During brief remarks given Thursday night at a Lincoln Memorial concert commemorating his inauguration, President-elect Donald Trump pledged to bring Americans together.
“We’re going to unify our country,” Trump told the crowd. “We’re going to make America great for all of our people. Everybody, everybody, throughout all of our country.”
But hours later, Trump listened to a sermon delivered by a preacher known for the sort of divisive, Islamophobic views that characterized his campaign.
The Rev. Robert Jeffress, a megachurch pastor in Dallas, delivered the sermon for Trump, his family, and about 300 others during a private service at St. John’s Episcopal Church just before the inauguration. Jeffress once accused President Obama of “paving the way” for the Antichrist, denounced Islam as an “evil religion” that is “inspired by Satan himself,” and characterized gays as leading “miserable” and “filthy” lives.
— Dr. Robert Jeffress (@robertjeffress) January 20, 2017
Jeffress spoke before a Trump rally in Dallas in September. Speaking after Jeffress’ remarks, Trump told the crowd, “I love that guy!”
As CNN writes, “usually the Inauguration Day service draws little notice, much less controversy. But offering Jeffress such a prominent pulpit is likely to irk religious minorities, particularly Muslims, many of whom were already angered by the President-elect’s stoking of suspicions about Islam during the campaign.”
The Council on American-Islamic relations released a statement saying the choice of Jeffress “is symptomatic of the incoming Trump administration’s inclusion of notorious Islamophobes in the transition team, in the picks for cabinet nominees and, beginning Friday, in the White House,” according to the CNN report.
Trump’s incoming national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, is an open Islamophobe who tweeted on separate occasions last year that “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL” and dared “Arab & Persian world ‘leaders’ to step up to the plate and declare their Islamic ideology sick and must B healed.” Similarly, Trump’s choice for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), characterized Islam as a “toxic ideology” during an interview last June. And his chief White House strategist, Steve Bannon, amplified Islamophobes and characterized them as experts on Islam during his tenure at Breitbart.
During the campaign, Trump postured as though he’s a friend to the LGBT community, but repeatedly took anti-LGBT positions on issues. GLAAD also condemned the choice of Jeffress. An organization spokesman told CNN that “the inauguration and the people invited to pray at the inauguration speak to the values and the agenda of the incoming president. Jeffress’ anti-LGBTQ message is now going to be tied to this administration and its policies.”