Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House in the early hours of Nov. 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Evangelical Advisers Back Trump’s Challenges of Election, but Stop Short of Alleging Fraud

By Jack Jenkins

President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisers are backing his challenges to the results of the 2020 election, though most stop short of joining the president’s effort to declare victory despite Joe Biden’s substantial leads in key swing states.

Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, echoed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans in saying that Trump has every right to pursue recounts and rumors of voter fraud.

“As a veteran of the 2000 Florida recount, I take the integrity of elections and the rule of law very seriously,” Reed said. “Donald Trump’s campaign is entirely within its rights to pursue legal challenges and recounts where appropriate. This election will be over when those recounts are complete and those legal challenges are resolved — and not until.”

The Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham and a vocal supporter of the president, tweeted on Monday that the courts will “determine who wins the presidency.”

In an interview on Wednesday, Graham did not claim there was election fraud, as Trump and some of his allies have done. But he urged patience as states count votes and lawsuits are debated in the courts.

The election will be decided, he said, when the electors vote in December. He shrugged off a suggestion that Trump should concede because democratic norms were being eroded, saying he wasn’t afraid for the future of democracy.

“He has a case,” Graham said of Trump. “That doesn’t mean the outcome will change. Our forefathers, when they created the Constitution, realized the election might be contested. That’s why the certification isn’t until a month or so later. It gives time for disputes to be worked out.”

He added: “He shouldn’t concede until the process is finished.”

Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, was similarly hesitant to embrace Biden’s victory, tweeting, “There are a number of steps—under the Constitution, federal, and state law—that still need to occur in the presidential election process.”

But other prominent evangelicals who have rallied to Trump in the past four years seemed prepared to accept Biden’s victory.

The Rev. Tony Suarez, vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference,  said Trump has “every right” to “involve the courts as necessary,” noting that in the 2000 election, former Vice President Al Gore did not concede for more than 30 days. (Gore initially conceded to George W. Bush by phone on election night but retracted his concession as results began to tighten in Florida, whose electoral votes would have made Gore president.)

But Suarez added that he is “realistic that Joe Biden may in fact be our next president” and said he hoped Biden would listen to evangelicals.

“Should that be the case, I hope he surrounds himself with true evangelicals and will listen to our concerns,” Suarez said. “If his message is healing and unity it would be a mistake to not invite us to the table.”

Meanwhile, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, a Texas pastor who has been deeply supportive of Trump, leaned toward accepting the projected results of the election over the weekend, writing, “it appears that former Vice President Joe Biden will become the 46th president of the United States on Jan. 20, unless President Trump succeeds in legal challenges to the counting of votes in several states.”

He also offered thoughts about the election on a Fox News radio show, where he discussed “President Biden.”

In a later interview with Fox News, Jeffress said Trump has “every right to contest the election.” He also tweeted out a clarification of his remarks on Fox radio, saying, “As you listen to my … commentary, remember that the election has not been certified yet.”

At least one former Trump faith adviser was unequivocal in his embrace of the election results: New York City megachurch pastor the Rev. A.R. Bernard, who resigned from Trump’s campaign evangelical advisory board in 2017 after the president’s controversial remarks regarding the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one woman dead and others injured.

“Congratulations to President Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris,” he tweeted. 

Even the least subtle of the president’s faithful supporters seem to have softened as the days go by. Pastor and televangelist Kenneth Copeland mocked the major media outlets — such as CNN, MSNBC, ABC, The Associated Press and Fox News — for declaring the former vice president the victor.

“The media said what? The media said Joe Biden is the president,” Copeland told his congregation in a video that was tweeted and retweeted tens of thousands of times. Copeland then exploded into aggressive, performative laughter that lasted several seconds as his congregation cheered him on.

He later added: “He’s going to be president, and Mickey Mouse is going to be king.”

But Copeland appeared to apologize for the remarks in a separate video posted to YouTube on Monday. “For those that have the idea that I hate Joe Biden, I do not,” he said. “No, I love him. … And should it be necessary, I apologize if that came across that way.”

Jack Jenkins is an award-winning journalist and national reporter for the Religion News Service. National reporter Emily McFarlan Miller also contributed to this report.

