BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
For white Christian conservative evangelical leaders like Franklin Graham and Tony Perkins, President Donald Trump represents the kind of "muscular" Christianity they've been yearning for. The fact that Trump's bullying and moral turpitude is part of the package doesn't seem to bother them in the least.
In the wake of revelations of the latest Trump sex-related scandal – the pre-2016 election payoff to a porn star involved with Trump to buy her silence -- Graham and Perkins are claiming that Trump is a "changed man," and they're willing to grant him a "mulligan."
Graham, the son of Reverend Billy Graham, and president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association,claimed that Trump is a "changed person." Perkins, the head of the Washington, D.C. lobbying group, the Family Research Council told Politico "We kind of gave him— 'Alright, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here.'"
"If this behavior were occurring today, right now, as he is president of the United States, I can assure you that my support and the support of Evangelicals would be dissipating very rapidly," Perkins told CNN. "But we're talking about something that occurred ten years ago, among a number of things that occurred with this president, prior to being president."
"I believe he's president of the United States for a reason," Graham said. "I believe God put him there."Then, Graham fell back on the "all of us are sinners," trope.
Graham's comments came "after a Wall Street Journal report that Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, formed a private LLC to pay a former porn star in exchange for not speaking publicly about an alleged sexual encounter with the then-candidate," CNN recently reported.
Graham, who never had a kind word to say about President Barack Obama, went on to tell CNN's Don Lemon that he's "more interested in who a person is today"rather then the Trump of yesteryear: "And I believe that he's a changed person and I've never seen anybody get attacked like he gets attacked."
Graham told Lemon that the "alleged affairs, they're alleged with Trump, didn't happen while he was in office." Graham also disputed Trump's describing Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations as "shithole countries."
"I don't understand the cognitive dissonance of Christians and [other] people who twist themselves into pretzels to try to make excuses for Donald Trump's bad behavior," Lemon told Graham. According to The Advocate, "Lemon accused religious right leaders of overlooking Trump's flaws because he embraces policies they support (something Perkins essentially admitted this week)."
Graham recently told MSNBC that "We certainly don't hold him up as the pastor of this country, and he's not. But I appreciate the fact that the president does have a concern for Christian values, he does have a concern to protect Christians — whether it's here at home or around the world — and I appreciate the fact that he protects religious liberty and freedom."
As Hemant Mehta wrote recently on patheos.com, "We've always known evangelicals are hypocrites, but every one of these interviews is a chance to show the country that the Religious Right is devoid of any moral high ground. Trump bragging about sexual assault? Calling predominantly black countries "shitholes"? Tearing apart families by deporting members? Making it more difficult for low income people to access affordable health care? Making the wealthy even wealthier?"
In the 2016 election, Trump received 81% of the white Christian evangelical vote. And for the most part, they are sticking with him.
Writing in The Washington Post, conservative blogger Eric Erickson pointed out that "These evangelicals are patriotic Americans, but their Christianity comes first and they realize they cannot separate their vote from their faith. As they see fellow Christians beclowning themselves to defend the indefensible, they want no part of it. So they will wash their hands of it and stay home or they will join African-American and Hispanic Christians in voting for those who have spoken loudly against the rise of white nationalism and Trump's abhorrent behavior."
We'll give former RNC Chairman Michael Steele the last word. After hearing Graham and Perkins' comments, Steele, a guest on MSNBC's Hardball, said: "I have a very simple admonition at this point: Just shut the hell up and don't ever preach to me about anything ever again. I don't want to hear it," Steele told NBC.
Steele added, "After telling me how to live my life, who to love, what to believe, what not to believe, what to do and what not to do and now you sit back and the prostitutes don't matter? The grabbing the you-know-what doesn't matter? The outright behavior and lies don't matter? Just shut up."