President Donald Trump on Thursday merged his “America first” governing philosophy with his religious views, saying Americans should feel lucky God placed them here.
But Trump’s religious-based message about being generous to one another and following God’s path to become “heroes to everybody” aligns imperfectly with how he and his staff have handled on-the-record allegations of domestic abuse by one of his closest aides.
Weaved throughout the president’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast were statements about that the United States being on a higher moral elevation than other countries — and thinly veiled urging to the American people to place more stock in following religious teachings.
Trump does not often talk about his own religious beliefs, but on Thursday morning, he read remarks from a TelePrompter that placed a higher power at the center of the country’s history and culture.
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“Today we praise God for how truly blessed we are to be American,” Trump said. “Across our land, we see the splendor of God’s creation. Throughout our history, we see the story of God’s province.
“In every city and town, we see God’s grace all around us … through acts of generosity and kindness,” said the president, who just a year ago spoke more often about “American carnage” in inner cities among gang members and criminals.
Trump’s words about religion and following God’s teachings came a day after his White House struggled to react to a report that his staff secretary, Rob Porter, physically and otherwise abused his two ex-wives. It took the White House until 9:30 p.m. to issue a statement from Chief of Staff John Kelly saying he was “shocked by the new allegations.”
Still, Kelly said in the statement that he stands by his previous defenses of Porter, including praising his “integrity” and calling him honorable. And the late-night statement marked the first time any senior White House official uttered any public statement condemning domestic violence.
As of Thursday morning, however, the president himself had not done so. His schedule includes no more public events, meaning reporters will not have the chance to ask him about the Porter allegations and how his staff handled the fallout.
That leaves Trump’s silence on the matter, including one of the ex-wives’ sharing photographs with The Daily Mail, which broke the story, of a black eye she says Porter gave her on their honeymoon in the early 2000s, awkwardly juxtaposed with his Prayer Breakfast message.
“As long as we are true to America’s founders … we can all be heroes to everybody and they can be heroes to us,” he said. “As long as we open our eyes to God’s grace .. America will forever be the land of the free, the home of the brave, and a light to all nations.”