Yonat Shimron contributed to this report.

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26 thoughts on “Evangelical Advisers Back Trump’s Challenges of Election, but Stop Short of Alleging Fraud”

  1. Are you a Christian in Kent County, Michigan, who voted for Biden? You know that he is in favor of killing unborn babies up until the moment of their birth? You know that Christians in Kent County, Michigan are in large part responsible for Biden’s victory? On November 11, Politico quoted a Biden campaign official talking about the importance of your votes. Kent County is, “An evangelical enclave in the Midwestern battleground state, the county gave Biden 50,000 more votes this cycle than Clinton drew four years earlier, ultimately flipping it from red to blue.” “The reason we won in these key states is because of the coalition we built.” Speaking was Josh Dickson, whose parents and grandparents went to Moody Bible Institute. Dickson, instead went to the University of Michigan, and is now a “community organizer” on the south side of Chicago. What does this Christian believe to be the most important issue for Christians? Freedom of Religion, freedom of speech, the right to life of God’s creation? No, he says, “The key religious issue of this election is systemic racism.” Undoubtedly, he deeply thanks those Christians who were so influential in bringing about the country we are all about to live in, where babies will legally be killed, pastors will be prosecuted for advancing the “hate speech” about homosexuals in the Bible, and candidates for the federal judiciary will be ridiculed if, “…their dogma speaks loudly in their life.” Surely that evil world won’t come to Grand Rapids in Kent County, Michigan. But, if it does, take a look in the mirror and tell who you see there, “You are responsible for this.” Then get down on your knees and pray that people like Joe Biden, Josh Dickson, and you, will have your eyes opened, by the hand of almighty God. But, don’t post that you did that on social media, because you will likely be censored. Best just keep all of that to yourself.

  2. I was a missionary in a developing country 30 years ago. The evangelical church started lusting after power, formed a political party, and it and the pastors behind it were totally corrupted by money and power. They have left behind a generation of young Christian adults who want nothing to do with the political process.

    1. “They have left behind a generation of young Christian adults who want nothing to do with the political process.”
      Even worse, the “Christian” leaders who have prostituted themselves to the Cult of Trump are leaving behind a generation of young adults who want nothing to do with Christianity, especially the “Evangelical” variety.
      Who can blame them for not wanting to be associated with a movement that has been a cheerleader for 4 years of incompetence, science denial, conspiracy theories, racism, corruption, and lies.

  3. Too funny that the Christian Catholic humble Joe Biden who has suffered great personal loss is somehow worse than the obviously unsaved, unrepentant narcissistic buffoon who cares about no one but himself .He is definitely NOT pro life – 230,000 people have died in this country during a pandemic , which continues to grow and spread, and he hasn’t met with his own coronavirus panel for months. . He has five children by three wives, has cheated on all three, once with a porn star just months after the third wife gave birth to the anchor baby. The same wife who has expressed her distaste for having to deal with fooking Christmas decorations. No wonder he and Falwell. Jr got along so well.

    1. Dr. Peter J Oehler

      Although it is sad when anyone dies and we mourn each, if you check the CDC website for the Annual Avg Mortality you will find, due to numerous variables, we are on track for an average year. I don’t know how necessary it is for the President to consult with his panel. As a business man it would be very likely that he would assign them a task and step aside only reasserting himself if need be. Personally, I also am not terribly pleased with his character either past or present but I am quite pleased with his policies and his accomplishments. Be prepared for a Biden presidency. He has promised higher taxes, controlled speech, greater involvement with China and Iran and an end to the Abraham Accord. That rather says he doesn’t want peace in the middle east but continued conflict. Russia and China will certainly make moves to test his resolve and they are already talking about an 8-12 week national shutdown. Expect higher food and fuel prices (or shortages) as well as limited travel and increase in electric costs with rolling brown outs as the New Green Deal gets implemented . I have a large pantry and will be considering Stocking with canned meats and vegetables etc.
      Or maybe we will find the Utopia they promise.

