Prominent US religious conservatives defend Trump after Charlottesville

Two prominent religious conservatives defended U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday after he was widely criticized for blaming both white nationalists and counter-protesters for last weekend's violence at a Virginia rally organized by neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

Evangelical Christian Jerry Falwell Jr said Trump could be more polished and politically correct but is not racist. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who last week criticized the white nationalists' "evil, sinful, disgusting behavior," said unequivocally on Sunday that the faith community stood by Trump.

The responses reflect a balancing act by conservative Christians as they try to square the images that emerged from the Virginia city of Charlottesville last weekend - torch-carrying white supremacists and neo-Nazis toting swastika flags - with support for a president that failed to condemn them roundly and immediately.

Trump alienated fellow Republicans, corporate leaders and U.S. allies with his comments about the violence that broke out at a white nationalist protest against the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville. He said "many sides" were to blame and that there were "very fine people" on both sides.

See Also: Vice President Pence's high-wire act abroad
​​​​

Trump also decried the removal of Civil War monuments to the Confederacy that several cities have deemed offensive for their connection to slavery.

But the remarks, including those at a fiery Trump news conference on Tuesday, may not dent support from his political base, where white evangelical Christian voters are a major component.

Many in the evangelical Christian community condemned the neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists who marched in the University of Virginia town before one of them plowed through a crowd of counter-protesters and killed a 32-year-old woman.

Fewer criticized Trump directly.

Falwell, president of the Christian-based Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, said Trump likely had more detailed information on protesters when he described "fine people" on both sides.

"One of the reasons I supported him is because he doesn't say what's politically correct, he says what is in his heart," Falwell told ABC's "This Week" program. "But he does not have a racist bone in his body."

National Public Radio reported on Sunday that a number of Liberty University graduates were preparing to return their diplomas to protest his support for Trump. Falwell said they misunderstood that support.

27 PHOTOS
Reactions to President Trump's remarks on Aug. 15
See Gallery
Reactions to President Trump's remarks on Aug. 15
We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.
Race-based supremacy movements have no place in our melting pot culture. #Charlottesville
No, not the same. One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes.
I haven't seen anything that crazy since Tyson bit Holyfield @realDonaldTrump
As a Jew, as an American, as a human, words cannot express my disgust and disappointment. This is not my President.
Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist… https://t.co/7LxWB0FaWi
Let's get real. https://t.co/vM8gJ8lWrc
Good time to re-up https://t.co/RZ24UhKtDw
Mr. President,you can't allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame.They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain 5/6
Our full statement on @POTUS' racist and Antisemitic fright-show news conference just now: https://t.co/EDvKwS2TeJ
President @realDonaldTrump once again denounced hate today. The GOP stands behind his message of love and inclusiveness!
Trump:"George Washington was a slave owner…so will George Washington now lose his status…how about Thomas Jefferson" #Charlottesville
Blaming "both sides" for #Charlottesville?! No. Back to relativism when dealing with KKK, Nazi sympathizers, white supremacists? Just no.
Mr. President, there is only one side: AGAINST white supremacists, neo-Nazis, anti-Semites & the KKK. They have no place in America or GOP.
The president just erased yesterday's speech and is now back to Saturday's position on Charlottesville. Unbelievable.
"Very fine people" do not participate in rallies with groups chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans and displaying vile symbols of hate.
So, there you have it. Trump defends the Confederacy.
This press conference is a train wreck. Trump is defending the alt-right & Confederate statues. Doubles down & blames "both sides" #Shame
Trump: "What about the alt-left? The alt-left" was responsible for some of the violence in Charlottesville. "Nobody wants to say that."
Trump: Raising wages will help improve race relations. #trump
Takeaways from Trump's comments now: 1. There is blame on both sides 2. He hasn't called the victim's family 3. He owns a very large winery
Trump:"[People protesting white supremacists] came without a permit and attacked that group [white supremacists]. Bad people on both sides."
"We should never hesitate to call out hate. Whenever and wherever we see it." -OGH https://t.co/Zy2YaJwFlV… https://t.co/yncx1VPbER
George Washington is to Robert E. Lee as Barack Obama is to Donald J. Trump
Trump's crime today was not lying enough.
Trump dropped that "George Washington had slaves" reveal like he really had some good tea congrats on passing third grade
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

FAITH COUNCIL LOSES ONE MEMBER

Huckabee, a conservative Baptist minister before entering politics, said Trump "has the faith community."

"This is an attempt to discredit and ultimately dislodge Donald Trump from the White House," Huckabee told Fox Business Network.

Huckabee noted that only one person on a faith council that advises Trump had stepped down since the controversy.

New York City megachurch pastor A.R. Bernard said he left Trump's unofficial evangelical advisory board on Tuesday after having distanced himself for several months as "it became obvious that there was a deepening conflict in values between myself and the administration."

Johnnie Moore, an evangelical adviser to the White House, said in a statement he deeply respects Bernard. "We have every intention to continue to extend invitations to him to contribute his perspective on issues important to all of us," he said.

See Also: Report: Ivanka Trump played a role in Bannon's White House departure

Pastor Mark Burns, an African-American televangelist who leads a small congregation in South Carolina and serves on the board, said in an interview on MSNBC on Saturday that he stood by Trump.

"I don't believe he supported neo-Nazis, I don't believe he's supporting white supremacists at all," Burns said in an interview with MSNBC on Saturday. "I would have personally said stronger (things) in reference to the KKK, neo-Nazis, but I don't have all the information."

Franklin Graham, the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, denounced bigotry and racism on his Facebook page a day after the Charlottesville violence, but at the same time, he also took aim at politicians who tried to connect Trump to that turmoil.

One member of the evangelical community, biblical studies professor Denny Burk of Boyce College in Kentucky, condemned the president's remarks at Tuesday's news conference as "more than disappointing."

"They were morally bankrupt and completely unacceptable. People who protest while chanting Nazi slogans are not 'very fine people,'" Burk wrote in an article posted on his Facebook page.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.