South Bend, Indiana, mayor and 2020 hopeful Pete Buttigieg called out the evangelical community’s support for Donald Trump on Sunday, saying he is stupefied as to how the religious right could justify the president’s behavior.
“It’s something that really frustrates me because the hypocrisy is unbelievable,” he told NBC’s Chuck Todd during a “Meet the Press” appearance.
Furthering his point, Buttigieg, who is Episcopalian, alluded to Trump’s vehement opposition to immigrants, arguing that he “acts in a way that is not consistent with anything that I hear in scripture or in church, where it’s about lifting up the least among us and taking care of strangers.”
During a Friday trip to the border in Calexico, California, the president used his press conference at a Border Patrol station to tell migrants they are unwelcome.
“The system is full,” he declared. “We can’t take you anymore, whether it’s asylum, whether it’s anything you want, it’s illegal immigration.”
Trump’s anti-immigrant stances are evident in more than just his policies, according to Buttigieg, who said it also comes down to the president’s conduct.
“Foot washing is one of the central images in the New Testament, and we see the diametric opposite of that in this presidency,” he said, adding, “not chest-thumping look-at-me-ism, but humbling yourself before others.”
Last January, a Pew Research Center poll found that Trump’s approval rating among white evangelical Protestants rested at 69%, having fluctuated during his term but declining overall only by 9 percentage points since the start of his presidency.
Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. is perhaps one of the best-known evangelicals whose loyalty to Trump has proven unshakable, even after a wave of scandals, from his bragging about sexually assaulting women, to making racist remarks, to failing to stand firmly against white supremacy, and to ordering hush money payments to cover up alleged affairs with a porn star and a Playboy playmate.
In a Washington Post interview earlier this year, Falwell praised the president, saying, “I can’t imagine him doing anything that’s not good for the country.”
In light of Trump’s many controversies, Buttigieg couldn’t wrap his mind around how evangelical voters could tolerate the president.
“Even on the version of Christianity that you hear from the religious right, which is about sexual ethics, I can’t believe that somebody who was caught writing hush money checks to adult film actresses is somebody they should be lifting up as the kind of person you want to be leading this nation,” he said.
Buttigieg has not yet announced his 2020 campaign, but he has formed an exploratory committee. He’s expected to officially launch a campaign soon, which would make him one of the youngest contenders within the crowded field of Democrats, alongside 37-year-old Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii).
Last week, Buttigieg revealed that he has raised more than $7 million this year, which is likely a significant feat for a mayor who started out with little national name recognition, his popularity having grown partly thanks to social media and TV interviews.