President-elect Donald Trump’s longtime religious adviser, Paula White, is firing back at critics who have called her a heretic and questioned her personal finances and romantic history.
“I have been called a heretic, an apostate, an adulterer, a charlatan, and an addict. It has been falsely reported that I once filed for bankruptcy and – my personal favorite – that I deny the Trinity!”
“I have hesitated to even address such patently false accusations about my personal life and my beliefs so as to not dignify them with a response,” White said in a statement. The 50-year-old pastor is one of six religious leaders scheduled to participate in Trump’s inauguration on January 20.
“But since these comments pose a potential distraction to an otherwise celebratory and historic time in our country, I would like to set the record straight in the hope of returning our collective attention to what’s most important.”
In a Thursday appearance on CNN’s “OutFront,” White called the wave of criticism “amazing” and said there was “absolute absurdity” to a lot of the accusations facing her. She reiterated the claims she made in her statement and blasted those who called her faith into question, particularly over her divorce.
“God knew everything I would go through before I ever went through it,” White told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “Not everything is perfect in my life, but I don’t think everything is perfect in anybody’s life.”
White, a megachurch pastor and televangelist in Florida, has long been a controversial figure in Christian circles, where many find fault with her promotion of the “prosperity gospel,” which teaches that God bestows health and wealth on true believers, particularly those who donate money to ministers.
In 2007, the Senate investigated White and other televangelists who had made millions from their ministry. According to an audit made public by a Senate committee, White’s former church, Without Walls International, took in $150 million between 2004-2006.
At one time, White and her then-husband owned an airplane and several multimillion dollar properties, including a condo in Trump Tower. Like Trump, White has been married three times. After White’s divorce from her second husband in 2007, the church they led together plunged into bankruptcy. Her current husband is Jonathan Cain, the keyboard player for Journey and a co-writer of the epic hit “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
In her books and sermons, White has spoken of her troubled early years, including sexual abuse she suffered as a child and family members’ addictions to drugs.*
“My life and my decisions have been nowhere near perfect, though nothing like what has been falsely conveyed in recent days,” White said.
Much of the recent criticism of White has focused on her theology, not her personal life. Evangelicals in particularly have fretted that White’s role in the inauguration and closeness to Trump could “mainstream heresy.”
Besides their issues with the prosperity gospel, conservative Christians have accused White of denying the Trinity, a core Christian doctrine since at least the 4th century. In a recently surfaced video, White appears to agree with the statement that Jesus is “not the only begotten son of God,” which contradicts the Nicene Creed, a foundational statement of Christian belief.
In her statement, though, White says, “I believe and have always believed in the Holy Trinity,” as well the rest of the Nicene Creed, including the “exclusivity and divinity of Jesus Christ.”
The pastor also struck back at critics who accuse her of peddling a “feel-good gospel,” saying that she has preached and written as often about the “difficult seasons” of life as she has about “times of abundance.”
For his part, Trump, who has faced questions about his own commitment to Christianity, has called White “a beautiful person both inside and out.” White said she and the president-elect have been close since he called her a decade ago to discuss sermons he had heard her deliver on Christian television.
“She has a significant message to offer anyone who will tune in and pay attention,” Trump has said of the pastor. “She has amazing insight and the ability to deliver that message clearly as well as powerfully.”
*An earlier version of this story reported that Paula White had spoken of her struggles with drug addiction. In fact, she was talking about her ex-husband, Randy.
CNN’s Eli Watkins contributed to this report.