Evangelist Franklin Graham expressed his appreciation for what former President Donald Trump accomplished for the U.S., but clarified that he did not always agree with his tone, especially toward the press.
Graham, who was an outspoken Trump supporter during his candidacy and presidency, also told Axios cofounder Mike Allen in a Sunday interview (video below) that he does not feel responsible for the divisiveness of the Trump years.
“Over the last four years as you supported President Trump, you saw everything being more politicized, polarized. Do you feel like some of this is on your doorstep?” Allen asked.
“No,” Graham replied. “I appreciate what the president did for our country.”
In an apparent reference to vaccine hesitancy, Allen went on to allege that “a lot of [Trump’s] followers, a lot of Christians, a lot of evangelical Christians do not believe science, the truth, the press.”
“Many accept vaccines,” Graham answered. “Many don’t. And it’s not an evangelical thing. This is a real world issue.”
Forty percent of white evangelicals are unlikely to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which is a higher hesitancy rate than other Christian groups, according to a March AP/NORC poll. Among all Americans, the rate of hesitancy is 25%, with 28% of white mainline Protestants and 27% of nonwhite Protestants expressing skepticism.
Graham also urged Christians to get the vaccine, telling Allen, “I want people to know that COVID-19 can kill you, so we have a vaccine out there that could possibly save your life. And if you wait, it could be too late.”
Pressed about Trump’s comments constantly slamming the press, Graham said, “I would never have said that. I think this hurt him. I think it built a wall. I think it created animosity when it shouldn’t have. Just because somebody disagrees with you doesn’t mean they’re your enemy.”
Regarding whether he thought it was a mistake for Trump to demonize the press, Graham said, “No question about it,” and that Trump knows it.
Asked whether he has the ability to tell Trump “hard truths,” Graham said he can and does.
“How does he take it?” asked Allen.
“Sometimes I walk out of his office and I think he’ll never invite me back again,” Graham replied.
Graham stood by Trump during the ordeals of his presidency, at one point defending him even against Christianity Today, which Graham’s father founded in 1956. In 2020, Christianity Today editor-in-chief Mark Galli described Trump’s phone call to the Ukrainian president “profoundly immoral” and called for his removal from office.
Galli also rebuked the evangelicals who backed Trump, predicting that their support “will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and on the world’s understanding of the gospel.”
Graham fired back at the magazine, writing in part, “Yes, my father Billy Graham founded Christianity Today; but no, he would not agree with their opinion piece. In fact, he would be very disappointed.”
“For Christianity Today to side with the Democrat Party in a totally partisan attack on the President of the United States is unfathomable,” Graham added.
Related: EXCLUSIVE: Franklin Graham Talks D.C. Prayer March, SCOTUS, BLM, Church Lockdowns, And The Democrat Agenda
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