Tony Perkins and Franklin Graham, two of the most prominent Evangelical Christian leaders in the country, have both come to the defense of President Trump this week in the wake of an alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels.
In several media appearances both made similar cases for Trump, arguing that his alleged bad behavior is in the past and he’s a changed man now.
“That was a long time ago,” Graham told Don Lemon Tuesday night. “I’m more interested in who a person is today. I believe he’s a changed person.”
Perkins explained to Politico that many Evangelicals recognize that Trump’s past behavior was not always acceptable, but they’ve been willing to look past it. “We kind of gave him— ‘Alright, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here,’” he said.
Like Graham, Perkins stipulated that Trump’s affair is alleged to have happened before he took office. That’s a big deal to Evangelicals, he said on CNN.
“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 said. “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.”
Though both men went to great pains to suggest that Trump is a changed man, they also suggested that their support is based more on Trump’s support of issues that are important to them than on approval of him as a man of God.
As Graham told MSNBC earlier this week, “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.”
Like Graham and Perkins, most Evangelical Christians are still standing by Trump, with 61 percent approving of the job he’s doing, as of December. The bad news for Trump? That represented a 16 percent drop from when he took office.