Note to Tony Perkins: Evangelicals Can Defend Trump Policies AND Condemn the Stormy Daniels Affair
Evangelical Christians keep falling into the same trap. On Tuesday, Politico released an interview with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC). In that interview, Perkins conceded that it might be likely President Donald Trump slept with a porn star, but he suggested Trump's policies granted him a "mulligan" or a "do-over."
"We kind of gave him—'All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here,'" Perkins told Politico's Zack Stanton.
According to Stanton, the FRC president admitted to knowing about "Stormy Daniels, the porn actress who claimed, in a 2011 interview, that in 2006 she had sex with Trump four months after his wife Melania gave birth to their son Barron. He knows of reports that she was paid off to keep the affair quiet in the waning weeks of the 2016 election."
The scandal is not good for Trump, but it has proven a terrible trap for evangelical Christian leaders. On Saturday, the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Franklin Graham, urged evangelicals to give Trump "the benefit of the doubt" on the Stormy Daniels affair.
Unfortunately for Graham, the evidence points to the affair, rather than the denials issued by Trump and Daniels. Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 one month before the 2016 presidential election as part of a nondisclosure agreement. In a 2011 interview with In Touch magazine, however, Daniels recalled her relationship with the future president, complete with at least one sex act. In Touch released a full transcript of that interview on Friday.
Perkins' remarks were even worse than Graham's. At least Graham just denied the affair, in the face of evidence for it. Graham could claim he had not seen all the evidence and that he wanted to believe Trump's word.
Perkins, however, did not even try to deny that the affair happened. Instead, he claimed that Trump's support for conservative policies in line with evangelical Christianity compensated for his immoral behavior.
"From a policy standpoint, he has delivered more than any other president in my lifetime," Perkins told Stanton. “I think the president is providing the leadership we need at this time, in our country and in our culture.”
Tellingly, the FRC president refused to call Trump a "moral leader," removing the word "moral" when Stanton suggested it.
Perkins, a father of five children, recalled telling his children that the president's tweets are often "hurtful," but he explains them in terms of Trump's "need ... he wants to be accepted."
“We see right and wrong. We see good and evil, but also among evangelicals, there’s an understanding that we are all fallen, and the idea of forgiveness is very prominent,” Perkins said. “And so, we understand that, yes, there is justice, but there is mercy.”