Evangelist Franklin Graham defended President Donald Trump’s tweeting and expressed some skepticism about the sexual abuse charges against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore in a Tuesday interview with the Observer.
The interview with Graham came after this year’s Charlotte send-off for “Operation Christmas Child,” which provides shoe boxes filled with gifts like toys and everyday necessities such as toothbrushes to poor children around the world.
Graham was joined by more than 1,000 volunteers at the Charlotte send-off for the shoe boxes. This year, the program – sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse, a Boone-based Christian charity headed by Graham – is expected to get shoe boxes to 12 million children around the world. About 2.6 million of those boxes will go through the Charlotte processing center.
Along with the shoe boxes, Graham said, “we present the Gospel” to the children.
This year, Graham said, Samaritan’s Purse hopes to bring planeloads of shoe boxes to Rohingya children who have fled to Bangladesh with their families to avoid persecution in Burma, where Buddhists make up the majority.
“You say, ‘But, Franklin, they’re Muslims.’ That’s good,” Graham told the evangelical Christian volunteers Tuesday. “They’re people that God created. ... If we Christians don’t show love, who else is?”
Here’s the Observer’s Q&A with Graham.
Q. Some pundits lately have criticized you and other conservative Christian leaders for giving a pass to Roy Moore and Donald Trump for unChristian behavior. They say it’s no different from when feminists stood up for Bill Clinton because they liked his policies and his politics.
A. First of all, whoever is without sin, let them throw the first stone. We have seen a number of Democrats that, all of a sudden, this boomerang has come back and hit them. Nobody is perfect. No one. And I’m more interested in who a person is today than what they were 40 years ago. I don’t want somebody to judge me today for who I was 40 years ago. But we need to look at Roy Moore and make the decision: Where is he today? And do we believe what he stands for? You have to take his side of the story, too. (He later added, “That doesn’t mean someone’s past is irrelevant. But I believe that we are all on a journey through life and hopefully all of us learn from the mistakes in our past.”)
Q. You believe the women who have come forward?
A. I don’t know. I don’t know these women. All I know is he’s been (in) public service all of these years – 40 years – and a month before the election these women (have come forward). And I talked to Roy Moore, I asked him. He said ‘I don’t even know them.’ So, I don’t know.
Q. You’ve cast some stones against Al Franken lately. And, of course, President Trump casts stones pretty much every day of the week with his tweets. Does that bother you at all – his tweets that go after people?
A. People go after him every day. If you just watch ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN – they go after him every day. I don’t think I’ve heard a positive story about Donald Trump. So he’s able to go on Twitter and go right around the media. He doesn’t have to filter his words through the media. He goes directly to the American people. Now he says things I wouldn’t say. No question. But it must work for him: He’s the president.
Q. You did not endorse Trump. But since he’s been in office, you’ve been pretty supportive of him.
A. He’s trying to make a change. I believe that swamp needs to be drained. That swamp is a Republican swamp and it’s a Democrat swamp. These people have got in there and they’ve been in there for too many years. And they’re milking the system. And they’re greedy people. Somebody needs to make change. I think he’s trying to make change, but the Republicans are just as big an enemy as the Democrats are. They don’t want the status quo shaken up. So I appreciate the fact that he’s willing to try.
Q. Your father said that he felt that he got too close to Nixon and other presidents and wish he hadn’t done that. Are you ever concerned that you’re getting too close to Donald Trump?
A. No, I’m not close to him. I think I’ve been to the White House one time in this whole year. I’ve been invited to a Christmas party next month, and I’ll go to that. But I’m not back and forth to Washington.
Q. You’re good friends with Greta Van Susteren. I’m told you bought copies of her new book – “Everything You Need to Know About Social Media (Without Having to Call a Kid)” – for everybody who works for you. Is that right?
A. I did.
Q. She’s a member of the Church of Scientology. Some think that’s weird that you (an evangelical Christian) would be friends with and support a person who’s affiliated with Scientology.
A. I have (friendships) with people of various religions. But Greta has helped me with social media. I wouldn’t even be doing social media if it wasn’t for Greta Van Susteren. She told me three years ago, ‘Franklin, you can talk to a million people before you even have your coffee in the morning.’ … And she convinced me. She was such an encouragement to me. She would call me up and say, ‘Franklin, you can say this or say that.’ So when her book came out, I said, ‘I’m going to give this to all the people who work for me because all of us use social media.’ And she’s got not only how to do it but warnings about things not to do that could end up embarrassing you.