Dr. Robert Jeffress, prominent Southern Baptist pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, stirred up debate recently when he publicly supported Donald Trump for Republican presidential nominee.
Now in a fiery Public Radio International interview, he doubled down on his position, comparing Trump to Ronald Reagan.
"There is an absolute disconnect between the evangelical elite leadership and the average person in the pew," Jeffress said. "The evangelical elite leadership just doesn't get it."
He pointed out that despite Trump getting the backing of few evangelical leaders, a Pew Research poll shows Trump with 37% of evangelicals' support.
In the interview, Jeffress pointed out that in 1980, Jimmy Carter was a "born-again Christian" and Reagan had supported abortion, yet "evangelicals overwhelmingly went with Ronald Reagan, not because he was the most religious choice, but because he had the quality people felt was necessary at that time, and that was leadership. I certainly believe a candidate's faith is one consideration when choosing your president, but it's not the only consideration, and sometimes it's not the most important consideration."
He pointed out the actions of other candidates, adding, "When we hear people talk about morality and character and how important that is, it's interesting how many Christian Republicans have selective amnesia when it comes to past choices. Ronald Reagan was married twice and had a wife who followed astrology. John McCain in 2008 was married twice, and there was some pretty tawdry circumstances around that second marriage. Millions of Christians in 2012 wanted Newt Gingrich for president, even though he had been married three times. What does it say about Ted Cruz' character...and what he did to Ben Carson? Every one of us is a sinner. We're all deficient. I think it's hypocritical to say Donald Trump has no character but everybody else is filled with character. That's not just the not the case."
Jeffress also attacked Max Lucado's criticism of Trump's tone and vulgar language.
"Look," Jeffress said, "when I'm searching for a president who may be sitting across the negotiating table from a nuclear Iran or who's going to defeat radical Islamic terrorist, I could care less about that president's tone or language. I want the meanest, toughest son of a you-know-what I can find in that row, and I think that's where many evangelicals are. The [evangelical] leaders just don't get it.
Do you agree with Pastor Jeffress?