President Trump sat down with Pat Robertson in the Oval Office on Wednesday to give his first non-Fox News interview in more than two months. The Christian Broadcasting Network just posted the full video of its founder’s conversation with the president, and while no one was expecting the 87-year-old televangelist to ask hard-hitting questions, the sycophantic glad-handing between the two wealthy, elderly white men was hard to stomach.
After Robertson applauded Trump’s willingness to work with Russia, and without question accepted Trump’s claim that he gets along “really fantastically” with every country’s top leaders (despite photographic evidence from the recent G20 summit that suggests otherwise), Robertson turned, predictably, to his fellow white evangelicals’ support for Trump.
“The evangelicals of America voted 83 percent in the last election for you,” Robertson said, overstating that percentage and neglecting to clarify that it was roughly 80 percent of white evangelical Christians who supported Trump. “And I want you to know there are thousands and thousands of people praying for you all the time and holding you up.”
(Of course, Trump already knows this, since he welcomed a veritable who’s-who of the anti-gay Christian right to the Oval Office on Monday, where those faith leaders laid hands on the 45th president, and bragged about the “open door” policy they enjoy at the White House and the Eisenhower Office building.)
“The evangelicals were so great to me,” Trump responded. He continued:
And they did—they came out in massive numbers, and on top of that I got 83 percent. But they came out in record numbers; they never came out like that. And we’ve really helped, because I’ve gotten rid of the Johnson Amendment, now we’re going to go try and get rid of it permanently in Congress, but I’ve signed an executive order so that now, people like you, that I want to hear from, ministers and preachers and rabbis, and whoever it may be, they can speak. You know, you couldn’t speak politically before. Now you can. And I want to hear from you, and others, that we like. Franklin Graham, I had such a, Dr. Jeffress, Robert Jeffress, who is such a great guy, Pastor Jeffress. He used to go on television, I didn’t know who he was, I’d see him and he was always speaking so well of me, and, you know, you have so many people that I want to hear from. Now they’re going to be able to speak, and that’s going to be a great thing for Christianity, believe me. A great, great thing. And it’s a great thing for religion.
Trump is overstating the impact of that May executive order, which ultimately amounted to “a whole lot of nothing,” as I’ve reported here on RD. And despite the president’s proclamation, the Johnson Amendment remains in force, though it has rarely, if ever, actually been used to penalize a clergyperson for speaking out about politics or a particular candidate.
Of course, the bigger news here is that Trump just admitted (again) that his executive and administrative actions are intended to privilege Christians, and specifically advance the conservative, anti-gay, anti-choice agenda of people the President “loves” like Pat Robertson. (In case you need a reminder of just how far-right Robertson lies, check out The Daily Beast‘s admirable recounting of “all the insane things he has said.”)