A South Carolina-based evangelical pastor and Donald Trump supporter has apologized for tweeting a cartoon that showed Hillary Clinton in blackface, but is resolutely standing by what he says was the "message" of the comic.
Pastor Mark Burns Monday shared a since-deleted tweet that featured an illustrated version of the Democratic presidential nominee in blackface, carrying a sign that proclaims "[expletive] the police," wearing a black T-shirt that reads "No hot sauce, no peace!" and saying "I ain't no ways tired of pandering to African Americans."
Before the end of the day, Burns had deleted the tweet. But in the meantime, he made the rounds on cable news networks to defend the "message" behind his tweet. That message, Burns said repeatedly, is that African-Americans are not a monolithic population but rather a diverse group of Americans, who have "little to show" for a long-standing allegiance to the Democratic Party.
Shortly after his tweet went live Monday, Burns had a tense exchange with MSNBC's Kristen Welker, who asked the pastor, who frequently appears at Trump rallies to warm up the crowd, whether the patently offensive nature of the cartoon he tweeted eclipsed the message he was allegedly trying to send.
"When you tweet something like this out, it's impossible for people to hear what you say because this type of image becomes the topic of conversation," Welker said to Burns, who called in to Monday's episode of MTP Daily.
Saying that the tweet was a reflection of his frustration as a black man in America, Burns was nearly shouting at the anchor as he continued:
"The picture is designed to do draw attention to the fact that Hillary Clinton do pander after black people. She do pander. And the policies are not good for African-Americans. It is doing exactly what it's designed to do. We're not playing the political PC game to make you feel good."
Burns repeatedly talked over Welker and deflected her questions about whether Trump is doing direct outreach to African-Americans, ultimately asking the anchor about her own "ancestors." He ended the segment by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, as a visibly frustrated Welker signed off.
Before the day was done, Burns also appeared on Fox News and Breitbart, echoing his critique of Clinton's "pandering" and saying Trump's presidential plans will benefit black people because more jobs will benefit all Americans.
In an 11-minute statement issued via social media streaming service Periscope late Monday night, Burns acknowledged that "obviously many people were offended by my tweet." He went on to say that "it was not at all my intention to not offend anyone [sic]." Burns repeatedly stressed that he did not create the comic but simply shared it in an effort to call out what he bemoans as a "politically correct" culture run rampant.
"The tweet was not designed to anger or stir up the pot like it did," he continued in his Periscope statement. "It was designed to bring, how I feel a very real reality, as to why the Democratic Party ... have been pandering and using black people just for their votes."
"I believe my intentions were honorable," he continued. "It was designed to capture the imaginations as to why black people as a mass have been suffering."
In closing, Burns promised to "continue to speak on unity in this country" and "continue to support Donald Trump for president of the United States. I'm going to continue to fight for Americans."
Early Tuesday morning, Burns sent out another tweet that directly apologized for the cartoon but again reiterated his support for the "message" of the image.
Burns is scheduled to speak at a Trump rally Saturday in Detroit, where the presidential hopeful is slated to attend a church service, then be interviewed by a local African-American Christian television outlet. Pundits have noted that Saturday's stop marks the first time the Trump campaign has addressed a predominantly African-American audience since securing the Republican Party's nomination.