Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump promised to “protect Christianity” during his Martin Luther King, Jr. Day convocation address at Virginia’s evangelical Liberty University.
“We’re going to protect Christianity,” Trump told the audience. “I can say that, I don’t have to be politically correct.”
The GOP candidate made several pointed attempts to appeal to the young, Christian crowd during his address, mentioning his pride in his Protestant faith and his oft-repeated campaign promise that the phrase “Merry Christmas” will become repopularized if he moves into the Oval Office. While promoting his book “The Art of the Deal,” he made sure to note that “the Bible blows it away. There’s nothing like the Bible.”
The rest of the speech—which touched on his distaste for the Iran deal, forcing Mexico to build a wall on the southern border with the U.S., and promoting the Second Amendment—had all the hallmarks of a typical Trump stump speech. He bookended the address by devoting what he called the “record” large crowds in attendance to the memory of Martin Luther King., Jr—his only mention that his speech came on the 30th anniversary of MLK Day.
The GOP candidate received a warm welcome at the evangelical university, where he was introduced by president Jerry Falwell, Jr. as “one of the greatest visionaries of all time.” During the address, a male audience member yelled out, “You make us proud to be American!”
Though Falwell said that the university does not endorse candidates, he applauded Trump for funding much of his own campaign, saying he isn’t “a puppet on a string like many other candidates. He also reiterated a remark he made recently on the “Sean Hannity Show:” that Trump reminded him of his father, the controversial televangelist Jerry Falwell, because both men said what they thought regardless of the consequences.
Falwell recounted how his father once hung a banner at the university that read “Politically incorrect since 1971,” a theme Trump returned to at several times during his address. As Trump repeatedly said, in his estimation, focusing on political correctness “takes too much time.”
Trump framed his audience—conservative, devoutly Christian, and adamantly political—as the successors to what Richard Nixon once called the “silent majority.”
“We’re no longer so silent,” Trump said, suggesting that “noisy majority would be a better term.”
The GOP frontrunner has taken flak throughout the race for what critics see as a newfound, politically motivated interest in discussing religion. For weeks in the fall, he refused to disclose his favorite Bible verse, and he described his religious identity at an Iowa campaign event in January by saying, “I am an evangelical. I’m a Christian. I’m a Presbyterian.”
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect that the term “silent majority” first became popularized under Richard Nixon, though it was also used during Ronald Reagan’s political campaigns.