A number of evangelical Christians in Nevada recently turned their backs on a longtime Republican lawmaker described as a family man and helped hand victory to popular brothel owner Dennis Hof in a Republican primary for the state Legislature.
They say he will offer more "honest politics" after the general election in November where he is favored to win. Evangelical leaders have condemned their support for a pimp.
"The religious people voted for me because they're tired [of] being lied to by politicians who say they are Christian folks. And they set aside the fact that I have brothels because they are legal businesses in Nevada. It's [been] part of the culture of Nevada for 150 years," Hof, the owner of half a dozen legal brothels in the state and star of the HBO adult reality series "Cathouse," said in an interview with Reuters TV.
While he did not give specific numbers on the kind of support Hof got from evangelical Christians to defeat hospital executive James Oscarson in the Republican-leaning District 36, Reuters national affairs correspondent Tim Reid, said Hof "received a lot of votes and a lot of support from Christian evangelicals in his district" because they believe his financial success will make it harder for him to be corrupted.
"Now I have been talking to a lot of these Christian evangelical voters and they say they've been perfectly happy to overlook the fact that Hof is the state's biggest brothel keeper, because they believe he is a wealthy businessman and can't be bought, cannot be corrupted, will keep his campaign promises," Reid said.
Local evangelical pastor Victor Fuentes told Reuters that even though Christian groups have opposed the brothel industry in Nevada, he gave thanks to God when he learned that Hof had won the primary on June 12.
"People want to know how an evangelical can support a self-proclaimed pimp," Fuentes told Reuters before explaining his reason that he believes is quite simple.
"We have politicians, they might speak good words, not sleep with prostitutes, be a good neighbor. But by their decisions, they have evil in their heart. Dennis Hof is not like that," Fuentes said.
While Hof proclaims himself to be the voice of that honest politician Christians are looking for, his victory, according to The New York Times, also comes amid a fierce debate over whether prostitution should be outlawed in the state. Nevada is the only state in America where prostitution is legal.
"The religious right needs to know it's not going away," Hof told The New York Times, noting that efforts to outlaw paid sex will only drive it underground into the hands of criminals.
The 71-year-old who has been divorced three times, authored a book called "The Art of the Pimp," and campaigned as the "Trump of Pahrump," is singing praises to Trump for opening the door for Christian voters to support people like him.
"This really is the Trump movement," Hof said. "People will set aside for a moment their moral beliefs, their religious beliefs, to get somebody that is honest in office. Trump is the trailblazer, he is the Christopher Columbus of honest politics."
Christian leaders reacting to the Reuters story raised alarm.
"I want to hurl. People really? Don't support HIM!" Penny Nance," CEO and president of Concerned Women for America declared in a tweet Friday.
Christian author and radio host, Carmen LaBerge argued that Hof cannot deliver the honest politics he is currently touting with his current lifestyle.
"If you set aside Truth-based morality and True religion what you're almost certainly NOT getting is honest anything," she said on Twitter.
Dan Cox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonpartisan organization that researches the intersection of religion, culture and public policy explained to Reuters that the reason why Christians are willing to betray their values to get people like Trump and Hof elected is because: "It's more important for evangelical voters that Trump is fighting for an idealized, white Christian, conservative America. Tribal values now supersede personal morality as an animating force."
Not all Christians in the district are in support of Hof, who is favored to win the state seat in November.
"For me, it goes back to faith and values," Paul Goulet, pastor of International Church of Las Vegas, a megachurch, told Reuters.
He said he was disappointed voters chose to nominate Hof for the general election because he "has a profession making money out of young women who sell their bodies for sexual favors. It's demeaning to women. I can't wrap my brain around supporting someone who does that."
Before Hof's primary win, it was alleged that he sexually assaulted two prostitutes in Nevada nearly a decade ago. One woman alleged that she was "raped and battered daily." The allegations could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had passed.
Hof denied the allegations in a New York Times report.
"I'm around 540 girls in a very sexually charged environment at all times," he said. "Sex is not a problem for me, and I would never be involved in anything like that."