Charisma Runs Debunked George Soros Parody Video as “News”


Another triumph  for Bob Eschliman, the “journalist” tasked by the evangelical news site Charisma News with producing secular news stories designed to bolster the Trump campaign:

George Soros: Yes, the Election Is Rigged

During an interview with Bloomberg last month, billionaire financier of liberal-progressive activism George Soros claimed Donald Trump would win November’s popular vote in a landslide—but Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States.

At points in the interview, Soros was almost unintelligible with his comments. His answers in those moments were seemingly unrelated to the topic of the question, but he provided a couple moments of clarity when asked specifically about the outcome of the 2016 presidential election…

There is a simple reason why Soros was “almost unintelligible” and gave answers that were “unrelated to the topic of the question”: it’s because the video is in fact a heavily edited parody video, uploaded to YouTube in August by someone using the name “Temple of Truth” – and it was thoroughly debunked by Snopes weeks ago.

A notice under the vcharisma-sorosideo states “NOTICE: Our videos are edited for comedic purposes”, and the video ends with to a cut of Hillary Clinton laughing while surrounded by a graphic of flames. Another clue is that the thumbnail used for the video shows Soros superimposed over an Israeli flag – an anti-semitic conspiracy trope that is now prominently embedded in Charisma‘s lead story!

Eschliman’s piece ends with a recommendation that readers click through to an article on the Daily Caller about how Soros is supposedly linked to voting machines used in 16 states and “suspected of being used to rig the 2004 Venezuelan presidential election.”

As a religious news outlet, Charisma News is perhaps less known than other conservative alternative media, although its output is covered by Right Wing Watch. The site’s heavily politicized secular articles appear among accounts of miracles and “spiritual warfare” and such, as well as religious news proper.

Jack Chick, “The World’s Most Published Author”, Has Died

Prolific tract author spread anti-Catholic conspiracy theories and promoted Satanic Panic

From Christianity Today:

Jack Chick, the cartoonist who wanted to save your soul from hell, died Sunday at age 92.

The biggest name in tract evangelism, Chick distributed more than 500 million pamphlets, nicknamed “chicklets,” over five decades. His signature black-and-white panel comics warned against the dangers of everything from the occult to Family Guy.

Various media outlets have reported on Chick’s demise, following an announcement that appeared on the Chick Publications Facebook page. Newsmax describes him as a “pioneering publisher of illustrated Gospel tracts”, noting that his tracts “angered some by speaking negatively about the Catholic church, Wicca, rock music, and homosexuality, among other topics”, while to Jezebel he was “the creator of bigoted yet weirdly enjoyable comic books”. Boing Boing, which seems to have been the first to have drawn attention to the announcement, focuses on one particular area of his writing, refering to him as “father of the Satanic panic” (more on that below).

jack-chickChick Tracts are ubiquitous: a 2003 profile in the Los Angeles Magazine states that he was “the world’s most published author”. In Christian bookshops, his tracts are sold in shrink-wrapped bundles, and the back-covers carry details of his international distributors. In the UK, Chick’s man was Theodore Danson-Smith, an old-time “King James Bible” fundamentalist who runs the B. McCall Barbour Christian bookshop in Edinburgh; there was controversy in 2011 when anti-occult themed Chick Tracts were shoved through the letterbox of a witchcraft shop in Devon, which Danson-Smith cheerfully justified as an an attempt to save the shop-owner’s soul.

Yet Chick himself was a recluse, rarely giving interviews and reportedly fearful that his life was under threat from Jesuits. According to a 1999 article by a writer and filmmaker named Dwayne Walker (page one here), Chick abjured association with the Christian Booksellers’ Association, complaining that it had been infiltrated by Catholics and become too focused on Christian celebrities such as Jim Bakker; the Los Angeles Magazine called him “the Thomas Pynchon of the Christian comics crowd”. He was in fact an underground comic artist, and as such he was was reportedly praised by the likes of Robert Crumb (in 2011 one writer even concocted a self-described conspiracy that Chick and Crumb were in fact the same person).

However, although Chick remained stuck in a 1950s sawdust trail groove, he was not isolated from wider networks. Walker’s article has some context here – and given that it is now consigned to the Internet Archive, I’ll quote a bit more at length than usual:

David [Cagle, founder of the King James Bible Society  was expelled from Bob Jones University because of his friendship with a renegade pastor named Peter Ruckman… David eventually went to work for Peter Ruckman’s Bible Baptist Bookstore and I moved to Hollywood to work in the fringes of softcore pornography and women’s wrestling videos. We still kept in touch, which was how I learned Jack Chick relied heavily on Peter Ruckman’s theology. Not only had Ruckman coined the phrase ‘Alexandrian Cult’, which Jack Chick started using in his defensive pro-King James ‘Sabotage’, but the term ‘chicklets’ was actually coined at Ruckman’s Pensacola Bible Institute.

…Randy Chapman was David’s contact at Chick Publications. Randy and David knew each other for quite some time, and now Randy was practically Jack’s right hand man. I introduced myself to Randy at the Anaheim CBA. He was working the Ruckman booth and selling Chick tracts.

