Msg to NYT: Attempts to excise evangelicals from Trump won't work

Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Steve Jordahl (

New York Times buildingA Trump-supporting Southern Baptist pastor is accusing the New York Times of attempting to drive a wedge between the president and his conservative base by pinning the coronavirus pandemic on evangelicals.

"The Gray Lady" ran an editorial recently blaming evangelicals for the coronavirus. The column - headlined "The Road to Coronavirus Hell was Paved by Evangelicals" * – was penned by Katherine Stewart. In the piece, she argues that evangelicals deny science and also put Donald Trump in the White House – the combination of which, she contends, somehow caused the current crisis:

"Donald Trump rose to power with the determined assistance of a movement that denies science, bashes government and prioritized loyalty over professional expertise. In the current crisis, we are all reaping what that movement has sown …. This denial of science and critical thinking among religious ultraconservatives now haunts the American response to the coronavirus crisis."

Dr. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church-Dallas says Stewart's premise is offensive, false – and overtly political.


"They know there's an election coming up – [and] they know that Donald Trump is on a glide-path to reelection," says Jeffress, referring to anti-Trump journalists like Stewart. "His approval ratings are sky high, and they know that one of their only chances to defeat him in 2020 is to separate him from his evangelical base."

The editorial cites Florida pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, who was arrested this week for holding Sunday services at his Tampa-based church, and some others (such as Louisiana pastor Tony Spell) who have disregarded public safety measures as typical evangelical behavior. Jeffress' response?

"There are a few fanatical nutjobs among evangelicals right now who are doing stupid things like holding mass church services and promising they will heal anybody who has the coronavirus," he tells OneNewsNow. "But most evangelicals I know are doing exactly what the government is asking them to do. Like our church, they're abstaining from large church meeting and worshipping online."

The Dallas pastor says the newspaper is trying to drive a wedge between President Trump and his base. "If they can cause him to try to distance himself from evangelicals, then they think evangelicals will distance themselves from Trump. That's not going to happen," he maintains.

Some have argued that restrictions on church gatherings are infringing on religious rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. An extreme example in the news earlier this week was when the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, informed churches and synagogues that he will permanently shut them down if they don't comply with government guidelines telling people not to gather.

* In the online version, the headline reads: "The Religious Right's Hostility to Science Is Crippling Our Coronavirus Response"

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