Leaders of the religious right are willing to forgive Donald Trump's personal failings, including his alleged affair with an adult-film star, as long as he supports them on policy, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said in a new podcast.
"We kind of gave him--'All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here,'" Perkins said in the most recent episode of Politico's Off Message podcast.
This includes Trump's alleged relationship with porn star Stormy Daniels. Daniels gave an interview in 2011 in which she described a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, shortly after his wife, Melania, gave birth to their son, Barron. Trump denies that the two had sex, and Daniels now denies it after receiving a $130,000 payout from Trump's lawyer and signing a nondisclosure agreement in 2016. But whether or not this encounter took place, Trump is no choirboy, given other reports of affairs and his boasts about grabbing women "by the pussy."
Perkins knows about Daniels and "about the cursing, the lewdness and the litany of questionable behavior over the past year of Trump's life or the 70 that came before it," Politico reports. But Trump's embrace of the Christian right's anti-LGBT, anti-reproductive rights agenda has won him that "mulligan."
Perkins claimed that conservative Christians were bullied by President Obama. They "were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists," he told Politico. "And I think they are finally glad that there's somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully."
Trump's actions in office include many anti-LGBT moves, such as his revocation of guidelines on how schools should accommodate transgender students (who often are truly bullied) and his attempt to reinstate the ban on transgender people in the military (currently blocked by courts while lawsuits proceed). There are also the "religious freedom" guidelines from his Justice Department, which allow government employees and contractors to turn away LGBT people and others who offend their religious sensibilities, and a new action to approve such discrimination by health care providers.
On abortion and contraception, Trump has reinstated a policy keeping U.S. funding from family planning organizations that so much as discuss abortion with overseas clients, rolled back the Affordable Care Act mandate for employers to cover contraception without co-pay in their group insurance plans (also blocked by courts), and allowed states to cut Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood.
Perkins said he believes this is more than pandering. "I don't think this president is using evangelicals. ... I think he genuinely enjoys the relationship that had developed. He has found, I think--and he's a very transactional president," he told Politico. "Trust is important to him. Loyalty is important to him, and I think in this transaction, he realizes, 'Hey, these are people I can count on, because they don't blow with the political winds.' It's a developing relationship, but I'll have to say this: From a policy standpoint, he has delivered more than any other president in my lifetime."
Perkins also said Trump has grown in his faith, and his only complaint about the administration regards Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who Perkins said is not doing enough to stop the creation of "pro-abortion, pro-communist groups" overseas.