Claiming President Donald Trump is a “changed person,” Franklin Graham, the son of influential evangelical Christian minister Billy Graham, said that God helped put Trump in the White House for a reason.
“I believe Donald Trump is a good man,” Franklin Graham said on CNN Tuesday evening. “He did everything wrong as a candidate and he won and I don’t understand it. Other than I think God put him there.”
When questioned by CNN’s Don Lemon about reports of Trump’s recent impropriety — an alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels — and, as the Wall Street Journal reports, a $130,000 payout of hush money, Franklin Graham said he believed Trump when he denied those reports.
“He said he didn’t have an affair with her and there’s not evidence — and I think that alleged affair was 11 years ago,” he said. “That was a long time ago, I’m more interested, Don, in who a person is today than what they were 11 years ago and I believe he’s a changed person.”
Franklin Graham, who performed a prayer at Trump’s inauguration, has openly defended Trump, despite his “crude” manner of speaking. He has called Trump “refreshing,” but said Tuesday he hopes Trump “will be a better moral authority in these next three years.”
While he never explicitly endorsed Trump, Franklin Graham put out statements leading up to the 2016 election encouraging congregants to vote with matters like the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice, religious liberty and combatting abortion in mind. All are key issues for many Catholic and evangelical members of Trump’s base and are often cited by some Christian leaders as rational for their consistent support of the President despite behavior and allegations against him that are inconsistent with Christian values.
Franklin Graham’s father, Billy Graham is widely recognized for paving the way for the intersection of the Christian faith and politics. He served as a pastor to nearly every president from Truman to Obama.
Despite being a lifelong registered Democrat, Billy Graham is credited with constructing the ideology behind the religious right movement, which was further propagated by fundamentalists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson — the host of the 700 Club who interviewed Trump — in the 1980s. Polls show that white evangelicals are the leading demographic that helped put Trump in the White House.