Through these contacts, Walker managed to secure a meeting. Walker describes Chick as resembling the actor Slim Pickens, and he jokily includes a movie still of Pickens in the areoplane cockpit in Dr. Strangelove, which he captions as being Chick. Here’s some of what they discussed:

Chick began to open up and our conversation drifted from the business at hand to a variety of subjects; his views on Bob Jones University (who banned his comics for ‘sex and violence’), Jerry Falwell, Trinity Broadcasting Network, Peter Ruckman, Christian movie producer, David Balsiger, John Todd, and ‘occult expert’ Rebecca Browning.

…David Balsiger recently had a contract with CBS Television for a number of specials including ‘Mysteries of the Ancient World’ in which I commented on Nostradomus. David’s contract was cancelled when it was discovered George Jammal appeared on Balsiger’s show, claimed to have been on Noah’s Ark, and was later revealed to be a hoax. Balsiger had his CBS contract dropped and went to work for Group Publications. George Jammal went on to play the angry father in my film, Bible Madness.

“Balsiger sat on that couch right there! He’s really into conspiracies.”

…Ben Kinchlow, Pat Robertson’s former co-host, is a big Chick fan who visited the Rancho Cucamonga office. The book, The Most Dangerous Man in America, has a story where Kinchlow sends a Chick comic to a fan who is inquiring about the last days. The comic contains some anti-Catholic statements, which upset the person who complained to a Catholic periodical.

Walker goes to on note that Balsiger influenced Chick’s portrayal of Noah’s Ark as “a rectangle with a smaller rectangle in the center”. Balsiger is indeed “really into conspiracies”: in 1971, he and Mike Warnke formed an “anti-occult ministry” under the aegis of Morris Cerullo, and Balsiger ghosted Warnke’s notorious Christian paperback fraud The Satan Seller.

However, there is one error in the above: “Rebecca Browning” should actually be “Rebecca Brown”. Her account of being an ex-witch was heavily promoted by Chick Publications, and an article by G. Richard Fisher, Paul R. Blizard and M. Kurt Goedelman called “Drugs, Demons and Delusions: The ‘Amazing’ Saga of Rebecca Brown” is a thorough debunking, comparable to  Mike Hertenstein and Jon Trott’s exposé of Warnke. Fisher et al. write:

Rebecca Brown and Elaine (no last name is given), have told their story to Jack rebecca-brownChick, whose Chick Publications company has published it in two cassette tapes, Closet Witches 1 and Closet Witches 2, and two books, He Came To Set The Captives Free and Prepare for War. Rebecca and Elaine have also had opportunity to promote their message on the syndicated talk show Geraldo in 1987.

Chick Publications, once known primarily as a publisher of Gospel tracts, has gained notoriety as a publisher of sensational stories, most notably those of John Todd,[*] who claims to possess knowledge of an occult, conspiratorial society called The Illuminati, and Alberto Rivera, who claimed to once have been a Jesuit priest who witnessed all kinds of ungodly activities and plots by the Roman Catholic Church.

Chick is no stranger to controversy but considers anyone who disputes his publications’ claims a spiritual enemy. On the tape Closet Witches 2 he says “I think the listeners should watch carefully who in the Christian circles will attack Rebecca and Elaine to destroy their credibility and the message on this tape. More than likely the attackers just might turn out to be satanists or witches pretending to be believers in Christ and it is going to be very, very interesting to watch.”

In fact, both Rebecca and Elaine had troubled personal histories, and Rebecca – formerly Ruth Irene Bailey – had been barred from working in medicine after “misdiagnosing alleged leukemia, various blood disorders, gall bladder disease, brain tumors and various other ailments and conditions all of which Respondent stated were allegedly caused by demons, devils and other evil spirits.” The scholar of African Christianity Paul Gifford has drawn attention the popularity of Brown’s books (and Chick Tracts) among evangelicals in Africa; in the 1990s he noted that Brown (who is white) had spoken at a Black-majority church in London, and that she was billed as appearing at a conference in Ghana alongside Emmanuel Eni as two “ex-Satanists”.

Brown’s books have more recently been reprinted by Whitaker House, which is Charismatic rather than “King James fundamentalist”, but the demonic presences in Chick Tracts and in Brown’s story both fit well with the kind of “Spiritual Warfare” teachings of neo-Pentecostalism. Thus perhaps it is worth noting that Chick died just two days after the demon-obsessed Charismatic theologian C. Peter Wagner.


* John Todd’s conspiracy theories were so extravagant that he was eventually debunked by two writers associated with Praise the Lord (PTL), Darryl L. Hicks and David A. Lewis – their book on the subject came with foreword by Warnke and Doug Wead.

Todd first came to attention in 1972, when he linked up with Reverend Jack Taylor in San Antonio and became associated with the “Jesus People” of Melodyland. He was asked to leave Melodyland the following year due to allegations that he was attempting to seduce female members, but in 1977 Chick put him into contact with Reverend Roland Rasmussen, who sent him on a lecture tour and promoted his tapes.

