‘Using The Lord’s Name In Vain’: Republicans Panic As Evangelicals Revolt Over Trump’s ‘Blasphemy’
Republicans are scrambling to put out a brewing revolt from one of their most reliable group of supporters, the evangelicals, over President Donald Trump’s using “the Lord’s name in vain.”
West Virginia senator Paul Hardesty, a fervent Trump supporter who represents many evangelicals, got a flurry of phone calls from constituents complaining about Trump’s profanity after a recent rally.
Hardesty didn’t pay much attention to Trump’s campaign rally in Greenville, N.C., last month until a third concerned constituent rang his cell phone, according to Politico.
The residents of Hardesty’s district — he’s a Trump-supporting West Virginia state senator — were calling to complain that Trump was “using the Lord’s name in vain,” as Hardesty recounted.
“The third phone call is when I actually went and watched his speech because each of them sounded distraught,” said Hardesty, who describes himself as a conservative Democrat.
Here’s what he would have seen. Trump crowing, “they’ll be hit so goddamn hard,” while bragging about bombing Islamic State militants. And Trump recounting his warning to a wealthy businessman: “If you don’t support me, you’re going to be so goddamn poor.”
While the nation was gripped after the rally by the moment when a “send her back” chant broke out as Trump went after Somali-born Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, an American citizen, Trump evangelical supporters were more fixated on the numerous profanities laced throughout the speech.
The issue has recently hit a nerve among those who have become some of the president’s most reliable supporters: white evangelicals — who comprise much of Hardesty’s district. The group was key to Trump’s 2016 win, helping bolster his standing in critical swing states, and Trump likely needs to maintain that support if he wants to win a second term. But some are growing fatigued with the irreverent language that often seeps into Trump’s rallies and official events.
Trump’s penchant for profanity dates back decades — from guest appearances on “The Howard Stern Show” in the 1990s to a 2011 speech to Nevada Republicans where he dropped multiple F-bombs and cast Chinese officials as a bunch of “motherfuckers.” His unseemly language became a stump speech staple when he ran for president in 2016 and has continued into his presidency, both in public and behind closed doors.
Evangelicals ofter tolerate Trump’s appalling character because they agree with his social policies and his commitment to Israel. But when it comes to “using the Lord’s name in vain,” as Hardesty put it, “the president’s evangelical base might be far less forgiving.”
Two pro-Trump pastors, both of whom requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation, admitted in interviews that they’ve winced and cringed their way through some of the president’s more provocative speeches, or the ones that contained multiple expletives. One of the pastors said he was “appalled” by the president’s remarks at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in March, in which he accused his political rivals of trying to run him out of office with “bullshit” investigations and oversight actions.
“You know, I’m totally off script right now,” Trump boasted at the time. The rest of his speech was littered with cursing, as he promised to “keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country” and throw undocumented immigrants “the hell out.”
“I’m not going to get into private conversations, but I made sure he knew that type of rhetoric is unacceptable. This was not just an event for adults,” said one of the pastors, who is close with several members of the Trump administration.
“I think this president needs to be president to all of the people and realize that kids look up to him and adults look up to him,” said Hardesty. “Carrying that type of language from behind the presidential seal is offensive.”
Trump has enjoyed the support of the religious right, but losing the group’s support would be catastrophic for his reelection bid. About 80 percent of white evangelicals cast their ballots for Trump in 2016, according to a 2018 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.