Presidential races

Trump claims ‘Party of Lincoln’ mantle in speech at black church

Donald Trump on Saturday delivered a message of unity to a predominantly black church in Detroit, promising to carry on Abraham Lincoln’s legacy if elected president.

{mosads}”Becoming the nominee of the party of Abraham Lincoln … has been the greatest honor of my life,” Trump told churchgoers at Great Faith Ministries International, marking his first appearance at an African-American church. 

“It is on his legacy that I hope to build the future of the party, but, more importantly, the future of the country.” 

As part of his continued effort to appeal to minority voters, the Republican presidential nominee visited the church on Saturday and taped an interview with Bishop Wayne T. Jackson beforehand. 

The interview won’t air for another week, but Trump afterward addressed the congregation, promising that, if elected president, he would unite the country. 

“Our nation is too divided. 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,” Trump said. 

“I’m here today to learn, so that we can together remedy injustice in any form, and so we can also remedy economics so African-American communities can benefit economically through jobs and income.” 

Trump’s visit to the church was not without controversy. A New York Times report revealed that aides at the Republican National Committee and in Trump’s campaign had written an eight-page script detailing how the businessman should respond to a dozen questions Jackson submitted in advance. 

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign slammed Trump for preparing a script, saying it shows how unfamiliar he is with the issues important to black voters. 

“Donald Trump’s latest gimmick to act as if he cares about the black community is downright shameful, insulting and cowardly,” Clinton aide Marlon Marshall said in a statement this week. 

Jackson, too, faced criticism for inviting Trump to his church. 

He made clear the invitation wasn’t an endorsement, saying it was an opportunity to educate voters about what Trump can do for the community. 

“This is not to put one up above the other but you gotta understand that we are in a race, and there’s two people in the race. This is to inform our community of what he will do if elected,” Jackson said on Facebook this week. 

Trump has struggled with black voters throughout his campaign. A recent Public Policy Polling survey showed Trump with zero percent support among African-Americans. 

Other polls have shown him in low single digits among black voters.

Trump has tried to appeal to black voters, including by asking them what they have to lose by voting against Democrats. But he has faced criticism for speaking to them while at campaign events in front of predominantly white crowds.

On Saturday, the businessman tried to speak directly to African-Americans, promising to defend their right to worship and to bring jobs back to their city.

“I want to help you build and rebuild Detroit. We can do that,” Trump said. 

“We’re one nation. When anyone hurts, we all hurt together. We’re all brothers and sisters, and we’re all created by the same god. We must love each other and support each other. We’re all in this together.”

Trump also placed a heavy focus on religion and Christianity, a rarity when the GOP nominee is on the campaign trail. 

“I will always support your church, always, and defend your right to worship,” he said. 

“Christian faith is not the past, but the present and the future.”

He opened his speech by calling the African-American church “one of God’s greatest gifts to America.” 

“There is perhaps no action our leaders can take that would do more to heal our country and support our people than to provide a greater platform to the black churches and churchgoers.” 

Trump came to the church with Omarosa Manigault, a former reality TV star who helps the Trump campaign on black outreach, as well as Dr. Ben Carson, a former presidential rival-turned-Trump adviser and surrogate.

— Updated at 12:41 p.m.

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