Leading evangelist Rev. Franklin Graham is denying a rumor that he told hundreds of evangelical leaders who met with Donald Trump on Tuesday anything along the lines that the billionaire real estate mogul is a better option for president than presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Following Trump's "conversation" with over 900 evangelical leaders in New York City, conservative Bishop E.W. Jackson of Virginia, who attended the closed-door meeting, told listeners on a conference call that Graham had implied that Trump provided more "hope" than Clinton. Jackson told The Christian Post in a follow-up interview that Graham did not go as far as to endorse Trump but suggested that Trump is a better alternative.
As Graham is touring all 50 state capitals this year to hold prayer rallies to encourage Christians to get involved in the political process, he has been adamant that he will not be endorsing any presidential candidates.
After reaching out to Graham for comment on Tuesday, he clarified to CP on Wednesday that he did not give a long address to the crowd but simply gave a short prayer. Although he offered about one minute of remarks, they did not include anything along the lines that Trump is preferred over Clinton.
According to a transcript from the event, Graham made no mention of Trump or Clinton.
Additionally, some contention was made over a suggestion that Graham had compared biblical leaders like Moses and David to Trump. However, Graham merely pointed out that the flaws and sins of biblical leaders like Moses, David and Abraham proves that no one is perfect.
"All of this to say, there is none of us is perfect. We're all guilty of sin. Franklin Graham stands here in front of you today as a sinner. But I've been forgiven by God's grace. He forgave me. I invited Christ to come into my heart and my life. He forgave me," Graham said, according to the Yahoo transcript. "There's no perfect person — there's only one, and that's the Lord Jesus Christ. And he's not running for president of the United States. This year."
Larry Tomczak, an author, cultural commentator and Christian Post op-ed contributor, attended the meeting and told CP that Graham was not there to endorse Trump but merely set the spiritual tone for the morning.
"I felt that [Graham], as well as others, were trying to nurture an atmosphere or set a tone that this is not a political rally, this is not an endorsement session, this is not a debate," Tomczak said. "This is an opportunity to converse — an open forum for a man who is going to be the Republican nominee for president. That's what he did. He really set it up beautifully."
In an interview with CP on Thursday, Jackson clarified what it was that made him come away from the meeting thinking that Graham was encouraging Christians to consider Trump over Clinton.
"Part of it was he showed up at an event that was a 'conversation with Donald Trump,'" Jackson said. "That's part of it, but the context itself when he was talking about understanding that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that there is no such thing as a perfect candidate. I don't think he was there considering Hillary Clinton."
Jackson added that Graham did not say anything like "you ought to support Donald Trump or vote for Donald Trump."
"I walked away with the understanding that he was saying, 'Do not allow your assessment of Donald Trump's Christianity from stopping you from considering him seriously,' given the fact that there is no perfect [person], we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and so forth," Jackson said. "You take his remarks are not directed toward Hillary Clinton but rather toward Donald Trump in considering him as a candidate."
Although Graham offered no inclination of an endorsement, he told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren that he was "glad" that he went to the meeting with Trump.
"I was asked to come to a meeting and hear Donald Trump and I am glad I did. As you know, I am not supporting or endorsing anyone this year," Graham said.
"I was invited to hear him and I am glad I did because I think he answered everyone's questions," Graham added. "People had good concerns, honest concerns and I think Donald Trump answered those today."