One of President Donald Trump’s closest faith advisers told ThinkProgress on Saturday that she regrets recent comments she made that included suggesting the president has been “lifted up” by God, and insisted that the president is not racist.
Paula White, a megapastor who has emerged as one of Trump’s most trusted faith advisers and prayed at his inauguration, made the statement during a question and answer session at the Religion Religion News Association conference in Nashville, Tennessee. White, who often does not interact with press, was asked to clarify recent comments she made last month on the Jim Bakker show, where she argued that Trump has been anointed by God—and appeared to suggest those who resist him are “fighting against the hand of God.”
White said she regretted her comments.
“I am a preacher—I got a little fired up,” she said. “I said some things, invariably, that I wish I wouldn’t have said. And some things that could most definitely, and have most definitely, been taken out of context.”
White went on to explain that she did, in fact, believe presidents are lifted up into power by God, but said the same was true for President Barack Obama and others.
“I said some things, invariably, that I wish I wouldn’t have said. And some things that could most definitely, and have most definitely, been taken out of context.”
“Do I believe that God raises up authority, do I believe that he sets one up and pulls one down? When I read from Genesis to Revelation, I do believe that,” she said. “So I don’t believe that just for President Trump, I believe that for President Obama. I believe that, had Hillary been in [the White House]—yes, I believe that authority is raised up by God.”
In her original comments on Bakker’s show, White declared, “It is God who raises up a king. It is God that sets one down. When you fight against the plan of God, you are fighting against the hand of God.” When ThinkProgress pressed White on Saturday to explain what she meant by people who are “fighting against the hand of God,” she said her original remarks were in reference to prayer.
“I was talking about the different kinds of prayer,” she said. “In life, even in our own personal life, we find our self at times fighting against the hand of God. And I believe that. In other words, we can be a rebellious and stubborn people, individually, nationally, or corporately. So in context, the headlines were quite different than what was really being said.”
White later noted that she regretted her comment “because of the responsibility of the role that I have,” and that she is still is learning how to handle her public position as Trump’s spiritual surrogate. Yet White, who said she often avoids the press, fielded a number of tough questions on Saturday about being one of Trump’s evangelical Christian advisers—a group that has come under fire for largely refusing to abandon the president despite his numerous scandals while in office. With one exception, members of Trump’s unofficial evangelical advisory board have stood by his side during his hesitancy to condemn anti-Semitism, the aftermath of Charlottesville, and his recent decision to rescind DACA—all moments that triggered widespread condemnation from other people of faith.
When writer Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons asked White whether there was anything the president could do that she would publicly criticize, she said there was—but did not name a specific example.
“Yes there is a line with the president or anyone if I felt like there was an extreme violation, I would publicly criticize,” she said. “We tend to privately criticize… but if there was an extreme line taken, absolutely.”
Sarah Pulliam Bailey of the Washington Post also asked White about criticism that she can be racially insensitive, noting that her church includes many African American members. White said she thinks her churchgoers do not believe the criticisms, adding “I don’t think any of us that are white can ever fully understand what it’s like to be a black person in America today.”
“One thing I can say—and I know this is going to open up a lot—a thousand percent, is that our president is not a racist.”
She also included a defense of Trump, who has fielded widespread accusations of racial insensitivity throughout his presidency and especially following the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia in August.
“One thing I can say—and I know this is going to open up a lot—a thousand percent, is that our president is not a racist,” she said.
White, a longtime friend to Trump, is widely considered to be a preacher of the so-called “prosperity gospel.” The belief system is a controversial but popular strain of evangelical Christianity that often teaches followers they can become wealthy and successful through faith , as well as by giving money to their church. Prosperity gospel preachers have traditionally avoided politics, but Paula White’s appearance on the Jim Bakker show were atypically political, and reflected various elements of Christian nationalism.
Joel Osteen, another prosperity gospel preacher, recently made news after he was accused of being slow to offer up his Texas church as a shelter for victims of Hurricane Harvey. By contrast, Paula White, who is based in Florida, told reporters her New Destiny Christian Center is prepping to offer shelter to victims of Hurricane Irma.