Speaking today in an interview with Fox News, Donald Trump said that Rev. Faith Green Timmons of Bethel United Methodist Church in Flint had pre-planned her disruption of his speech to her congregation yesterday. He said today that the pastor was “so nervous she was shaking” while introducing him at the event where he was invited to speak about the continuing water crisis in the city.
“When she got up to introduce me, she was so nervous she was shaking and I said, ‘Wow this is sort of strange,’” he said. “And then she came up. So she had that in mind, there’s no question about it.” The pastor was a "nervous mess," said Trump.
Yesterday, Trump visited Flint's water treatment plant and then went to the church to deliver brief remarks. When he sought to link the city's economic devastation to policies championed by Democrat Hillary Clinton, Rev. Timmons interrupted him. “Hillary failed on the economy, just like she has failed on foreign policy,” Trump said. “Everything she touched didn’t work out. Nothing. Now Hillary Clinton…” It was then that Rev. Timmons interjected and said, “Mr. Trump, I invited you to thank us for what we’ve done in Flint, not give a political speech.”
“Oh, OK, that’s good,” he said. “OK. Flint’s pain is a result of so many different failures.” In a Fox News interview, Trump pointed out that besides the issue of lead-contaminated water in Flint, crime is also an issue that he intends to fix.
Bethel United Church, like many other congregations in Flint, has distributed bottled water to residents ever since officials concluded that the city's water treatment plant had produced water laden with toxic levels of lead. Despite assurances from President Barack Obama and government officials, many residents remain dubious about the safety of the water provided by the city and continue to use bottled water for drinking and cooking. The congregation is a constituent part of the broader United Methodist Church in the United States, which is largely white in its membership. Hillary Clinton is a Methodist, for example. Rev. Timmons is black, as is much of her congregation. During President Barack Obama's visit to Flint in May, Rev. Timmons was introduced to the president who greeted her daughter when he spoke to assembled members of the community about the federal response to the water crisis.
Today on Fox News, Trump was asked whether the pastor's chiding bothered him. He replied, “No, I mean, everyone plays their games.” Trump said that the reception he received from the mostly-black congregation was largely positive. There were protesters on hand, one of whom was chastised by Rev. Timmons. On hand were protesters from a group called Michigan People’s Campaign. One of the members asked Trump whether his businesses had discriminated against blacks. That protester was asked to leave. According to the website of the United Methodist Church of the United States, there are 134 congregants at Bethel United United Methodist Church in Flint.
According to “Fox and Friends,” Rev. Timmons posted on Facebook before Trump’s visit, “We have our chance to show Donald Trump that this nation is filled with intelligent, wise black citizens of integrity many of whom live right in Flint, Michigan," she wrote. "What he will see is how we are braving a man-made catastrophe. HE WILL NOT USE US, WE will EDUCATE HIM!!!" The post has since been erased from Rev. Timmons' Facebook page. In her remarks after the event, Rev. Timmons said, “I wanted him to see the best of Flint. Some of the statements he has made about Africans, Mexican-Americans are degrading.”
Last night, Rev. Timmons wrote on her Facebook page: "Had he stuck to what his camp claimed he came to do," she wrote, "we would not have had a problem! - Good night." Spero News contacted Kristen Gillette of the communications office of Methodist Bishop David Bard of Lansing, Michigan. There was no immediate response.