The Chosen One: Trump and the Christian Broadcasting Network

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly labelled much of mainstream American media “fake news” and the “enemy of the people”. But there are a few outlets that are in Trump’s good books.

It’s common knowledge that Fox News is a soft landing spot for the president, but what’s less well known is the wide-ranging access he, and many members of his administration, offer to the much smaller Christian Broadcasting Network, or CBN.

Nicole Hemmer, the author of Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics, explains why Trump has so much time for CBN: “They’re working on a different playing field; they’re appealing in terms of faith, not necessarily in terms of facts. So, while Donald Trump dismisses journalists as “fake news”, this kind of “faith news” is something that really resonates with him – not because he’s a member of the faithful, but because he sees these people as being on his side.”

CBN’s stated mission is ‘to prepare the United States of America for the coming of Jesus Christ’; its method, the ‘strategic use of mass communication; a global ministry relying on TV, internet and social media to spread good news’.

The network has been spreading good news since 1961 when its founder, Pat Robertson, first took to the airwaves. At age 88, he remains a hugely influential figure in the evangelical community, still hosting the flagship show, The 700 Club.

“CBN is the most influential evangelical Christian organisation in the world – without a doubt,” says Terry Heaton, the executive producer of The 700 Club for much of the 1980s. “It’s not so due to the size of their audience though. It’s due to the fact that all of the other leaders in white, evangelical Christianity pay attention to what Pat says. And, and so it’s a matter of not only influencing masses but it’s influencing the influencers. And that’s what CBN does so well.”

Evangelicals were central to Trump’s election victory in 2016, where more than 8 in 10 voted for him. More than 6 in 10 still think he’s got the country headed in the right direction. Trump needs to keep conservative Christians on his side, and CBN’s influence and reach provide the perfect platform for that.

“Trump and CBN have developed a relationship over the years. Long before most people thought he was running for president, he did an interview with CBN, with David Brody, that seemed like perhaps he was thinking about it” says Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters. 

“I think he’s interviewed Trump at least a dozen times, one on one. So that has enabled CBN to position itself as the inside baseball network.”

But the tight relationship between a seemingly ungodly president and his evangelical base appears incongruous; Trump doesn’t exhibit the traditional Christian principles that CBN promotes. The Listening Post‘s Flo Phillips went to CBN’s headquarters in Virginia Beach to ask Gordon Robertson, CBN’s CEO, if it’s just an alliance of political convenience.

“He’s an unlikely president and it’s unlikely for him to be of such appeal to evangelical voters. That said, I think President Trump is an absolute master of media, master of promotion and as a master politician he made very specific promises to the evangelical community about Supreme Court justices, about the Johnson Amendment, about Christian persecution,” says Gordon.

“Unlike other politicians who make promises in the campaign and then do something different in office, he’s fulfilled his promises. He’s come through.”


Gordon Robertson – CEO, Christian Broadcasting Network

Terry Heaton – Former executive producer, The 700 Club and author of The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined the GOP

Sarah Posner – Reporting fellow, The Investigative Fund and author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters

Nicole Hemmer – Assistant professor in presidential studies, University of Virginia and author of Messengers of the Right

Source: Al Jazeera

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