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Trump calls pastor ‘nervous mess’ for interrupting his ‘political speech’

When Trump arrived at Bethel United Methodist Church in Flint, he started assailing Hillary Clinton for having “failed on the economy, just like she’s failed on foreign policy.”

world Updated: Sep 16, 2016 11:04 IST
Donald Trump
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at the Bethel United Methedoist Church in Flint, Michigan, on Wednesday.(AFP)

Republican nominee Donald Trump branded a US pastor a “nervous mess” on Thursday after she shut him down a day before as he criticised White House rival Hillary Clinton.

Trump had travelled to the suffering Michigan city of Flint to see how it has dealt with a health crisis rising out of lead contamination of its drinking water.

But when the Republican presidential hopeful arrived at Bethel United Methodist Church, a predominantly black congregation, he turned political, assailing Clinton for having “failed on the economy, just like she’s failed on foreign policy.”

“Everything she touched didn’t work out. Nothing,” Trump said.

As he spoke, Reverend Faith Green Timmons walked over, her hands clasped, and interrupted him.

“Mr Trump, I invited you here to thank us for what we’ve done in Flint, not to give a political speech,” Timmons said in a low voice.

“Oh, oh, oh, OK,” Trump said, appearing somewhat flustered before shifting his remarks to conditions in Flint.

On Thursday, Trump told Fox News that he felt “something was up” when Timmons introduced him.

“Everyone plays their games, it doesn’t bother me,” Trump said, suggesting Timmons might have had a political motive for stepping in.

“She was so nervous, she was like a nervous mess,” Trump said.

Rev Faith Green Timmons speaks before Trump at the Bethel United Methedoist Church on Wednesday. (AFP)

Clinton herself had been sidelined by a bout of pneumonia for three days this week. But on Thursday she returned to the campaign trail in North Carolina, where she weighed in on the Flint affair.

“He called her a nervous mess,” Clinton noted to reporters after a campaign rally in Greensboro. “That’s not only insulting, it’s dead wrong.”

Timmons “is a rock for her community in trying times,” Clinton said. “She deserves better” than Trump’s criticism.

Trump insisted on Fox that those at the church had been welcoming.

“What really made me feel good, the audience was saying, ‘Let him speak, let him speak.’ The audience was so great,” he said.

Trump clearly has been more disciplined on the campaign trail in recent weeks, following a year of pointed rhetoric that has antagonized many.

But his criticism of the pastor -- 11 days after he visited a black church in nearby Detroit and courted African-American voters -- highlights his willingness to stray from that regimen in order to push back against perceived affronts.