Trump Hires a Con Artist to Provide Outreach to White Evangelicals

Last week, it was announced that televangelist Paula White had gone from being Trump’s “personal pastor” to landing an official White House job.

Ms. White will work in the Office of Public Liaison, the official said, which is the division of the White House overseeing outreach to groups and coalitions organizing key parts of the president’s base. Her role will be to advise the administration’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative, which Mr. Trump established last year by executive order and which aims to give religious groups more of a voice in government programs devoted to issues like defending religious liberty and fighting poverty.

In case you don’t know much about White, NowThis put together a helpful introduction.

As Jeremy W. Peters and Elizabeth Dias report, Ms. White is somewhat controversial in the evangelical world.

Her association with the belief that God wants followers to find wealth and health — commonly called the prosperity gospel — is highly unorthodox in the faith and considered heretical by many.

For those who aren’t familiar with some of the divisions among white evangelicals, the “prosperity gospel” is anathema to many fundamentalist Christians. As Leah Payne and Aaron Griffith point out, there is a strong element of “self-help” among evangelicals who are “always looking for ways to strengthen marriages, sharpen minds, defeat depression, and develop leadership potential.” But White’s prosperity gospel takes things to a whole new level. For example: “In the words of an offer on White-Cain’s website, sow a $130 ‘Favor Seed’ and reap a ‘Triple Favor’ as money flows back to you.”

As the video above notes, White has been investigated by congress.

White and her former husband, Randy, were part of two congressional investigations, one in 2004 and another in 2007, of prosperity gospel ministries. The investigations uncovered no chargeable tax offenses, but they raised questions about her ministry’s finances. For example, between 2004 and 2007 the church paid a total of $2.755 million in compensation to their relatives, including Paula’s son and Randy’s two children, father, and sister. Randy and Paula also reportedly received $5 million a year in compensation from their church, and purchased a $3.5 million condo in Trump Tower in New York City, according to Senate documents.

In the evangelical world where “divorce culture” represents one of the most significant threats facing American society, White is now married to her third husband, Jonathan Cain, keyboardist for the rock band Journey.

Given all of that, plus the fact that for most evangelicals, the Bible forbids women from being pastors, you would assume that the court evangelicals would oppose White and her new role in the White House. You would be wrong.

Here’s what they tweeted when White’s book was recently published.

Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said “you might want to check it out.” Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas, said to “give it to anyone looking for hope!” Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, declared, “It is powerful. I highly recommend it!” And Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, added, “Paula’s life is an encouragement to so many and I’m sure this book will encourage you.”

By now, the parallels between White and her new boss should be pretty clear. Both she and Trump are amoral con artists who have schemed up ways to soak the people who buy into their schtick. Because those schemes have provided them with access to money and power, the court evangelicals have lined up to pay homage.

When it comes to the “long con” described by Rick Perlstein, there is no group of Americans who have fallen for that one harder than the followers of the court evangelicals. That tells us all we need to know about why they remain so loyal to Donald Trump and his latest White House employee.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.