Hillsong Church apologized late Tuesday night for a post on its Twitter account that called President Donald Trump a “bully” and suggested his microphone be cut during the first presidential debate.
“Can’t they just mute Trump’s microphone!! He’s coming across as such a bully. No respect for him sorry. #PresidentialDebate2020,” said the since deleted tweet that criticized the president nearly an hour into Tuesday's debate with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Despite the deletion of the tweet, a screenshot of the post quickly became viral on social media and drew concern from people like Greg Locke, popular internet personality and leader of the Global Vision Bible Church in Tennessee.
“Dear @Hillsong, that was deleted very quickly. Careful. I sat beside @brianhoustontv at the RNC acceptance speech at the White House. Your boss secretly likes Trump,” Locke cautioned on Twitter at about 11:00 p.m., referring to Hillsong founder Brian Houston.
About nine minutes later, the international evangelical church posted its apology.
“Earlier today a staff member accidentally posted on this account personal comments about the US presidential debate that were meant for a personal account. Hillsong does not comment on partisan politics & apologizes. These comments do not represent the views of Hillsong Church,” the church said.
Last December, during a visit to the White House, Houston, whose church spans more than 150,000 members in 23 countries, explained how honored he was to pray for President Trump.
“It’s a great honor, of course, to have had the chance to go into the cabinet room, even into the Oval Office and pray for the president of the United States of America,” he said in a post on Instagram. “To me, it’s not about the politics, it’s about the position, and a significant man like the president of the US can use all the prayer we can possibly give him.”
Many voters were turned off by the 90-minute face-off between Trump and Biden, which was the first of three scheduled debates ahead of the Nov. 3 general election. The event saw both candidates frequently interrupting each other. Biden at one point told the president, “Will you shut up, man?”
Veteran Republican pollster Frank Luntz told CNBC on Wednesday that participants in his focus group were disappointed with what they saw in the first debate.
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“I have never had a session blow up where the participants were disappointed on both sides, where everyone was embarrassed and everyone was upset about what had happened,” Luntz said.
“They felt like they didn’t get the policy they were looking for,” such as on economic issues, Luntz, who had more than a dozen participants in his debate focus group, explained. “They felt like the candidates behaved as though they didn’t deserve to be president. It actually makes them less likely to vote for any candidate.”
Some political analysts like NPR’s Domenico Montanaro declared in an op-ed Wednesday that “this was maybe the worst presidential debate in American history.”