      1. In a “normal” year we don’t have nurses and physicians traveling to other states in order to help meet health care needs. We also don’t have refrigerated trucks being used as temporary morgues. I am a front-line health care worker. I can assure you that it is not a “normal” year.

      2. Your basic comprehension of statistics is woefully inadequate. The CDC’s own website has stated that there were around 300,000 excess deaths between the start of the pandemic and the end of July over a normal year. By the end of this year, it could easily be half-a-million dead. Anything but average.

        As president, the safety of the American people is his responsibility. “The buck stops here.” He doesn’t get to hand off responsibility to his team and go play golf or tweet or hate watch CNN. Any responsible president would be fully briefed daily and have regular meetings with the team charged with saving American lives.

        The excuses people have been making for Trump’s rank incompetence and narcissism are nothing short of pathetic. Whatever happens under the next administration, it could not possibly be worse than if Trump was still in charge.

    2. I wonder if king David was running against Saul for presidency today in America, how would we vote. Would we vote for King David knowing all what we know about his cheating, sleeping with Bathsheba and having her husband murdered among other family issues he had? How much of all of that affected his love for his country and his people and freedom from his enemy. This election is not about Trump or his opponent. Fleeing my socialist country and coming to a land where I can practice my freedom of faith, speech, freedom to bear arms to defend myself, freedom from fear of people around me who could report me if I had a different opinion, freedom to buy and sell, freedom to travel without being investigated (do I have a story about my travel , and the intense interrogations and intimidation). What I see coming is what I and my people went through under socialism and on top of that we were considered children of monkeys and pigs because we were Christians. I see every faith is going to be honored except Christianity. I see other religions having full rights to practice according to their holy books and having their own laws within their own communities, like it is in the UK but Christians will be subject to the corruption of the socialists. Americans have taken their freedom for granted. This precious freedom is a crown of gold that the Americans are wearing, the only people who see this crown of gold is us who fled our countries. My dear and beloved Americans, we have seen how blessed you are and we have seen your gold crown from afar and dreamed to share that blessing with you someday, and we did. My heart is aching for America , your freedom is slipping through your fingers. God bless this great land!

      1. Your attempt to use King David as an example for political candidates is both misguided and unbiblical. But I can’t fault you in your ignorance, since that is what all the court evangelical leaders did for Trump.

      2. Presumably, David was actually good at his job. Even if you eliminate all the philandering, affairs, cheating, and sexual assaults from Trump’s record, his extreme narcissism makes him uniquely unqualified for the presidency. He cannot bring himself to express the tiniest amount of empathy for the plight of the million or more people who have lost a loved one. It’s always about him, and everything he did was through the lens of his own re-election to the point of denying reality over and over again.

        As for socialism — I grew up in a socialist country — the UK in the 1970s — and it’s laughable that anyone seriously believes the US can be turned into a socialist nation in four, eight or even eighty years. The US remain one of the most conservative nations on the planet that isn’t already a dictatorship. Democratic nations don’t come much more conservative than America.

  4. If anyone is expecting to have Jerry Falwell, Jr. say “President-Elect Biden,” you are sadly mistaken.

    He prefers to _watch_ others do it. Because that is how he rolls.

  5. The Covid deaths are EXCESS deaths according to the CDC. This is more deaths than the expected number.

    “Overall, an estimated 299,028 excess deaths have occurred in the United States from late January through October 3, 2020, with two thirds of these attributed to COVID-19.”

    https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6942e2.htm Accessed today. Also reported from the following:

    The coronavirus pandemic has caused nearly 300,000 more deaths than expected in a typical year
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/coronavirus-excess-deaths/2020/10/20/1e1d77c6-12e1-11eb-ba42-ec6a580836ed_story.html

    CDC Report Finds Nearly 300,000 Excess Deaths During Pandemic
    https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2020-10-20/cdc-report-finds-nearly-300-000-excess-deaths-during-coronavirus-pandemic-with-jump-in-adults-aged-25-44

    The Pandemic’s Real Toll? 300,000 Deaths, and It’s Not Just From the Coronavirus
    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/20/health/coronavirus-excess-deaths.html

    I can back up what I say.

