Little more than a week after Donald Trump distributed – and then defended – wildly false claims about the number of people in the U.S. murdered by African Americans each year, the front-running Republican presidential candidate is scheduled to meet with 100 black religious leaders Monday. And up until this weekend, the claim coming from Trump HQ was that the candidate, constantly under fire for being one of the most racially divisive political figures from a major party in years, was about to get the ringing endorsement of those African-American faith leaders.
Turns out, that’s not the case. And the way the Trump campaign handles the candidate’s meeting with those African-American pastors will be interesting to watch, because it will force Trump to deal with one of his less-than-factual statements in something like real time.
Many of Trump’s falsehoods and exaggerations have one of two key characteristics in common: they are either lies about something that happened in the past or wildly unlikely predictions about something that will happen in the relatively distant (and therefore unknowable) future.
Defending his claims about the past are easy. For example, Trump says that thousands of Muslims in Jersey City, NJ, were dancing in the streets when the Twin Towers fell on 9/11. They weren’t, but when he gets called on the fact that it probably never happened he just reasserts it as fact and all but alleges that the evidence has been covered up.
Claims about the distant future? He can promise to deport 12 million undocumented immigrants in the space of two years after he’s elected president, and despite the fact that deporting nearly 16,500 people per day would be a logistical, legal and political nightmare, the fact that it is not a logical impossibility allows him to demand that naysayers prove a negative.
But claims about things that will happen right now are different. Trump’s campaign openly promised that on Monday afternoon 100 African American faith leaders would endorse his campaign. He even scheduled a press conference to announce it. But over the weekend, a number of the pastors invited to the event at Trump Tower in Manhattan started challenging the claim that they were about to endorse The Donald.
Suddenly, the meeting is to be a private affair. As Trump tweeted, it is “Not a press event.”
Will be meeting on Monday at Trump Tower with a large group of African American Pastors. Many I know-wonderful people! Not a press event.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2015
The afternoon event will be interesting to watch, because as many as 100 public figures – many of them very active on social media – are going to walk out of an event with Trump that his campaign seems to have expected to be a slam-dunk triumph. However, as it turns out, many of them weren’t especially pleased to hear that their endorsement was considered a foregone conclusion.
It’s virtually certain that some of those invitees – at least those who actually attend – will take to social media after the event to express their opinions about the Trump campaign. The Trump campaign’s social media pushback operation has been, so far, one of the candidate’s greatest strengths.
However, it’s been at its best defending Trump from his lies about past events or his unlikely predictions about the future. How the campaign handles Monday’s event will speak volumes about how a Trump administration would handle, say, the eventual revelation that mass deportations of undocumented immigrants didn’t turn out to be possible after all.