Trump said he believes these pastors planned to endorse him but changed their minds when news of the endorsement spread and prompted criticism.
"It gets publicity -- unfortunately, as everything I do gets publicity -- and probably some of the Black Lives Matter folks called them up and said: 'You shouldn't be meeting with Trump because he believes that all lives matter,'" Trump said in an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday. "I believe black lives do matter, but I believe all lives matter very strongly."
Some of the pastors said over the weekend they never intended to endorse Trump and were only interested in talking with Republican front-runner. Some have canceled their plans to attend the meeting, which was announced just days after an African American man began chanting “Black lives matter” at a Trump rally in Birmingham, Ala., and was punched and kicked by white people in the audience. When asked about the incident the next day, Trump said: “Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.” Later that day, Trump retweeted a graphic that incorrectly showed that black people are responsible for most killings of white people. The incident and Trump’s response to it left some incredulous that a large group of black religious leaders would endorse him.
“Mr. Trump routinely uses overtly divisive and racist language on the campaign trail,” stated an open letter on Ebony.com, signed by more than 130 clergy members, religious scholars and activists. “We are concerned that your choice to meet with Mr. Trump, particularly in such a visible way, will not only de-radicalize the Black prophetic political tradition, but will also give Trump the appearance of legitimacy among those who follow your leadership and respect your position as clergy.
"What theology do you believe Mr. Trump possesses when his politics are so clearly anti-Black?" said the letter, which was one of the the milder rebukes aimed at the group.
Trump said Monday he still plans to still meet with the religious leaders, as "having a meeting is a good thing anyway." He implied that there had been confusion about the original purpose of the meeting and what will now be discussed.
"I am going to have a meeting -- I have no idea what the meeting is really, you know, I'm going to a meeting," Trump said. "I have a great relationship with the black pastors. I know many of them. We'll see what happens. I don't know if it's an endorsement. I don't know if it's an endorsement by some. I think probably it will be an endorsement by some. I have fantastic relationships with the people, but I do think that pressure was put on them when they heard there was a meeting by people that maybe disagree with certain things."
In the interview, Trump criticized Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders for being pressured into supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
"He talks about like all lives matter and then goes into a shell and he comes back: 'Oh, black lives matter,'" Trump said. "He was a disgrace. So what I think happened is a lot of pressure was put on him."