  6. Comments about the Covid-19 death toll, the Evagelical Church’s lust for power, the disillusionment or confusion of young Christians, how Jerry Falwell Jr. will respond to this, the character of President Trump (or Joe Biden) or whether Trump is more pro-life than Biden—Biden, who seems all right with infanticide, shooting chemicals into the beating hearts of a 8-month pre-born baby, ie “late-term abortion”, and allowing the surgical sterilization of children in the name of transgenderism, vs Trump, the only President who spoke at the March for Life Rally and nominated the constitutional orignalist, pro-life Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court—-

    All miss the point. But I digress.

    Are we on our knees in prayer for America now? Not because of voter fraud alone or who we want as president, but the direction America will go in?

    Are we praying?
    That is the point.

  7. Here’s the real point

    Are we praying for America?
    We deserve fair and truthful elections. The integrity of our democracy and our voting process is key. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of this…people around the world are praying for America.

    Lord, we know You are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and Hallelujah, in the Heavens You laugh!

    “‘He who sits in the heavens laughs,
    The Lord scoffs at them.’ – (NASB)
    Ps 2

    Yes, You mock and laugh at the plans of those who would plot against You, for You rule and are All-powerful. You are the Light of the World who exposes all corruption and deceit.

    We ask You to expose all corruption and fraud in our government and the 2020 American presidential election to light, and that the proof will come forward quickly, and that legitimate recounts of all valid and true votes cast occur, in Jesus name. Give our President and His legal counsel wisdom, and may Your Church look to You and Your Word first, and nothing else.

    May we repent and honor You as King. Amen, in Jesus name.

  8. Tell me S,

    And what will you say if most of that corruption and fraud is coming from Trump and his people in government? What will you say then? Fake News? Attacks of the Enemy (like Paula White has done)? Deep State? Conspiracy?

    1. God will reveal what He will reveal.
      The Deep state and corruption may exist on all sides. This is not about politics alone. The Father knows who His mockers are.

      Pray, or do not.
      The Ekklesia is the Kingdom of God, not the nations or schemes of men.

  9. It’s easy to say that a Biden presidency would have limited Covid fatalities when we don’t actually know what he would have done differently. Democrats mocked the travel ban and Pelosi urged visits to Chinatown. Europe, which had a far more rigid lockdown is not any better off than the US and in many cases, is much worse. The bottom line is that no one really knew what the best response should be. The “god” we call science fell down on the job just like Dagon in 1 Samuel 5.

    1. BJ,

      You are so deluded. For starters, US (and other) Intelligence agencies and other countries knew that China was minimizing/lying about the seriousness of COVID back in the first week in January to everybody (including WHO). Taiwan sent a team to Wuhan shortly after Jan 1 and in response locked down their entire country. They had already began travel restrictions from China on Dec 31st. Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and numerous intel agencies knew about seriousness. But what did Trump do in January? Suck up to President Xi and said what a great job he was doing on the virus all to get his Phase 1 trade deal. He finally puts a travel ban on Jan 31st, effective Fed 2nd, which had 14 exemptions. It was as effective as a screen door on a submarine.

      But don’t let the facts get in the way of your genuflecting towards your Orange Dear Leader.

  10. It is bewildering to see the number of evangelicals who think that election was “stolen” from Trump or that mass fraud has occurred against Trump. A number of battleground states were close back in 2016 and went to Trump, in 2020 they went to Biden. Listening to evangelical leaders one would think a great injustice has occurred.

    Personally I have lost much respect for a number of evangelical leaders during the last 4 years. The Republican party has turned in a personality cult of Donald Trump.

    1. You shouldn’t be. Many right wing conservatives have long believed it’s impossible for Republicans to lose a fair election. It sounds bizarre, but the right wing message boards were filled with such sentiments as far back as the 1990s, and certainly when Obama won his two terms in office.

      1. I guess the caliber and the strength of the candidate doesn’t matter in their book. The sad thing is if Joe Biden had the nomination in 2016 instead of Hillary, we would be looking at a President Biden instead of a Trump. Still, Trump _barely_ beat out the worst DNC POTUS candidate since George McGovern,

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