In the midst of a feud with Democrats over conditions in Baltimore, President Trump held a two-hour meeting Monday at the White House with inner-city faith leaders, some of whom emerged saying the president is concerned about people of all races.
Alveda King, a Trump supporter and niece of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., said critics of the president such as the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson should consider themselves “brothers” of Mr. Trump.
“These are his brothers,” she told reporters at the White House. “The president is concerned about the whole nation. We’ve been designed to be brothers and sisters — one member of the human race. Not separate races. The same blood.”
Mr. Sharpton, visiting Baltimore on Monday, said of the president, “He has a particular venom for blacks and people of color.”
Ms. King said she has “beautiful picture” from years past of Mr. Trump together with Mr. Sharpton and Mr. Jackson.
“At one time in their lives, they highly regarded the president,” she said. “And, so I’m thinking about a scripture: ‘If it had been my enemy, I could have understood, I could have known what to do, but you were my friends and my brothers.'”
She added, “I was just rejoicing to be able to pray here today. And to believe that America will come together. We will learn to be brothers and sisters.”
About 20 people attended the White House meeting, including Bill Owens, founder and president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors. He said the White House invited him sometime last week and rejected the suggestion that the meeting was “damage control.”
“It was not a photo-op. It was two hours of discussion,” Mr. Owens told reporters. “That’s not a photo-op. We discussed the issues facing the black community. There are many. ”
Mr. Owens said it would be a good idea for the president to visit Baltimore but added, “that was not on the agenda” for the meeting.
“This country needs healing,” he said. “There’s so much division in America along racial lines.”
Asked if Mr. Trump was fanning flames of racial animosity with tweets about “infested” Baltimore, Mr. Owens replied, “Well, those are his words. I don’t want to second-guess what he says, because I hear a lot of things. I see also people pandering to black people, to get them on board with some of their agenda.”
The meeting wasn’t on Mr. Trump’s public schedule. The first public indication of it was when the president tweeted shortly before the session, “Looking forward to my meeting at 2:00 P.M. with wonderful Inner City Pastors!”
The president held a similar meeting with inner-city pastors at the White House a year ago, when he pledged that he was “bringing opportunity and safety to all of our citizens.”
Ms. King said Mr. Trump’s policies are working for black Americans.
“America is troubled,” Ms. King told reporters after the meeting. “If we say we’re color blind, we need to put on our glasses. We can see a troubled America, but we can [also] see a blessed America.”
She said employment rates are up in every segment of society, “including the black community.”
“Historically black colleges and universities under this president are being blessed,” she said. “The babies in the womb, the sick and poor and elderly, are being blessed.”
She added, “We have a president who’s listening. We have an opportunity to continue to be blessed. And I was glad to pray with him today.”
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