CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Celebrity boxing promoter Don King stole the show here during a campaign event that included Donald Trump and dozens of Midwestern pastors, making a free-wheeling speech praising the Republican presidential nominee — and, at one point, accidentally using the n-word.
King introduced Trump during a conference of pastors at the New Spirit Revival Center, where he spoke about Trump’s appeal as a political outsider and talked about the struggles black Americans face. The event, organized by longtime Trump associate Michael Cohen, involved several members of Trump’s diversity outreach network and appeared choreographed to combat the negative impression many minority voters have of the nominee.
King’s unconventional introduction, which appeared off-the-cuff, stirred cheers at times but shock at others. Behind him, Trump kept a steady grin as King used the epithet but swiftly corrected himself.
“I told Michael Jackson, I said, ‘If you're poor, you’re a poor negro.’ I would use the n-word. ‘But if you're rich, you're a rich negro. If you are intelligent, intellectual, you're an intellectual negro. If you're a dancing and sliding and gliding n-----,’ — I mean negro!” King said, recovering abruptly. “You're a dancing and sliding and gliding negro. So dare not alienate because you cannot assimilate. You know, you're going to be a negro till you die."
King had arrived ready to capture attention, wearing his trademark denim jacket — faded but strewn with buttons and glittering patches in the shape of stars. He had been barred from delivering a speech at the Republican National Convention in July.
King also said that he believes white women should cast their votes for Trump because he has promised to undermine a political system that discriminates against them. King did not mention Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, by name during his remarks.
“The white woman, and I put it in this category so you understand what I'm saying, the white woman and the slave, the people of color — when the system was created, they did not give her, ‘The first will be last and the last will be first,’ ” King said. “The white woman did not have the rights, and she still don't have the rights. And people of color don't have their rights. Those are the left-outs. Donald Trump says, 'No, we're going back to inclusiveness, everybody counts.’ ”
“So that's why when I see them try to ridiculize [sic] him or try to ostracize and pervert, I want you to understand every white woman should cast their vote for Donald Trump. Not for Donald Trump the man, but to knock out the system, to help him to get their rights," King said.
He wasn’t the only one who raised a few eyebrows. At the beginning of the event, the Rev. Darrell Scott asked non-clergy seated in the first two rows of seats to move, saying many pastors had traveled a long distance to attend the conference.
“I don’t want to put them in the Jim Crow section. Separate but equal facilities,” he said laughing. “We’ve got to lighten up a little bit.”
Trump said his administration would seek to rebuild U.S. inner cities and make black communities safe, which he says sometimes are less safe than war zones in Afghanistan. He again made an appeal that many black leaders have condemned: “What do you have to lose?”
“One day, I said, 'What do you have to lose? I mean, what do you have to lose? I'm gonna fix it. What do you have to lose?’ And somehow that resonated," he said. "Some people didn't like it. But I said, 'What difference does it make?' I mean, it's true. What do you have to lose? And it resonated, and it's been amazing how it's resonated because it's true."