Evangelical Leader on Trump: Our Support Is Not Unconditional but He Has Kept His Promises

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins testifies before the Senate State, Foreign Operations Subcommittee on March 11, 2015.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins testifies before the Senate State, Foreign Operations Subcommittee on March 11, 2015. | (Photo: Family Research Council / Carrie Knepper)

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, has been under fire for comments he made about President Donald Trump's questionable behavior, particularly his statement that evangelicals gave the commander in chief a "mulligan" for past poor choices.

Listen to Perkins respond to the furor below:

Perkins told "The Billy Hallowell Podcast" that he can see how some people might walk away with the wrong idea after reading about his interview with POLITICO's "Off Message" podcast.

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"We kind of gave him — 'All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here,'" Perkins said during that now-viral exchange.

But he told "The Billy Hallowell Podcast" that he was referring generally to the decision to forgive the president for his past behavior so long as he doesn't repeat similar antics now that he's in office.

"Nothing has changed since the evangelical community agreed to support President Trump," he said, noting that he wasn't an early Trump supporter, but that he came around once the general election came down to Trump and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

In the end, Perkins said that many evangelical leaders decided to come around Trump so long as he abided by a few requests: nominating pro-life judges, having a solid running mate and not diminishing the Republican Party Platform.

Perkins said that Trump has abided by all of those pledges and continues to keep his promises.

"Evangelicals kind of gave him [a] mulligan," he said. "They said, 'Look, we know your past, we don't agree with it, we don't like it — it's reprehensible to us, but we're going to start fresh and work forward.'"

When it comes to Trump's rhetoric, though, Perkins said he doesn't agree with it and that he has a policy of speaking with Trump and the administration directly to voice his concerns.

"They are wrong in saying that evangelical leaders are not addressing it," Perkins said of the critiques. "If I can talk to you, if you will allow me to express my concern about things, I will do so privately. These things are being communicated."

And it seems he has had that opportunity, as Perkins said that evangelicals have had more access to Trump and a better relationship with him than they did with George W. Bush during the entirety of his presidency.

"This president has more aligned with and concerned about the issues that pro-life Americans, those who advocate for religious freedom … than any other president in my lifetime," he said.

Despite all of this, Perkins said that evangelical leaders' support for Trump isn't unconditional and that it really hinges on him keeping his promises and not falling into bad patterns of past behavior.

Listen to the podcast above for Perkins' entire interview, including a response to the outrage over his proclamation that "you only have two cheeks" when asked about evangelicals fighting back against perceived anti-Christian sentiment from former President Barack Obama's administration.

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