President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE allegedly called evangelical pastors “hustlers” in a 2015 conversation with his then-lawyer Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenAndrew Cuomo and the death of shame Prosecutors considered charging Trump Organization CFO with perjury: report Michael Wolff and the art of monetizing gossip MORE, The Atlantic reported on Tuesday.
Cohen told the magazine that Trump made the comments after reading an article about pastor Creflo Dollar raising money from followers for a private jet and appeared excited by the “scam.” He reportedly told Cohen that the pastor was “full of shit.”’
“They’re all hustlers,” the president said, according to the magazine.
In public, the president has praised conservative Christian leaders throughout his campaigns and his presidency. He has earned their respect by appointing a large batch of conservative judges to federal courts.
Evangelical leaders have rallied around him, touting him as God’s chosen leader to fulfill the conservative agenda.
But in private, people who have worked for Trump told The Atlantic the president expressed cynicism and contempt with his remarks on religion. Former aides told the magazine that they heard the president mock conservative religious leaders, dismiss faith groups with stereotypes and scoff at the rites and doctrines of several faith groups.
The former aides said the president also sees evangelical leaders as a group to be “schmoozed, conned, or bought off,” according to The Atlantic.
During the 2016 election, Trump was confident in securing the support of religious voters through high-profile Christians.
“His view was ‘I’ve been talking to these people for years; I’ve let them stay at my hotels — they’re gonna endorse me. I played the game,’” a former campaign adviser said.
The adviser said he showed Trump a YouTube clip of an Israeli televangelist conducting “faith healings,” which the president laughed at and said, “Man, that’s some racket.”
Cohen’s book, "Disloyal," released earlier this month, includes recalled comments from Trump after pastors laid hands on him in 2011 saying, “Can you believe that bullshit?”
However, the president took an interest in churches that follow the prosperity gospel and raise lots of money.
“He was completely familiar with the business dealings of the leadership in many prosperity-gospel churches,” the adviser told The Atlantic.
The White House told The Hill in a statement that “people of faith know that President Trump is a champion for religious liberty and the sanctity of life, and he has taken strong actions to support them and protect their freedom to worship.”
“The president is also well known for joking and his terrific sense of humor, which he shares with people of all faiths,” the spokesperson continued.
The comments are surfacing 35 days before the 2020 presidential election and the same day Trump will face Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race On The Money: Democrats get to the hard part Health Care — GOP attorneys general warn of legal battle over Biden's vaccine mandate MORE in their first debate.
The president has garnered strong support from white evangelical voters, who are more than twice as likely to say Trump is religious, according to Pew Research Center.
Trump’s remarks about religious leaders also follow The Washington Post’s report last week that said the president muttered after a phone call with Jewish lawmakers that Jewish people “are only in it for themselves” and “stick together.”