DETROIT — Donald Trump, who has campaigned for president as a blunt provocateur, dismissing complaints of racial insensitivity as political correctness, took an uncharacteristic step Saturday: He visited a black church for the first time and tried to blend in.
Flanked by a few black supporters, including Ben Carson, a former presidential candidate, and Omarosa Manigault, a former contestant on The Apprentice, Trump cut a subdued figure here at Great Faith Ministries International.
He beamed as congregants greeted him and swayed to the song What a Mighty God We Serve. Speaking softly, he invoked the civil rights movement and Abraham Lincoln. Donning a prayer shawl given to him by the church's pastor, Bishop Wayne Jackson, Trump proclaimed, "I feel better already."
Trump is unpopular with black voters and perceived by many as hostile to their community. His company has faced accusations of discrimination against black tenants; he has alleged falsely in the past that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States; and a champion of aggressive policing, he has stirred indignation by caricaturing black neighborhoods as blighted by crime and economic despair.
In Detroit, Trump did not express regret for, or even acknowledge, the actions and remarks that have opened a gulf between him and black voters. Instead, reading from prepared remarks, he hailed the Christian values and political contributions of black Americans and told his audience he cared about making their lives better.
"I fully understand that the African-American community has suffered from discrimination and that there are many wrongs that must still be made right," Trump said, adding: "For any who are hurting: Things are going to turn around."
Trump's visit to the church concluded a week of fitful outreach to black and Hispanic voters, capping off a frenzied campaign schedule that took him to Mexico's presidential palace, to a meeting in North Philadelphia with black leaders, and to Detroit.
Far more than even a typical Republican presidential candidate, Trump faces a wall of opposition from nonwhite voters. He records virtually no support from black voters in the polls. Their resistance has emerged as one of the most important impediments to Trump's candidacy, threatening to put several major swing states entirely out of reach.
Trump's appearance Saturday, long billed by campaign aides as a pivotal opportunity to reintroduce himself to black voters, was swathed in uncertainty up to the last minute, as the Trump campaign and the pastor deliberated over whether the Republican nominee would actually speak at the church. Plans for stops in nearby neighborhoods were announced, then retracted; Trump ultimately paid a short visit to Carson's childhood home before flying out of Detroit.
Pence to release taxes
In an interview with NBC's Meet the Press on Saturday, Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, said he plans to release his tax returns this week, the Associated Press reported. Pence said Trump's long-awaited tax returns are also coming. Pence echoed Trump's promise that he will release his taxes upon the completion of an audit.