Two pastors whose historically black churches were burned down spoke with CNN’s Don Lemon about Vice President Mike Pence’s Friday visit and the Trump administration’s response.
Rev. Gerald Toussaint of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church and Rev. Harry Richard of Greater Union Baptist Church both sat down with Lemon Friday night. Their churches were burned in hate-motivated arsons allegedly committed by the son of a local sheriff’s deputy.
Instead of being critical, the reverends praised both Pence and the administration’s response to the tragedy.
“Today the vice president visited the site and your church,” Lemon said. “How do you feel about support you’ve received from the Trump White House?”
“It’s satisfying and it’s uplifting,” Toussaint responded. While the pastor said they were “concerned” at first, he told Lemon they are “reassured right now because of the reaction that we’re getting, especially the visit of Vice President Mike Pence.”
“I’m encouraged right now because of the reaction of the country,” he said. “The country has been so supportive. And for us because we didn’t know what we were going to do during — after the fire. We didn’t know what reaction we were going to have but now I’m so encouraged right now and I’m so elated about the reaction that they had … The people that gave, the people that supported us. I can only be just joyful.” (RELATED: Joy Behar Says ‘Provocative’ Trump Is ‘The Culprit’ Behind Synagogue Shooting)
Lemon noted “criticism” the president has received for not speaking sooner.
“Some people thought it was a little too late, but it’s good now that the administration has acknowledged it,” he said. “And do you think that they’re going to help? Do you feel satisfied with this?”
“Well, I’m optimistic, Don,” Richard answered. “I feel like after this tragedy the country is coming together. I appreciate the fact that Mr. Trump did acknowledge the fact that we had this tragedy down here in Louisiana and I was encouraged today when Mr. Pence came and visited with us. I respect our leadership. One thing I know, Don, that if you’re going to be a leader, you’ve got to acknowledge the suffering of Christ. If that’s where his heart is I believe that we are going to be helped.”
Lemon pressed with a question about the White House “doing enough to condemn acts of hate,” but neither took the bait.
After noting that there is “always room for improvement,” Toussaint said, “I wouldn’t know how much is enough. But at least I feel confident that at least they’re reaching out.”