A reporter with National Public Radio (NPR) claimed an exclusive story about evangelical Trump supporters meeting in June to try to stem the damage from controversies surrounding the President Donald Trump’s past conduct.
But there is a problem with the report, according to Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and one of the evangelical behind the June 17 meeting at Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC.
It is fake news, Perkins said.
NPR used anonymous sources for its report on Friday’s Morning Edition:
As allegations continue to swirl about the president and a payout to a porn star to cover up a sexual encounter, evangelical leaders are organizing a sit-down with President Trump in June, four sources with knowledge of the planned meeting tell NPR.
“We’re very concerned” about the allegations, said a leader of a faith-based ministry. The leader is involved in hosting the gathering, which organizers are aiming to take place June 19 at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. The source said the combination of the Stormy Daniels sex-scandal allegations and Trump’s continued reputation for divisive rhetoric could suppress evangelical turnout in the November midterm elections.
“It is a concern of ours that 2018 could be very detrimental to some of the other issues that we hold dear,” like preserving religious liberty and restricting abortion rights, the source noted. The source, like the others with knowledge of the event, spoke to NPR on the condition of anonymity so as to not jeopardize the meeting.
“An NPR story published this morning says evangelical leaders are organizing a meeting with President Trump because they are ‘concerned’ about the tantalizing details of President Trump’s past and its effect on the mid-term election,” Perkins said in a statement released to the media late Friday.
“There is only one problem,” Perkins said. “It’s not true.”
An NPR story published this morning says evangelical leaders are organizing a meeting with the President because they're "concerned" about his past and its effect on the midterm election. This is not true. How do I know? I'm one of the key organizers. https://t.co/hCgJAXHa8U
— Tony Perkins (@tperkins) April 7, 2018
Perkins said he is a credible source for pronouncing the NPR story as fake news because he is one of the main organizers for the meeting of some 1,000 evangelicals planned “to discuss what has happened on the shared issues of concern since January of last year.”
“The media, which has earned the descriptor, fake news, has been pre-occupied with talking about Russia collusion, and the manufactured scandals de jour,” Perkins said. “The media has not focused on the fact that his administration has advanced the most pro-life policies since Roe v. Wade and is working hard to restore religious freedom that was systematically attacked by the previous administration.”
NPR, which is subsidized with taxpayer funding, played up the president’s alleged affairs but did, in fact, accurately report that he has been invited to the meeting.
“Trump has been invited to take questions from the evangelical leaders for roughly 90 minutes during the meeting,” NPR reported. “It’s not clear whether the allegations from Daniels — or another woman who alleges she had an affair with Trump, former Playboy model Karen McDougal — are likely to come up while the president is on stage in a more open session.”
Perkins responded that evangelicals concerns aren’t with the president or his alleged behavior but with Congress’ failure to put Trump’s agenda in place.
“We’ve invited the president and do hope he will join us to continue the conversation that began with evangelical leaders two years ago in New York City,” Perkins wrote. “Our concern is that evangelicals are discouraged, not because of details dredged up from the president past, but from Congress’ poor performance on promises made.”
“The GOP’s future depends upon evangelicals remaining enthused and engaged, which depends on the president’s agenda going forward – and the left knows it,” Perkins said.
NPR did report that conservative Christians are pleased with Trump’s stance and the actions he has taken to promote pro-life judges and policies, religious liberty protection for Americans, and support for Israel, including moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
NPR interviewed a handful of conservative Christians, including Johnnie Moore, “an informal evangelical adviser to the president,” who also denied that premise of the publicly funded new outlet’s story.
“Moore described himself as an ‘observer’ rather than an organizer but did say conversations are underway about a potential gathering of hundreds of evangelicals in Washington, D.C., in the coming months,” NPR reported.
“There is a very active discussion about the desire of evangelical leaders to get together again, principally to discuss policy issues going into 2018,” Moore said. “And it has nothing to do with any questions about the past life of our president.”
Follow Penny Starr on Twitter