Evangelicals 'disgusted' by Trump's remarks, but still backing him

New details on how lewd Trump tape came to light
New details on how lewd Trump tape came to light

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Story highlights

  • "Everybody falls short of a standard of perfection," Ralph Reed
  • Nearly 80% of white evangelical voters back Trump, according to a recent survey

Washington (CNN)They may be "disgusted" and dismayed by Donald Trump's bragging about groping women, but many leading figures of the religious right are still backing him for president.

Ralph Reed, head of Trump's religious advisory board, shrugged off incendiary comments made by the GOP nominee in a newly unearthed video.
    "I've listened to the tape. My view is that people of faith are voting for president on issues like who will defend and protect unborn life, defund Planned Parenthood, grow the economy and create jobs, oppose the Iran nuclear deal," Ralph Reed told CNN. "I think a 10-year-old tape of a private conversation with a TV talk show host ranks pretty low on their hierarchy of their concerns."
    Reed, chairman and founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, called the 11-year-old recordings "ancient" and said they do not change his view of the businessman at all.
    "Everybody falls short of a standard of perfection but Donald Trump's been married to Melania for 10,11, 12 years now," he said. "And he has a great family and has a tremendous relationship with his children."
    Nearly 80% of white evangelical voters back Trump, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. That survey was taken before the tape was released, however.
    "I think it's already baked into the cake for most voters that Donald Trump is not a saint and Hillary Clinton is corrupt and not trustworthy," Reed said. "Voters are voting based on that perception of the candidates."
    Johnnie Moore, a member of Trump's evangelical advisory board, said many evangelicals are "disgusted" by Trump's comments, but will still vote for him.
    "Most conservative evangelicals who are voting for Trump have never been under the illusion that Trump has a puritan past. They are more concerned about the present and whether or not he is more likely than Hillary Clinton to protect their religious liberty, appoint conservative judges and protect the life of the unborn."
    Moore distanced himself a bit from Trump, however, saying that his membership on the advisory board should not be construed as an endorsement.
    "I wasn't on board with Donald Trump to begin with. None of us were asked to endorse him, we were only asked to provide advice and perspective on certain issues. I agreed to serve because of my concern for refugees and for persecuted Christians around the world."
    James Dobson, an evangelical psychologist, radio host and religious right activist, said on Monday, "The comments Mr. Trump made 11 years ago were deplorable and I condemn them entirely." Dobson is a member of Trump's evangelical advisory board.
    However, Dobson continued, "I also find Hillary Clinton's support of partial birth abortion criminal and her opinion of evangelicals to be bigoted. There really is only one difference between the two. Mr. Trump promises to support religious liberty and the dignity of the unborn. Mrs. Clinton promises she will not."
    Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative policy organization, called Trump's behavior "deeply offensive and degrading," but is standing behind his initial endorsement.
    "As I have made clear, my support for Donald Trump in the general election was never based upon shared values rather it was built upon shared concerns."
    Perkins said Christians are left to vote for the candidate that will do the most to protect religious liberty.
    "At this point in the political process, because of our lack of engagement and involvement as Christians, not just in this election but in the government and culture as a whole, we are left with a choice of voting for the one who will do the least damage to our freedoms," he said.
    Other public evangelicals offered mixed opinions.
    Christian conservative and "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson, who has backed Trump, said evangelical leaders frustrated with Trump's controversies need to "lighten up."
    "I would say they need to lighten up, start going out and preaching the gospel to different people, including Donald Trump, and give him some time to think about spiritual matters, and work with him, and not condemn anybody," he told WABC radio host Rita Cosby.
    Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, called evangelical leaders' continued support for Trump a "disgrace and a scandal."
    "The damage done to the gospel this year, by so-called evangelicals, will take longer to recover from than the '80s TV evangelist scandals," he tweeted on Saturday.
    Erick Erickson, a conservative pundit, criticized those Republicans defending Trump who once criticized former President Bill Clinton for his sexual indiscretions.
    "Republicans who once wanted (Bill) Clinton impeached because the POTUS is supposed to be the office of a moral man are now defending Trump.
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    ew York Times bestselling author Rachel Held Evans, who often writes about women's issues, called on evangelical leaders to speak out against Trump's words.
    "Evangelicals, misogyny is wrong. Sexual assault is wrong. Adultery is wrong. Calling women "bitches" & "pieces of ass" is wrong. SAY SO," she tweeted.