Evangelist Franklin Graham blessed a Donald Trump presidential candidacy on Easter Sunday morning but has yet to criticize Trump for his F-bomb outburst in Las Vegas a few days later.
During a nine-minute interview on ABC, TV journalist Christiane Amanpour asked Graham if he favored Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and Trump for president.
“Donald Trump, when I first saw that he was getting in, I thought, ‘Well, this has got to be a joke,'” said Graham. “But the more you listen to him, the more you say to yourself, ‘You know, maybe the guy’s right.'”
Amanpour asked if Trump might be his candidate.
“Sure. Yeah. Sure,” replied Graham.
Asked how President Obama was doing, Graham said, “I think he is a very nice man… But I think our country is in big trouble.”
Four days later on April 29 at the Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas, Trump dropped the F-bomb three different times to a cheering audience as shown in a TV news clip.
Trump used profanity to describe building a school in Brooklyn, oil prices and the Chinese. He said, “We have weak, pathetic leadership.”
The billionaire developer referred to politicians as “stupid people” and “blood-suckers.”
On ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour,” Graham questioned whether President Obama could produce a birth certificate and speculated about the authenticity of Obama’s Christian faith.
When Amanpour asked Graham if he was bothered by Trump and others who make a big deal about Obama’s birth certificate and whether he is a Muslim, Graham said, “Well, the president, I know he has some issues to deal with here.”
Then Graham said, “I don’t know why he can’t produce that [birth certificate],” disclosing an utter lack of awareness of the many independent fact-checking organizations that had debunked the race-laden myth intended to make the president illegitimate.
Graham also cast doubt on the legitimacy of Obama’s Christian faith, noting that many people wonder whether Obama is a Muslim and that the debate is over the definition of Christian.
“For him, going to church means he’s a Christian,” said Graham. “For me, the definition of a Christian is whether we have given our life to Christ, are following him in faith, and we have trusted him as our Lord and Savior.”
Jay Carney, White House press secretary, responded on April 25 to a question about Graham, the head of Samaritan’s Purse.
“I think it is unfortunate that a religious leader would choose Easter Sunday to make preposterous charges,” said Carney.
Graham took to Fox News that evening to defend himself and to remind viewers that he is the son of famous evangelist Billy Graham. He told Fox News host Sean Hannity that he wanted to give him one of his father’s books.
Claiming the White House had misunderstood what he was saying, Graham said, “Sean, when I talked about Donald Trump, when Christiane Amanpour asked me about Donald Trump, you know, I find the man a very interesting man and he’s got a lot of good ideas and I think he may be right.”
Even though Graham had parroted Trump’s “birther” talk, he claimed he was not agreeing with Trump about Obama’s birth certificate.
“I wasn’t referring to that. I think that’s what the White House interpreted. What I was talking about is his ideas about what it is going to take to get the economy of this nation back on track. I believe he does have some good ideas,” said Graham in an attempt to reframe what he had said.
“I think we ought to listen to some of these ideas. I think the White House would do itself a great favor by asking Donald Trump to come and give them some advice,” said the evangelist.
One wonders why Graham used code words about Obama, using dog-whistle politics to besmirch the president’s birth and faith.
Yet Graham offered no commentary about the faith of a man who is known neither for his moral character nor his churchmanship.
In fact, Trump recently told the Christian Broadcasting Network that he was a “Sunday church person” and goes to church at Christmas and Easter.
The twice-divorced developer said he stores Bibles that people give him and sometimes he gives them away, according to the Christian Post.
No fair-minded person would confuse Obama’s practice of faith with that of Trump.
As for Graham’s belief that Trump has good ideas, one wonders what those are.
No fair-minded person should conclude that Graham thinks Trump’s profanity-laced tirade in Vegas represented a good idea. Graham can’t really think that using the F-bomb with the Chinese or oil suppliers is a respectful, effective approach to international relations.
Given Graham’s extensive public relations support from the DeMoss Group, one wonders after three days: Where is the good news of Graham distancing himself from Trump’s tirade?
Graham’s silence makes one wonder if his disdain for Obama is so deep that he will embrace any politician who will tear down the president.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.