Rev. Faith Green Timmons made herself Donald Trump’s latest public enemy in just 20 words.
The Flint, Michigan, pastor and her church, Bethel United Methodist Church, had invited the Republican presidential nominee to speak Wednesday about the city’s water crisis, and efforts to combat it. When Trump began attacking Hillary Clinton from the pulpit (“Everything she touched didn’t work out”), Timmons intervened.
“Mr. Trump, I invited you here to thank us for what we’ve done in Flint, not give a political speech,” Timmons told him while he was on-stage mid-speech.
“OK, that’s good, then I’m going back onto Flint, OK,” Trump replied, quickly backing down.
But by Thursday morning, Pastor Faith had found herself in Trump’s crosshairs.
“Something was up, because I noticed she was so nervous when she introduced me,” Trump said on Fox News. “When she got up to introduce me, she was so nervous, she was shaking. And I said, ‘Wow, this is sort of strange.’ And then she came up. So she had that in mind, there’s no question about it… She was like a nervous mess, so I figured something was up.”
Trump’s allies in conservative media also agreed with the real-estate mogul that “something” was up, with Fox News’s website and the relentlessly pro-Trump outlet Breitbart both posting articles suggesting that the pastor had ambushed and set up a “trap” for Trump.
“We have our chance to show Donald Trump that this nation is filled with intelligent, wise black citizens of integrity many of whom live right in Flint, Michigan,” Timmons wrote on Facebook prior to Trump’s appearance, in a post flagged by conservative news outlets to show evidence of bias and possible premeditation. “What he will see is how we are braving a man-made catastrophe. HE WILL NOT USE US, WE will EDUCATE HIM!!!”
(A photo of her smiling and shaking President Obama’s hand has also been making the rounds.)
The church, as well as Rev. Timmons, did not respond to requests for comment, but she responded to the controversy online.
“The United Methodist Church has open hearts, open doors and open minds. Mr. Trump's campaign claimed he was swinging by and stepping through only to greet the volunteers and thank them with no political rhetoric of any kind,” she wrote in a brief statement on her church’s Facebook page. “That was stated. When it went further than that I did exactly what we agreed I would do.”
“Had he stuck to what his camp claimed he came to do, we would not have had a problem! - Good night,” she posted on her personal page.
“If he had only stuck with his stated purpose,” Timmons continued in the comments section of her Facebook post. “I would not let others [the hecklers at the event] make this a platform to disrespect him either. He said his ONE goal was to learn more about the water situation and observe & thank the volunteers in action.”
For months, the pastor and her church have been providing aid and trying to bring more attention and awareness to the Flint water crisis. In April, Timmons spoke about the water contamination’s effect on her own family, which included her daughter suffering from severe rashes and her son profusely vomiting.
“We were told the water was OK,” she said, regarding the first months of the crisis.
Since then, Flint’s Bethel United Methodist Church has hosted event after event and helped organized donation drives and distribution of bottled water and supplies.
It is work Timmons is clearly proud of, and that she maintains she invited Trump to observe. Because of her acceptance of the Trump campaign’s outreach, she is now being mocked as a nervous wreck by the Republican Party’s presidential contender.