The Rev. Billy Graham prayed with Romney and offered support during a visit Thursday while Romney stumped in North Carolina. Graham lives in western North Carolina.
Graham has met with every sitting American president from Harry Truman to President Obama. For more than 50 years, he has staged revivals he called crusades around the world.
Graham, accompanied by his son Franklin Graham, who heads up the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, prayed for Romney, his family as well as the nation.
“The 30-minute meeting between the world-renowned Christian leader and Romney could provide the former governor with a major boost among evangelical Christians skeptical of supporting the first Mormon nominated for president,” The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe reported Thursday.
In a statement released Thursday night, Graham said that he knew Romney’s father, whom he considered a friend. He also said he’s followed Romney’s career, but has been most impressed by his “values and strong moral convictions.
“I appreciate his faithful commitment to his impressive family, particularly his wife Ann of 43 years and his five married sons.
“It was a privilege to pray with Governor Romney—for his family and our country. I will turn 94 the day after the upcoming election, and I believe America is at a crossroads,” according to the statement. “I hope millions of Americans will join me in praying for our nation and to vote for candidates who will support the biblical definition of marriage, protect the sanctity of life and defend our religious freedoms.”
Reporters were not permitted into the meeting, but photographers and television producers were able to record the last moments, O’Keefe reported. According to a transcript of their exchange, provided by NBC News, the ailing evangelist asked the GOP nominee how he could help.
“Prayer is the most helpful thing you can do for me,” Romney said, according to the transcript. “And what you’re planning, what your son has shown me is going to be very, very helpful. And I appreciate that. It’s going to be terrific.”
“Romney’s embrace of Franklin Graham draws in an evangelical leader who has been criticized for his harsh views of Islam,” the Associated Press reported Thursday. “The younger Graham has described Islam as evil and offensive and has said Muslims should know that Christ died for their sins.
Earlier this year, Franklin Graham endorsed primary rival Rick Santorum, a Catholic. “Pressed during an interview on MSNBC, Graham would not say that Romney was a Christian,” the Associated Press reported. “’He is a Mormon. Most Christians would not recognize Mormonism ... but he would be a good president if he won the nomination.’”
In the same interview, he also apologized for refusing to say if President Obama was a Christian.