Some of the country’s most prominent religious conservatives are still supporting Donald Trump even after 2005 audio published by The Washington Post and NBC News revealed him making vulgar comments about women and extramarital sex.
The explicit tape, recorded during a conversation with then-”Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush, caught Trump making several misogynistic remarks, including a claim that he tried to have sex with a married woman. (Trump had married his third wife, Melania, just months before.) He also boasted he could grab any woman “by the pussy” due to his fame.
Many social conservatives would find remarks like these appalling and disqualifying for a political candidate. Nevertheless, some of Trump’s prominent evangelical supporters are standing by him.
“I’ve listened to the tape, my view is that people of faith are voting on issues like who will protect unborn life, defend religious freedom, create jobs, and oppose the Iran nuclear deal,” Ralph Reed, the chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a member of Trump’s religious advisory board, said in a statement. “I think a 10-year-old tape of a private conversation with a TV talk show host ranks pretty low on their hierarchy of concerns.”
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, another Trump supporter, told BuzzFeed he isn’t concerned with sharing “values” with the GOP nominee.
“My personal support for Donald Trump has never been based upon shared values, it is based upon shared concerns about issues such as: justices on the Supreme Court that ignore the constitution, America’s continued vulnerability to Islamic terrorists and the systematic attack on religious liberty that we’ve seen in the last 7 1/2 years,” he said in an email.
Representatives for Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. and Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser ― two prominent social conservatives backing Trump ― didn’t immediately return requests for comment.
Trump’s comments have drawn widespread condemnation from Democrats and Republicans alike, including Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus. Trump, meanwhile, issued a non-apology for the old conversation, while his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski defended him by saying the country is not “choosing a Sunday school teacher.”
But some Christian leaders have already turned on Trump. Earlier Friday, more than 100 evangelical leaders posted a letter to Change.org urging fellow Christians to vote against Trump, arguing he “has fueled white American nationalism with xenophobic appeals and religious intolerance at the expense of gospel values, democratic principles, and important international relationships.”
“Sometimes historic moments arise when more is at stake than partisan politics ― when the meaning and integrity of our faith hangs in the balance,” reads the letter. “This is one of those moments.”