Right-wing evangelist Franklin Graham tried to explain why it's OK for evangelicals to support a man who goes against all Christian teachings. Don Lemon took him to the cleaners.
Pro-Trump Christian evangelist Franklin Graham demonstrated this dissonance vividly when host Don Lemon asked him to defend Trumps immorality on CNN Tuesday night.
Lemon read Graham a quote from a speechwriter for George W. Bush. "He said, 'Reverend, some Christian leaders are surrendering the idea that character matters in public life in direct exchange for Christians themselves. It is a political maneuver performed by union or business lobbyists every day.'"
"Why do you think evangelicals were so willing to call out, say, Bill Clinton's behavior, but not President Trump's?" Lemon asked.
"These alleged affairs they're alleged with Trump didn't happen while he was in office. This happened 11, 12, 13, 14 years ago," said Graham. "I think the president has changed quite a bit in the last 11 years, at least I had seen that because there is a maturing of the president."
Lemon immediately smacked down that excuse.
"The payout to the porn star, that was in 2016," he said. "That wasn't 11 years ago, that's now."
"That's when the story came out." Graham spluttered, incorrectly.
Lemon continued with a litany of Trump's appalling and morally objectionable words and actions.
"Threatened nuclear war with North Korea, thats now. Calls for a ban on religions entering the country, that's now. He has 15 accusers, some of them said it was shorter than a long time ago, as you said. He started a fight with a Gold Star family, a fight with Gold Star widows. He fights with people on Twitter. He uses the word s-hole about certain countries."
"That's all in the current timing now," Lemon added. "That's not from years ago. So that argument that he has changed or he has somehow evolved, that just doesn't stand."
"Well, no," said Graham, clearly struggling for words, "but the, the, uh, affairs that Clinton had were while he was in the Oval Office. Johnson, Kennedy, the same thing."
"Theres more to a persons character than an affair. You are saying the only thing that matters is an affair?" said Lemon.
"No. No. That's what you spend a lot of time on, Don, on the media focusing on this," blustered Graham. "But you take his, like, his rough language, there is a lot of presidents that have had rough language and a lot of these things that have been accused of the president, I am not sure are true. He says he didn't do it. And the others that said he didn't do it."
In one breath, Graham went from saying that "a lot" of presidents use profanity, to saying he believes Trump did not actually use profanity.
Not once did Graham acknowledge that the problem with Trumps hateful comments about "shithole countries" was not the profanity, but the racism. Nor did he ever provide an example of Trump "maturing" in the Oval Office, which was the entire foundation of his argument.
Lemon did not let it sit there. "Because someone else is a sinner or someone else used bad language, does that make it right?"
"No," admitted Graham.
"Isn't a president supposed to be a role model for all?"
"Well, you certainly want them to be a role model," said Graham. "But he's a businessman, Don, he's not a politician. And so this is new territory for him. And I believe "
"Are you saying business people don't have morals as well?" asked Lemon.
"No, no," said Graham, quickly backpedaling.
When Lemon pointed out that Trump occupying the office of the presidency does in fact make him a politician, Graham rambled on, saying that Trump "talks a certain way" in business meetings, but that he believes Trump "is a good man." As for Trump's role as president, Graham said that "God put him there."
"All of us are sinners," said Graham. "You, me, Donald Trump, there is a lot that we can do to improve. Donald Trump is not perfect. Hes not President Perfect. Again, I believe President Perfect comes down the road, we'll vote for him."
It is worth pointing out that Graham pointedly refused to accept that President Barack Obama was a Christian, and the worst personal scandal he had to his name was wearing a tan suit that no one liked.
Faced with hard questions about how a gravely immoral president fits in with his moral values, Graham offered a stammering, scattershot defense that lacked any intellectual consistency and dodged basic facts.
And judging by his halting performance, he knew it all too well.