There is nothing racist about basing immigration quotas on race, according to Trump evangelical adviser Robert Jeffress.
Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist in Dallas, told Washington Post writer Sarah Pulliam Bailey that while he would not have used the vulgar language attributed to Trump during a recent White House meeting on immigration, he believes the president’s perspective is on target.
“What a lot of people miss is, America is not a church where everyone should be welcomed regardless of race and background,” Jeffress is quoted as saying. “I’m glad Trump understands the difference between a church and country. I support his views 100 percent, even though as a pastor I can’t use that language.”
The expletive, reportedly coupled with a statement that the United States should instead prefer immigrants from predominantly white Norway, marred the White House’s observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day with accusations that the president is a racist.
Jeffress told the Post that the U.S. has every right to restrict immigration according to whatever criteria it establishes, including race or other qualifications.
“The country has the right to establish what would benefit our nation the most,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything racist about it at all.”
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers continue to dispute the president’s exact words in last week’s closed-door meeting. Over the weekend, Trump told reporters he is “the least racist person you have ever interviewed.”
Jeffress, one of the first evangelical leaders to embrace Trump’s presidential campaign, has emerged as one of his most stalwart defenders.
Amid reports of a new book suggesting Trump is mentally unfit to be president, the megachurch pastor agreed the commander in chief isn’t “normal” but said that is why America elected him to office.
“The American people were tired of a normal that said we ought to accept sub-par economic growth, that we ought to accept ISIS as continuing reality, that our best days were behind us,” Jeffress told Fox News Jan. 5.
Two days earlier Jeffress told conservative Christian radio host Janet Mefferd that evangelical leaders opposed to Trump do not take the Bible seriously.
“I will admit there is a divide going on among evangelicals,” Jeffress said. “It’s been a growing divide … between evangelicals who take the Bible seriously and those who don’t.”
Jeffress described Trump as “the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-Israel president in history.”
“So why do we have this resistance among the evangelical elite while the mass of evangelicals in the pews support him?” Jeffress asked. “What it comes down to is the evangelical elites really don’t embrace these values.”