In light of recent leaks regarding Donald Trump’s statements about his sexual history, will he lose support? A recording in which Trump describes acts of sexual assault has listeners gasping and shaking their heads, but many evangelical organizations and leaders are releasing statements declaring that they still support Trump — and explaining why.
Family Research Council
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins released a statement this weekend, saying that Donald Trump’s words on the leaked tape concern him. However, he says, he never supported Trump due to shared moral values, but instead due to shared political concerns, particularly Supreme Court appointments.
On his continued support in this election: “we are left with a choice of voting for the one who will do the least damage to our freedoms.”
Billy Graham Evangelical Association
Though Franklin Graham, of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association and Samaritan’s Purse, has not actually endorsed a candidate, he penned a message Saturday that didn’t exactly defend Donald Trump, but did seem to defend the idea of voting for Trump.
Emphasizing the length of time since Trump’s statement, Graham quickly compared it to Clinton and Obama, insinuating that both Trump and Clinton are flawed as candidates. Then, with a quick reminder that this is no endorsement, he, too, named the Supreme Court as the primary issue.
“The crude comments made by Donald J. Trump more than 11 years ago cannot be defended. But the godless progressive agenda of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton likewise cannot be defended. I am not endorsing any candidates in this election. I have said it throughout this presidential campaign, and I will say it again — both candidates are flawed.
“The most important issue of this election is the Supreme Court. That impacts everything. There’s no question, Trump and Clinton scandals might be news for the moment, but who they appoint to the Supreme Court will remake the fabric of our society for our children and our grandchildren, for generations to come.”
His full statement is here.
Pastors, evangelical authors, and Christian politicians.
Among other leaders in the evangelical community, the same explanations and statements were said over and over: Donald Trump couldn’t necessarily be excused, but 1) it was in the past, 2) Trump and Clinton are equally flawed, and 3) SCOTUS. Many did not explicitly endorse Donald Trump, sometimes even expressly declaring that they would not endorse a candidate, but the commentary generally implied that there were legitimate reasons to choose the Republican nominee.
Ronnie Floyd, former President of the Southern Baptist Convention tweeted the following.
Saddened & sickened by the indefensible & deplorable actions of both candidates in this Presidential election.
— Ronnie Floyd (@ronniefloyd) October 8, 2016
Mike Huckabee, evangelical leader, Arkansas governor, and former Trump opponent for Republican nomination said the following.
“I admit that I am appalled by Trump’s comments. I think they are inexcusable regardless of the context or the fact that it happened 11 years ago. But I also believe that people are capable of change and deserving of forgiveness.”
In a statement that can be read in full here, Huckabee goes on to note that recording Trump without his knowledge was inappropriate, and to suggest that the Clinton scandals should be a larger focus.
Dr. Ben Carson, another former opponent-turned-supporter of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race, wrote a piece for the Independent Journal Review, saying that he doesn’t condone Trump’s statements, but that he thinks the release was timed to draw attention from Hillary Clinton.
“I feel fairly certain that the progressives have had knowledge of this conversation for a long time and dropped it at this point in time in an effort to obscure the release of damaging information about Hillary Clinton and her desire for open borders. I believe that they have more material that they will release periodically up until the election to keep a negative focus on Donald Trump.”
In short, many evangelical Christians are still supporting Donald Trump for several reasons: they trust him to nominate conservative justices to the Supreme Court, they feel that his scandals are less odious than Hillary Clinton’s policies and history, and in many cases, they trust that Donald Trump has changed and is no longer the person who admitted to those actions in 2005.
Add your feelings in the comments — has this release changed your support?
[Featured Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]