Donald Trump has asked the question to African-Americans, “What do you have to lose?” in voting for him. The Republican presidential candidate’s track record and rhetoric combined with the untruthful actions of his campaign surrogates, like Mark Burns, may provide the answer.
Burns, who is black, is a pastor of a church in South Carolina. He was confronted during an interview with CNN last week for falsifying parts of his professional biography, including claiming he is a member of the historically African-American fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi.
The 36-year-old has been an outspoken advocate for Trump. He offered the benediction at the Republican National Convention in July and frequently provides fiery openings for the candidate at rallies across the country. He has also recently apologized for tweeting a photo of Hillary Clinton in blackface.
CNN investigated the professional information on the website of Burns’ church that stated he has a Bachelor of Science, served six years in the Army Reserve and is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi.
It was discovered that Burns was never in the Army Reserve; he was in the South Carolina National Guard, from which he was discharged in 2008. He also did not graduate college, and he is not a Kappa.
In an interview last week, CNN anchor Victor Blackwell confronted Burns with the findings:
Burns first said the page of the website had “obviously” been “manipulated or either hacked or added.”
He eventually walked out of the interview.
Burns later released a statement admitting that he “overstated several details” of his resume.
“As a young man starting my church in Greenville, South Carolina, I overstated several details of my biography because I was worried I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a new pastor,” he wrote in a statement Friday. “This was wrong. I wasn’t truthful then and I have to take full responsibility for my actions.”
He also said he’s being attacked because “he’s a black man who supports Trump.”
Burns’ Dishonesty Offends Kappa Members
Kappa Alpha Psi was founded in 1911, a time when most African-Americans were not truly invited into society on college campuses.
“By the time we get to the beginning of the 20th century, African-Americans are starting to figure out that they want to come together in a way that allowed them to succeed on college and university campuses,” Lawrence Ross, author of the book “The Divine Nine: The History of African-American Fraternities and Sororities,” said in an interview with NPR.
In a column published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Saturday, attorney, activist and Kappa member Michael Coard made clear his disappointment with Burns for his dishonesty and his support of Trump.
“[Burns] actually said ‘I pledged Kappa at the now disband(ed) xi omega chapter at Furman University but … never crossed,'” Coard wrote. “However, he never pledged an undergraduate chapter. He never pledged an alumni chapter. He never even received an honorary membership because we don’t grant honorary memberships.”
Coard also wrote that Trump has a history of racism:
“And don’t forget that Trump is the very same racist who, in 1989, put out a full-page ad calling for the death penalty to be imposed on the five innocent black and Latino juveniles falsely implicated in the tragic Central Park jogger rape and attempted murder case.”
Morehouse College professor and political commentator Marc Lamont Hill is host of “VH1 Live” and a Kappa member. In July, he tweeted the following about Burns:
The Trump campaign rolls on with its diverse and questionable group of surrogates as part of its National Diversity Coalition chosen to help win over voters. Quite a few of the members subscribe to conspiracy theories, such as President Barack Obama is collaborating with ISIS. The coalition has enacted diversity initiatives, including visits to predominantly black cities.
On Saturday, Trump visited Great Faith Ministries International in Detroit. The campaign planned a scripted interview with the pastor Bishop Wayne T. Jackson. The New York Times obtained an eight-page draft script that shows 12 questions that Jackson intended to ask Trump in the taped question-and-answer session, and the responses Trump was advised to give.
But after the article was published, the campaign said Trump would also address the congregation for five to 10 minutes after the interview.
“For centuries, the African-American church has been the conscience of this country. So true,” Trump said, reading from prepared remarks. “The African-American faith community has been one of God’s greatest gifts to America and its people.”
In an interview with CNN following the event, Rev. Wendell Anthony, head of the Detroit NAACP, called it a “scam.” Anthony compared Trump showcasing a newfound concern for black Americans to showman P.T. Barnum’s tactics stating his famous quote: “There’s a sucker born every moment.” He said Barnum had “various types of acts that people flowed to.”
Anthony called Trump’s campaign nothing more than an “old southern strategy wrapped up in a new suit in 2016.”