A spiritual adviser to Donald Trump deflected criticism of the president’s self-designation as “the chosen one” in a radio interview Aug. 21, assuring listeners that the 45th president of the United States does not think he is like a god.
“As a friend of President Trump’s I can assure your audience that he does not have a messiah complex,” Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, said on the Todd Starnes radio show on Fox News while discussing previous remarks by the president saying American Jews who vote for Democrats are disloyal to Israel.
Discussing the trade war he started with China, President Trump told reporters Aug. 21, “Excuse me, somebody had to do it.” Turning to glance at the sky, he continued. “I am the chosen one,” he said. “Somebody had to do it. So I’m taking on China. I’m taking on China on trade. And you know what? We’re winning.”
Liberal news commentators speculated about whether the president was simply joking and playing to his base or if he is losing his mind.
The president also took to Twitter to thank Wayne Allyn Root, a conservative radio host often criticized for promoting conspiracy theories, for saying that Jewish people in Israel love Trump “like he’s the King of Israel” and “like he is the second coming of God.”
“He does not see himself as the messiah, but he did run on the principle in 2016 that he would be a great defender of Israel, and no president has been more pro-Israel than Donald Trump,” said Jeffress, one of the first high-profile evangelical leaders to support Trump’s presidential campaign and a frequent White House guest.
“He does not see himself as the messiah, but he did run on the principle in 2016 that he would be a great defender of Israel, and no president has been more pro-Israel than Donald Trump.”
“I can tell you from my own experience, when I walk down the streets of Jerusalem, I have people stop me who recognize me from Fox News and they say ‘we love president Trump; he is our president,’” Jeffress said. “They call him their president in Israel because of his great support for Israel.”
Jeffress, who led a prayer in a ceremony last year to celebrate relocation of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, said that from a safe distance, it’s easy for Americans to say, “Well why can’t Israel be a little bit more tolerant?”
“Remember, this country of Israel is no bigger than the state of New Jersey, and yet for three thousand years they’ve been attacked from every side from countries and ideologies like Nazism and radical Islam that want to wipe Israel off the face of the earth,” Jeffress said. “When you’re under constant threat like that, you cannot give an inch to people like [congresswomen Rashida] Talib and [Ilhan] Omar who are a part of an ideology that even questions Israel’s right to exist.”
Omar and Talib, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, planned to travel to Israel this month until the Israeli government announced it would deny them both entry because of past remarks accusing Israel of violating Palestinian rights.
Trump weighed in on Twitter, describing the women as anti-Semites who “hate Israel and all Jewish people” and as representing “the new face of the Democrat Party.”
The feud escalated when the president told reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday that any Jewish people who vote for a Democrat show “either a lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” Jewish groups accused the president of flirting with the anti-Semitic stereotype of “dual loyalty” implying that Jewish people are more loyal to Israel than to the country where they live.
Trump doubled down on Wednesday, telling reporters, “In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel, and only weak people would say anything other than that.”
Jeffress said Trump’s remark “was right on target” before pondering a question posed by Starnes about how anyone who is a Christian could vote for Democrats.
“They have completely separated their political beliefs from their spiritual beliefs,” Jeffress said, adding that it shows “how little impact their spiritual beliefs” have on the way they vote.
“Here’s Joe Biden; here is Nancy Pelosi,” Jeffress said. “They claim to be devout Catholics and yet they are pro-abortion. They believe in the slaughter of the unborn. I know Joe Biden has had communion denied to him by the Catholic Church in certain parishes because of the absolute inconsistency between his faith and his practice.”
“If you are a devoted Christian, you believe that your faith impacts every part of your life, not what you do on one hour on Sunday mornings but on your work, your friendships and, yes, your politics,” he said.