Fox News personality Todd Starnes attributed Donald Trump’s election to “divine intervention” aided by prayer rallies led by evangelist Franklin Graham in an American Pastor’s Network radio interview Feb. 9.
Starnes, a Fox News personality for more than a decade who early in his career wrote for the Southern Baptist Convention news service Baptist Press, said that he interviewed the head of both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse for his new book The Deplorables’ Guide to Making America Great Again on Thursday’s installment of Stand in the Gap Today.
“He told me we were at a moral tipping point, and I’m not sure if people understand what was literally at stake and how close we were to losing the country, to losing the culture, if Hillary Clinton had won,” said Starnes, whose previous books include God Less America published in 2014. “Losing the Supreme Court, not just for an election cycle but for generations, that’s how much was at stake here.”
Starnes said he believes Graham’s message “resonated with Christians across the country” as the evangelist shared it with an estimated 230,000 people during his Decision America Tour urging voters to “pray, vote and engage in the political process” during the summer and fall.
“I would not discount the power of what Franklin Graham did,” said Starnes, recognized by pollster George Barna as one of the top 10 media influencers for conservative evangelicals in the 2016 presidential election.
“He did not endorse, but what he did do in 2016 was stage massive prayer gatherings at every single state capital in the country,” Starnes said. “I believe that we experienced divine intervention last November. I believe that God was giving us a second chance. We’ve been given a second chance, and Christians, we’ve got to stand up and we’ve got to get it right.”
Graham, son of 98-year-old retired evangelist Billy Graham, said in December he didn’t believe it was the Russians who intervened in Trump’s election but God.
“I don’t have any scientific information,” Graham reportedly told a crowd at Trump’s final “thank you” rally in Mobile, Ala. “I don’t have a stack of emails to read to you, but I have an opinion: I believe it was God. God showed up. He answered the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people across this land who had been praying for this country.”
Graham recently came under criticism for defending President Trump’s executive order barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days and suspending the admission of all refugees for 120 days subsequently blocked by federal courts.
The Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico responded by withdrawing endorsement for Graham’s Feb. 10-12 Festival of Hope evangelistic rally in San Juan, terming the preacher’s endorsement of Trump’s anti-immigration stance “contrary to the values of the Kingdom.”
Graham continued to defend the Trump travel ban on social media, posting Feb. 11 on Facebook that as head of a humanitarian organization working in more than 100 countries, including most on the banned list, “I feel I have something to say about this issue.”
“We are working to help thousands of refugees every day in different countries,” Graham described the work of Samaritan’s Purse. “Like the Good Samaritan Jesus told about in the Bible, we help those who have been hurt along life’s road. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to make the borders of our own country secure.”
“We shouldn’t be naïve,” Graham said. “Just because we give medical care to ISIS fighters doesn’t mean I would want to allow any one of them to immigrate to the United States. That would be crazy.”
Graham said taking time to vet who is being allowed to enter America isn’t too much to ask.
“We need to know who they are,” he said. “God does tell us to help the stranger and those in need; but God doesn’t tell us to expose our cities, homes and lives to hostile people.”
Starnes began his journalistic career in newspapers. In 2000 he landed a job as staff writer for Baptist Press and later moved to assistant editor.
Baptist Press fired him in 2003 after he interviewed Secretary of Education Rod Paige and quoted him as saying he personally preferred private Christian education over public schools. After a controversy that nearly cost the secretary his job, Paige claimed that Starnes quoted him out of context.
Seven years later his former employer welcomed Starnes back as keynote speaker at the 2010 Baptist Press Collegiate Journalism Conference.
After leaving Baptist Press Starnes turned briefly to public relations as director of university communications at Baptist-affiliated Union University in Jackson, Tenn. He switched to radio, moving to California before eventually landing in New York as overnight anchor for Fox News Radio.
Today Starnes is heard daily on hundreds of radio stations around the nation. He writes a column, hosts a digital show for FoxNews.com and appears regularly on Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network.
Starnes describes himself as “a gun toting, chicken eating son of a Baptist” with a penchant for finding stories about conservative Christians who feel discriminated against in America’s culture wars.
Critics attribute his appeal to Fox’s key demographic of older, white Christian conservatives to his use of over-the-top rhetoric and indifference toward checking the facts in his stories.