As he is wont to do, Trump turned what should have been an innocuous visit to a church into a major problem.
Yesterday (Sept. 14), Trump was invited by Pastor Faith Green Timmons to Bethel United Methodist Church in Flint, Michigan, to speak about the city and its water crisis that has exposed thousands of children to high levels of lead in their drinking water. Trump was supposed to focus his remarks on Flint, Timmons has said, not on his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
So when Trump launched into his usual talking points and attacked Hillary Clinton, Timmons approached the podium and asked him to stop.
“Mr. Trump, I invited you here to thank us for what we’ve done for Flint, not to give a political speech,” she said.
“Oh, oh, oh, okay, okay, okay, that’s good,” Trump replied. “Then I’m going to go back onto Flint.”
Then, this morning, Trump phoned into the morning news show Fox & Friends to discuss the incident.
“It doesn’t bother me,” an obviously bothered Trump said about being interrupted. “I’ll tell you what really made me feel good. The audience was saying, ‘Let him speak, let him speak.'”
Except, that isn’t what happened. According to multiple reports from reporters in the room, the audience said no such thing. Some in the crowd started to heckle Trump following the incident, and it was Timmons herself who defended him from them. In the video above, you can see her appear briefly from behind a curtain, telling the crowd that Trump “is a guest of my church, and you will respect him.”
“Thank you, pastor,” Trump said.
But that didn’t stop Trump from lashing out at Timmons this morning on Fox. “She was so nervous, she was like a nervous mess,” he said. Watch below:
Scott Detrow, an NPR reporter who was in the room, said that’s also untrue. “She didn’t appear nervous at all,” he wrote in a piece this morning summarizing the incident.
Timmons, too, tells a different story. She says Trump had agreed to center his remarks around Flint, rather than make his normal stump speech.
“When he asked to come in and make a statement, and the statement began to go beyond what he originally said, I asked him to stick to what he said, ‘You came here to welcome our workers and thank them for what they have done,’ and that’s what he stuck to,” she told reporters after Trump’s speech.
In a post on Facebook, Timmons elaborated: “Had he stuck to what his camp claimed he came to do, we would not have had a problem!”
To sum up: The woman pastor of a church in Flint, Michigan, politely asked Trump to stop politicking from the pulpit. The next morning, Trump went on television, called her a “nervous mess,” and then told a very different version of events from the one that journalists in the room are saying and video of the incident indicates.
Judging by that video, if there was a nervous person in the exchange, it was Trump, not the pastor. This appears to be a textbook case of projection, a psychological impulse common in bullies.
Trump wasn’t so nervous that he couldn’t make a few jokes, however.
“It used to be cars were made in Flint, and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico. Now the cars are made in Mexico, and you can’t drink the water in Flint,” he said at the beginning of his speech, probably referring to Ford’s plans to shift small-car production from the US to Mexico. The Flint water crisis could be responsible for as many as 10 deaths.