Bad news for anyone deluded enough to believe President Trump is a man of God: Trump reportedly has a history of mocking and lampooning his religious supporters, gleefully referring to the pastors and church leaders who back him as “hustlers” who are “full of shit.”
The Atlantic reports that former Trump aides and confidantes—including Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen—admit that Trump has outright contempt for run-of-the-mill practices like group prayer, and regards influential Christian surrogates as gullible saps who are easy to con. So in some ways his favorite constituency, you could say.
From The Atlantic:
From the outset of his brief political career, Trump has viewed right-wing evangelical leaders as a kind of special-interest group to be schmoozed, conned, or bought off, former aides told me.
In Cohen’s recent memoir, Disloyal, he recounts Trump returning from his 2011 meeting with the pastors who laid hands on him and sneering, “Can you believe that bullshit?” But if Trump found their rituals ridiculous, he followed their moneymaking ventures closely. “He was completely familiar with the business dealings of the leadership in many prosperity-gospel churches,” the adviser told me.
While Trump isn’t far off in viewing prosperity gospel preachers as deceitful, it’s telling that Trump was impressed—not appalled—by their schemes:
It helped that Trump seemed to feel a kinship with prosperity preachers—often evincing a game-recognizes-game appreciation for their hustle. [A] former campaign adviser recalled showing his boss a YouTube video of the Israeli televangelist Benny Hinn performing “faith healings,” while Trump laughed at the spectacle and muttered, “Man, that’s some racket.” On another occasion, the adviser told me, Trump expressed awe at Joel Osteen’s media empire—particularly the viewership of his televised sermons.
He also had plenty of insensitive things to say about the Mormon faith, likely fueled by his dislike of Utah Sen. Mitt Romney. Cohen told The Atlantic that Trump was “especially vicious when he learned about the religious undergarments worn by many Latter-day Saints.”
Trump’s own lack of religiosity was long regarded as a given by those who worked for him (one former Trump Organization executive told The Atlantic that he always assumed Trump was an atheist), but it was also obvious to anyone who paid attention: His 2016 bible fumble, referring to Second Corinthians as “Two Corinthians,” was a dead giveaway for anyone who ever set foot in Sunday school. And while savvy conservatives might be well aware of Trump’s phony Christianity, they’re more than happy to use him to achieve their goals.
Besides, Trump has already won over plenty of the faithful: As of July, 72 percent of white evangelicals approve of Trump’s handling of his presidency, a slight dip from a few months prior, but still high. Trump’s message of American values—and American people, likely the white ones, likely Christians—under siege resonates with that group. Trump can say whatever he wants about the bible if he stays on message and tells them what they want to hear.
And yet, Trump’s documented insincerity about religion still leaves room for some surprisingly offensive anecdotes (emphasis ours):
Trump’s public appeals to Jewish voters have been similarly discordant with his private comments. Last week, The Washington Post reported that after calls with Jewish lawmakers, the president has said that Jews “are only in it for themselves.” And while he is quick to tout his daughter Ivanka’s conversion to Judaism when he’s speaking to Jewish audiences, he is sometimes less effusive in private. Cohen told me that once, years ago, he was with Trump when his wife, Melania, informed him that their son was at a playdate with a Jewish girl from his school. “Great,” Trump said to Cohen, who is Jewish. “I’m going to lose another one of my kids to your people.”
Oh, to be a fly on the wall after Ivanka introduced him to Jared.