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Detroit pastor faces storm of criticism over Trump visit

Detroit pastor faces storm of criticism over Trump visit
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The pastor who will interview Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care MORE at a black Detroit church on Saturday is responding to a deluge of criticism from people unhappy about the GOP presidential nominee's visit.

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In a series of interviews and social media posts over the past week, Bishop Wayne T. Jackson has defended his decision to invite Trump to his church and to be interviewed on Jackson’s television channel, Impact Network.

"This interview is not an endorsement,” Jackson wrote on Facebook this week. "This is engagement. We have given Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Monica Lewinsky responds to viral HBO intern's mistake: 'It gets better' Virginia governor's race poses crucial test for GOP MORE the same opportunity as Donald Trump and she has not yet responded. 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."

It seems many of Jackson’s followers are not convinced. On Friday, his social media team warned on Facebook that it would be removing comments that resort to name-calling or use foul language.

But plenty of comments from unhappy users can still be seen on the page.

On Thursday, The New York Times reported 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 that Jackson had submitted in advance.

“With all respect I ask you to please refuse to participate in the Trump ‘interview’ unless you are allowed to ask some unscripted questions,” read one comment from a man named Michael Bradley. “Otherwise I would see it as a sham, nothing more than a campaign advertisement and not an interview in any way.”

“That's incredible that you would ask everybody on here to be respectful and civil when you are interviewing someone who never display that,” Kerry Hill said in response to the warning that asked users to refrain from name-calling.

Other inflammatory comments call Jackson “a spawn of the devil,” accuse him of being paid off by Trump and label the event propaganda.

Jackson himself has acknowledged that the candidate tends to evoke anger among black voters — a recent Public Policy Polling survey showed Trump had zero percent support among African Americans.

“There’s a lot of emotions going on right now — people are upset that he’s coming to Detroit,” Jackson told The Detroit News this week. “But if we don’t sit down to talk to him, we’ll never know what his policies are.”

Still, Jackson maintains that by interviewing Trump on his Impact Network, he is helping to inform his viewers. He also says that the candidate has a right to make his case to black voters.

“We’re not here to say we agree,” the bishop wrote in another Facebook post. “We’re here to listen. A person who committed murder, killed a child, whatever it may be, we still give them a right in our nation to be heard. We need to hear both sides.”

“My phone has been burning up,” Jackson told the Detroit Free Press. “And the things people are asking: ‘Is Donald Trump paying me off?’ They haven’t paid me off. You haven’t looked at me and seen a man who’s needed things, I’ve always been blessed. It’s not about being a Judas to my people.”

Trump's visit to Jackson’s church, Great Faith Ministries, was first announced Aug. 28 in a statement by Pastor Mark Burns, a Trump surrogate who a day later set off a firestorm by tweeting a cartoon of Democrat Hillary Clinton in blackface. Burns has his own show on the Impact Network.

Jackson had said in interviews this week that he planned to ask Trump if there’s any truth to the accusations of racism that have plagued his campaign for more than a year. The leaked script shows that Jackson will also ask how Trump can change black voters’ mistrust of the GOP, given that Republican candidates rarely appear in black communities.

“The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding,” reads Trump’s scripted answer. “Coming into a community is meaningless unless we can offer an alternative to the horrible progressive agenda that has perpetuated a permanent underclass in America.”

The Clinton campaign slammed Trump for the prepared script, saying that the fact that his team feels the need to provide him with a script shows that he is unfamiliar with the issues important to black voters and uncomfortable discussing them.

“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.

“After 14 months of neglecting us, Donald Trump is once again dodging substantive conversations and ducking questions about the issues that impact our community.”