Following President Trump's meeting with 20 African-American pastors on Monday, Rev. Bill Owens took on CNN host Don Lemon over whether the president should be branded a "racist" for his criticism of top Democrat Elijah Cummings and the city of Baltimore.
Lemon claimed Trump consistently attacks leaders of color with racist statements, and Owens pointed out that Trump goes after leaders from all backgrounds if he disagrees with them on a policy.
"I know it’s hard for you. You think it’s hard to believe that Trump is racist," Lemon said on "CNN Tonight." "But he’s repeatedly used racially charged language. He consistently attacks black and brown elected leaders. So, why is that hard to believe, Pastor?"
"I find President Trump [attacks] leaders of all colors. He attacks who he will. He’s his own man," Owens shot back. "I can’t dictate what he should or should not do. But he does not just attack black people. He attacks anybody. And you know it."
Lemon mentioned Owens' faith and implied that as a man of God, he shouldn't condone attacks on anyone. Owens said he was not condoning anything, but simply stating the truth.
"So as a man of faith, as a Christian, you're saying he attacks anyone. It sounds like you’re condoning attacks? Is that Christianly or Godly?" the host asked.
"I'm just stating a statement of fact," Owens replied. "I’m not condoning anything. I'm stating a statement of fact. President Trump does not pick the people he attacks because of color. He attacks anybody he feels needs it … I’m not his judge,"
Owens also replied to Lemon's claim that Trump may be protecting himself from further criticism by meeting with black leaders, saying the president frequently meets with envoys of the African-American community, including himself.
"Any concern for you that the president used this meeting with black leaders to insulate himself from that criticism?" Lemon asked earlier in the interview.
"I don’t think so. I don’t think that at all because I have been to the White House four times in five months," Owens replied. "So it was nothing about insulating him from anything. He wanted to hear from us, what our concerns were, and what he could do to help us."
Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., was among the faith leaders from the African-American community that met with the president at the White House, calling the meeting sincere and productive.
"The president spent a long time with us and the meeting was not a photo-op," King told "Fox & Friends" Tuesday morning. "He's not a racist. Absolutely is not, and the programs he has moved forward, the higher job market is helping African-Americans, the criminal justice reform is helping African-Americans."