CHICAGO — The Ohio pastor who told President Donald Trump that Chicago's "top gang thugs" wanted to help the president stop violence in Chicago apologized for his remarks Thursday and said he misspoke.
After leaving the Wednesday morning event at the White House, the Rev. Darrell Scott of Cleveland Heights, Ohio was blasted on social media by people who accused him of allowing Trump to use him to attack African-Americans.
In response to Scott's comments, the president said violence in Chicago was "totally out of control."
NOT "Gang Thugs", FORMER street guys that are now community activists. MY BAD! No harm or disrespect intended! (I'm a former street guy too)— Dr. Darrell Scott (@PastorDScott) February 2, 2017
In response to questions on social media, Scott said the people he spoke with include the Rev. Corey Brooks of New Beginnings Church, Kublai Toure, a longtime activist and former Chicago firefighter, and Torrence Cooks.
Brooks — the best known of the three men Scott said he spoke with — endorsed Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and was appointed to the Illinois Tollway board by the Republican politician.
Brooks has often met with gang members as part of his efforts to stop violence in Chicago.
Toure is a community activist who was part of the black power movement in the 1960s. He is the executive director of the Illinois chapter of Amer-I-Can, which was founded by NFL Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, who endorsed Trump.
Neither Toure nor Brooks have ever been part of a gang. None of the three men identified by Scott could be reached Thursday morning.
Scott told Trump that the Chicagoans he spoke to had more faith in Trump than Obama, who adopted Chicago as his hometown before beginning his political career here, and wanted to "sit down with him" because of his connection with Trump.
"They believe in this administration," Scott said of the gang members. "They didn’t believe in the prior administration. They told me this out of their mouths, but they see hope with you.”
Scott said he planned to travel to Chicago "to have a sitdown about lowering that body count" and set up social programs along with with boxer Floyd Mayweather and Brown.
Trump called that a "great idea."
After the meeting, Scott told reporters that Trump had a plan to tackle violence. The pastor of an Ohio megachurch, New Spirit Revival Center, Scott campaigned for Trump and was a member of his transition team.
"We're not just going to send in the feds and start arresting black people," he said, according to a Reuters report.
However, Trump said in the meeting that his push for safer communities would ask law enforcement officers to step up their efforts.
After surging in 2016, violence in Chicago has shown no sign of slowing down in the first month of 2017, with just as many shootings and murders in January 2017 as in January 2016. Despite Trump's focus on Chicago, more than a dozen American cities have a higher per capita murder rate.
Since taking office 12 days ago, Trump has put Chicago's struggle with violent crime in the national spotlight four times — as he often did during the presidential election. In August, Trump told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly that police could end the city's violence "in one week" if they wanted to.
Trump threatened Jan. 24 in a tweet to "send in the feds" unless Chicago officials "fix the horrible 'carnage'" in the city.
In addition, in his first television interview from the White House, Trump likened violence in Chicago to violence in Afghanistan.