Mark Burns's very bad week just got much worse.
Days after the top Trump backer and Republican convention speaker was forced to apologize for tweeting a cartoon of Hillary Clinton in blackface, CNN did some digging into his apparently inflated bio claims.
The televangelist on Friday night admitted to overstating some of his claims on his Facebook page. Then, on Saturday morning, CNN aired this brutal interview with Burns, in which he struggles to explain his readily apparent résumé inflation.
It gets tough to watch at certain points.
Here's a recap:
- Confronted with an apparently bogus claim that he was a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, Burns initially says he "started the process" of joining the fraternity. Then he argues that such facts were added to his bio by a hacker. "Obviously this has been manipulated or either hacked or added," Burns says. So a hacker altered his bio and just happened to use the same fraternity that Burns began the process of joining?
- When asked about the bio's claim that he served six years in the Army Reserve, Burns says he did. When confronted with records that indicate he was actually in the National Guard, Burns says, "It is Reserves. The Army South Carolina National Guard is Reserves." If you want to know the difference between the two, see here.
- When confronted with his claim to have graduated with a bachelor of science degree from North Greenville University, Burns tries to argue that the interview was and had been off the record.
BURNS: I asked you just a moment ago, as we opened up this — and first of all, I said we were off the record.
VICTOR BLACKWELL: I didn't agree to that.
BURNS: Yeah, but I did. I did.
BLACKWELL: We're still rolling. I'm still asking you questions on the record.
BURNS: I'm off the record. I'm off the record, because I think this is not fair that you — this is not fair at all. This is not what I agreed to. I thought we were doing a profile, and all the sudden you're here to try and destroy my character.
Note to any future interview subjects: You are not off the record unless the journalist agrees to it. And if you are on camera and you'd prefer to be off the record, you had better make sure it's not rolling.
- Asked about his claim to be pursing a master's degree from Andersonville Theological Seminary, where he enrolled in 2008 but hasn't advanced, Burns's explanation shifts. Now standing and swaying, he explains: "Do you know how old this [bio] is? This hasn't been updated — I think there's an updated profile on me that's on the website."
So asked whether the information is simply old or had been tampered with, Burns says: "These are old information. This is extremely, extremely old information."
Then, perhaps predictably, Burns walks away, mid-interview.
He later posted this statement on his Facebook page:
As a young man starting my church in Greenville, South Carolina, I overstated several details of my biography because I was worried I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a new pastor. This was wrong, I wasn’t truthful then and I have to take full responsibility for my actions. Since that time I should have taken steps to correct any misrepresentations of my background. We all make mistakes, and I hope that the measure of my character and the quality of my works speak for what kind of person I am.
I do also want to set the record straight about why this attack is happening — because I am a black man supporting Donald Trump for President. For too long, African-American votes have been taken for granted by Democratic politicians, and enough is enough. It’s a shame that the political insiders and the media choose to attack me because I’m not going to stay silent about Hillary Clinton’s pandering to our community. Instead, I’m going to tell people that there is another option — an option that represents a positive vision that will unify our country. That’s why I have and will continue to tirelessly support Mr. Trump.
-- Pastor Mark Burns