Evangelist Franklin Graham defended President Donald Trump on CNN late Tuesday, saying “all of us are sinners” and “he’s not the pastor of this country.”
Graham stood up for Trump when CNN anchor Don Lemon mentioned the president’s use of foul, derogatory language and reports of an affair more than a decade ago with porn star Stormy Daniels.
“There’s a lot of presidents that have had rough language,” Graham told Lemon, noting that Trump comes from a business, not political, background.
Graham, however, said Trump has denied asking during a White House meeting why he should accept immigrants from “shithole countries” rather than people from places like Norway.
“He said he didn’t say it,” the evangelist told Lemon, adding that some others in the meeting have said they never heard Trump use that language.
“He’s accused of an affair with Stormy Daniels,” Graham said. “He said he didn’t.”
Trump also has denied that one of his lawyers created a private company in Delaware to buy Daniels’ silence for $130,000, Graham said. “I don’t know that that’s true,” Graham said about the payoff.
Regardless, Graham said, “I believe he’s a changed man. He gets attacked by the media every day.”
At the same time, Graham told Lemon, “I hope and pray he’ll be a better moral authority in the next three years” of his presidency.
“God put him there,” Graham said. “We’ve got to get behind him.”
Graham heads the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He has long defended Trump, and he was among six clergy who prayed and offered readings at Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration at the U.S. Capitol.
Despite Lemon’s confrontational tone throughout the interview, Graham later thanked him in a tweet shortly before midnight.
Graham did not endorse Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. But he did back one of Republican Trump’s most controversial proposals, to temporarily bar Muslims from entering the United States.
Graham also joined the then-president-elect at a Trump “Thank You” rally in Mobile, Ala. He told the crowd that he believed that God had intervened in the election to give Trump the win.