Photo: Tony Perkins. Credit: Gage Skidmore/flickr.
“Yes, evangelicals, conservatives, gave him a mulligan. They let him have a do-over. They said we’ll start afresh with you and we’ll give you a second chance.”
—Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, speaking to CNN’s Erin Burnett in response to questions about support for the president among so-called “religious” voters.
Perkins appeared on Erin Burnett OutFront specifically to address comments he made in Politico‘s “Off Message” podcast, in which he said evangelical voters gave the president a “mulligan” for past boorish or adulterous behavior.
On the podcast, Perkins had been responding to a report from the Wall Street Journal alleging that Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, formed a private limited liability company in order to pay former porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000. The Wall Street Journal contends that the money was given to Daniels to ensure she would remain silent during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign about an alleged sexual affair she had with Trump a decade earlier, shortly after Trump’s wife Melania gave birth to the couple’s son.
Cohen has said that rumors about the alleged affair have been circulated since 2011, and that the president “vehemently denies any such occurrence.”
Perkins, whose organization claims its is dedicated to promoting marriage and family, admitted to Burnett that Trump got a pass for his behavior because of his willingness to follow through on promises he made on the campaign trail, including naming conservative, pro-life judges to the federal bench. However, he noted that support for the president might waver if he were to engage in similar behavior at the present time.
“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 10 years ago, among a number of things that occurred with this president, prior to being president. And myself, along with a lot of evangelicals, were not supportive of him in the primary. In fact, I campaigned hard for one of his competitors.
“It was when it was down to him and Hillary Clinton, he wanted to have the support of evangelicals. He came to them saying, ‘I’m going to appoint pro-life justices. I’m picking a pro-life, conservative running mate,’ and he embraced the most conservative party platform ever,” Perkins added.
During the original “Off Message” podcast, Perkins implied that part of evangelicals’ support for Trump was motivated by their belief that they are being persecuted by a secular society, reports The Hill. Perkins said evangelicals were “tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”
Perkins also praised what he saw as Trump’s growth, becoming a president who has delivered on his campaign promises to religious conservatives, including by issuing “religious freedom” executive orders, such as those that allow people to exempt themselves from serving LGBTQ people if they have personal objections to homosexuality.
“I don’t think this president is using evangelicals … I think he genuinely enjoys the relationship that had developed,” Perkins said, adding that evangelicals are a loyal part of the president’s base. “It’s a developing relationship, but I’ll have to say this: from a policy standpoint, he has delivered more than any other president in my lifetime.”
Perkins has a history of anti-gay statements, including demanding that judges be removed from office for supporting same-sex marriage, saying there would be a “revolution” if marriage equality succeeded, and equating gay people with drug addicts.