attendees are expected to endorse Mr. Trump.”
Bishop Paul Morton, who tweeted Friday that he had been asked to join the meeting and refused, cheered the change in tone Monday morning:
Regardless of how many endorsements Trump may have picked up from the black church leaders, he told reporters after the meeting that he’s in the race for the long haul. “I have a lot of energy,” he said when asked about the long primary season. “Ooh, do I have energy.”