An earlier headline on this story incorrectly stated that Pat Robertson had excused the lewd video. This version has been corrected.
Christian Broadcasting Network founder Pat Robertson said on his show that Donald Trump’s talk of sexual assault in a lewd video released on Friday was “macho” talk.
On his “700 Club” show on Monday, he said the pundits are writing Trump off, but Robertson declared the Republican presidential nominee the winner of Sunday night’s debate. He joins leaders like Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. and Focus on the Family founder and Family Talk host James Dobson in standing by Trump after his comments.
Robertson, a televangelist and onetime GOP presidential candidate, is seen as a member of the historic religious right, leaders of older generations of conservative evangelicals who have led conservative religious voters to vote mostly with the Republican Party. Some observers have declared Trump’s candidacy to be the end of the religious right, citing young evangelicals’ dissatisfaction with the movement.
During his show, Robertson argued that Trump was like the mythical phoenix, a bird that is reborn, because he had performed well at the debate after the video was leaked. In that leaked video, Trump said he could grab women “by the p––––” without their permission because he was a star.
“Let’s face it. A guy does something 11 years ago, there was a conversation in Hollywood where he’s trying to look like he’s macho,” Robertson said on his show, as first reported by Raw Story. “And 11 years after that, they surface it from The Washington Post to whatever, bring it out within 30 days or so of the election and this is supposed to be the death blow and everybody writes him off, ‘Okay, he’s dead, now you better get to get out of the way and let Mike Pence run the campaign.’”
“The Donald says no,” he continued. “He’s like the phoenix. They think he’s dead, he’s come back. And he came back strong. So, he won that debate.”
The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold obtained the video and broke the story on Friday.
“The next [debate] we’ll see what happens,” Robertson said. “But in the meantime, he speaks to adoring thousands wherever he goes.”
After Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal, Robertson told those at a conference in 1998 that Clinton should be impeached. He accused Clinton of turning the Oval Office into a “playpen for the sexual freedom of the poster child of the 1960s” and called Clinton a “debauched, debased and defamed” leader, according to the Associated Press.
For decades, Robertson, 86, has been an influential leader among evangelicals, especially among charismatic Christians, and he founded Regent University. Robertson’s past remarks, including a claim that the 2010 earthquake in Haiti was God’s judgment, have drawn controversy even among evangelicals. He once suggested — and later retracted — that it would be understandable for someone to divorce a spouse who has Alzheimer’s.
Trump’s candidacy, however, has divided evangelicals, who have no formal hierarchy or spokespeople. Some politically involved evangelical leaders continued to back Trump after the video leak, while a prominent theologian, Wayne Grudem, pulled back his support Sunday, and other leaders, such as Russell Moore, Max Lucado and Albert Mohler, continued to condemn the nominee.