A conservative preacher and pundit running for a U.S. House seat in Virginia who claims that homosexuality is a treatable disorder is being called out for his lack of compassion.
Republican Leon Benjamin, Sr. is running to replace Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin, who passed away just weeks after winning reelection last November.
The district covers a large area from Richmond south to the border with North Carolina.
Benjamin runs an organization called Escape Hall that promotes helping people "escape" from "homosexual and lesbian living."
He has falsely and dangerously claimed that LGBTQ people could be "healed" if they change their identities and has compared his ministry to helping adulterers, thieves, and murderers.
MSNBC's Jonathan Capehart, who hosts The Sunday Show and is gay, challenged Benjamin during an appearance on his program last weekend.
In 2011 Facebook, Benjamin made a post on Facebook in which he compared members of the LGBTQ+ community to people who are "sick, disease[d]" and who have bipolar disorder and are addicted to drugs and alcohol.
"How is that being a unifier for the 4th Congressional District of Virginia, that most likely has LGBTQ people in that district?" Capehart asked.
"I think you're looking at it in a different way," Benjamin responded.
He continued, almost rambling, "I think the LGBTQ are all facing high gas prices. I don't think we should marginalize one group of people and use it for political gain. I think that the LGBTQ and the homosexuals are dealing with high gas prices, inflation, the high crime, the education. I think all of us are dealing with issues, and we shouldn't marginalize them, and I think my compassion really shows strong enough."
Capehart replied, "As an out, gay, married man, I have a hard time finding compassion in that 2011 Facebook post."
In that post, Benjamin urged, "Bring you sick, disease, gay, homosexual, lesbian, transvestite, bipolar, alcoholic, drug addiction friends and love ones!!!!!!!!!!" to an event at his church.
Benjamin promises to meet a vision that will "stop division and hate from destroying America."
Known for his anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and false claims that elections are rigged, Benjamin hosts the streaming news website B-Alert News. Benjamin has used his media platform to publish false claims about rigged elections and anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, Media Matters reports.
According to a video stored by the group, during a sermon-like speech at a far-right ReAwaken Tour America stop in 2021, Benjamin said, "You're going to get delivered. You're going to get healed. I don't care if it's homosexuality, fornication, adultery, lesbianism. God says he's going to touch you today. You going get this out of your spirit. You're going get it out of your life. And God's going to renew your mind. And you're going to be transformed."
Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who has been hostile toward the trans community, endorsed Benjamin during his 2022 campaign and appeared with him at one event, Media Matters notes.
In addition to 2022, Benjamin lost his race for this seat in 2020.
On February 21, he faces Democrat Jennifer McClellan in the special election.