Back in February, Democrat Hillary Clinton got a rousing welcome at a black church in Flint, Mich.
Republican Donald Trump's reception in that same city Wednesday was not quite so enthusiastic.
The basics from the New York Times:
FLINT, Mich. — Donald J. Trump traveled Wednesday to Michigan, a state that has not voted Republican in more than two decades, as he reached out to African-Americans with remarks at a local church and toured a water-treatment plant in a city that has battled dangerously high levels of lead and contaminated water.
The trip did not exactly go as planned. In a stop at the predominantly African-American Bethel United Methodist Church here, a pamphlet was distributed indicating that the speech “in no way represents an endorsement.” Mr. Trump was then interrupted in the middle of his remarks by the pastor, the Rev. Faith Green Timmons, after he started to criticize Hillary Clinton.
“Mr. Trump, I invited you here to thank us,” she said, adding, “not make a political speech.”
“O.K., that’s good,” Mr. Trump responded. “Flint. And I’m going to back on to Flint. O.K. O.K. Flint’s pain is a result of so many different failures.”
The candidate continued, but members of the crowd repeatedly shouted questions, at one point interrupting him about reports that his housing empire had “discriminated against black tenants” in the past, according to news media pool reports.
But did any journalists go beyond the threadbare particulars of the short exchange between the pastor and the presidential candidate?
I found a couple of reports — of varying types and styles — that provide insightful details and context.
Bravo to the Detroit Free Press, which notes that Trump was greeted in Flint "by groups of supporters and critics alike." Hecklers are prominent in those other news stories I mentioned, but supporters? They are nowhere to be seen.
The Free Press' front-page story pulls no punches, reporting that Trump "offered no concrete solutions or specific plans on how to make the transition from bottled to safe drinking water, or bring back jobs." But the story also offers a fuller summary than other reports of what Trump actually said — and a more detailed explanation from the pastor of her position:
Explaining her actions after Trump's speech, Timmons said: “I thought he wanted to see that we gave out food and water, and when his statement went beyond what he originally said, I asked him to stick to what he was originally going to say. He’s welcome to come and see what we’re doing in Flint. We’re doing well. We’re helping those in need. And I wanted him to see the best of Flint.
“And some of the statements I’ve heard him say about African-Americans and Hispanics have been degrading,” Timmons added.
At the same time, the Michigan newspaper does something remarkable (at least compared to most campaign stories I read these days): It talks to actual voters, both for and against Trump, who were at the church. (What a concept.)
One example from the story:
And Jerome Barney, an attorney from Southfield who also was inside the church, said he thought Trump was sincere, although he had hoped that more Flint people would have been allowed into the church to hear his remarks.
"He just said that Flint is in a bad situation and if he's elected to president, he'll alleviate the situation," Barney said. "He's here to win a presidency. He's here to say he's here for everybody. We understand that black folks have a certain mindset, they listen to forces that haven't done anything for them for the last 40 years."
And another example:
Sharon C., a Flint resident who didn't want to give her last name, sat outside the church helping to hand out the cases of water that residents in Flint still have to depend on instead of drinking tap water that has been contaminated with lead.
"We'll give him respect and let him come, but I don't follow the things that he's said," she said. "I don't think he's sincere coming here to the black neighborhood. He's just doing a photo op."
The Free Press' coverage of this story falls under the heading of what we sometimes affectionately refer to as "journalism."
The other must-read report on the Trump visit to the church comes from NPR. The piece is by a pool reporter who was at inside the church and responds to this quote by Trump on a national cable TV program today:
"Something was up," Trump told Fox and Friends on Thursday morning, calling Pastor Faith Green Timmons a "nervous mess." "I noticed she was so nervous when she introduced me. When she got up to introduce me she was so nervous, she was shaking. I said, wow, this is kind of strange. Then she came up. So she had that in mind, there's no question."
The NPR journalist contradicts Trump's claim on Fox that the audience "was saying let him speak, let him speak":
That isn't true. In fact, several audience members began to heckle Trump, asking pointed questions about whether he racially discriminated against black tenants as a landlord.
And that's when Timmons — who Trump said Thursday had planned to ambush him — stepped in to defend Trump, saying the Republican nominee was "a guest of my church, and you will respect him."
"Thank you. Thank you, pastor," Trump responded.
Interesting. Very interesting.