It was eventually discovered that after his expulsion from Melodyland Todd had managed an occult bookstore in Dayton as “Lance Collins” and been charged with statutory rape; legal assistance from the Wiccan network was not forthcoming (Gavin Frost and Isaac Bonewits described him as “armed and dangerous”), although a lawyer hired by Chick got him out of prison after he admitted to a lesser charge. When this background came out Todd admitted to Rasmussen that he had “backslidden”; following further exposure he disappeared from view and his whereabouts remain unknown.

This information is derived from Bill Ellis, Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the Media (Lexington: University Pres of Kentucky, 2000), pp. 192-199.

Charisma Promotes New Satanic Ritual Abuse Claims

From Charisma News:

Ex-Witch Reveals the Ritual Satanic Abuse That Happens on Halloween

Since her salvation in recent years and subsequent inner healings and deliverance, Beth came to realize she was abused in a satanic ritual on Halloween when she was just 3.  

“We went to the (Mormon) church and what happened next made my blood curdle. I was given candy, but that was just a prelude to the sexual abuse that would happen in a satanic ritual,” Beth reveals in her blog.  

“On Halloween, Satanists use young children, such as myself, as sexual idols to worship. Other children receive a far worse fate. Death…”

This is just one of several articles published by Charisma about Beth Eckert, a woman in her thirties residing in California. Eckert apparently attended a Mormon church in early childhood and later embraced Wicca and occultism, before eventually becoming a Christian.

Charisma News caters to evangelical Christians, particularly neo-Pentecostals; the site’s publisher, Steven Strang, is a significant presence in evangelical Christian media, and according to a statement put out by the Ted Cruz campaign when Cruz gained Strang’s endorsement in January the site “is read by more than 200,000 monthly, with four million unique online visitors per month” (Strang is now an enthusiast for Trump).

Charisma News is most useful for monitoring trends and developments within neo-Pentecostalism, although in recent months it has branched out into purely secular anti-Clinton articles. It also gives a platform to one particular author who promotes David Icke-type conspiracies about elite “Illuminati” Satanic rituals and their potential to create dramatic supernatural irruptions. Eckert’s claims about Satanic abuse are similarly being promoted by the site at face value, despite the cautionary example of the 1980s Satanic Ritual Abuse panic.

The key phrase in the Charisma article is “since her salvation… Beth came to realize”.  An early version of Eckert’s story appeared on a site called Your Spiritual Quest a year ago. According to her account then, she left Mormonism because the religion presented God as “cruel and judging”, but her subsequent years in an occult and New Age milieu were not conducive to her psychological wellbeing or maintaining healthy relations. Although she believes her interests at this time were spiritually harmful, there is nothing about Satanism or child rape.

On her blog, The Other Side of Darkness, we can see how her story developed. In March, she wrote that:

I decided to explore options for counseling. Once I began to dive into the emotional and spiritual depths of my soul, I found the answers I had been seeking. I was horribly abused as a child, by the people who loved me and were supposed to be taking care of me. This was a shocking blow to me, because the abuse was so severe that I actually completely blocked it out. I mean I had no memories whatsoever of any of it. Yet the information I began to receive as revelations from the Holy Spirit, finally started to put my life together like a puzzle that had lost the corner pieces.

In April, she went into specifics:

I am now in a class for women who were sexually abused as children. This class, (called Wounded Heart, after the workbook), has been a big help for me… I was molested, sodomized and raped as a child, in the Mormon Church. The abuse was so terrifying that I completely blocked it from my conscious mind.

The Wounded Heart, by Dan Allender, was first published in 1989. The author heavily promotes the idea of “recovered memories”, and he warns readers that

The denial is an affront to God. It assumes that a false reality is better than truth. It assumes that God is neither good nor strong enough to help during the recall process.

In other words, to doubt the memories you have been told by a counsellor or “deliverance minister” that you’re supposed to have is to commit a sin. This is highly manipulative, and I would go so far as to describe it as a form of psychological abuse.

From suddenly remembering being abused, to being abused in a church setting, to being abused as part of Satanic ritual on Halloween – the arc is depressingly inevitable. In Britain, this kind of “recovered memory” led to the tragic suicides of Caroline Marchant and Carol Felstead, and it is likely that a dubious therapist inspired the lurid allegations made by “Nick” that led to the recent disturbing farce of Operation Midland.

As far as I can tell, Eckert has not contacted the police with her story – even though she’s young enough that her supposed abusers may well still be alive and continuing with their predations. That in itself seems to me to be a tacit admission – either by Eckert herself or those who are helping her to “discover” these memories – that this is not a story that could bear much scrutiny on specific details.

Given Eckert’s obviously vulnerable state and her relative obscurity, this was not a case I really wanted to explore in any detail – but with a high-profile religious media empire irresponsibly using her to promote unsubstantiated allegations that may well lead to innocent people suffering harm, there was little choice.

Pastor Saeed Abedini on Hillary Clinton and the Jezebel Spirit

From the Facebook page of American-Iranian Pastor Saeed Abedini:

…If a woman can’t be the head of a small group of people such as the family or church, how can she, Biblically, be the head of a country with millions of people?!

I think spirit of Jezebel is getting stronger and stronger in the United States which means some women want to have power and control over everything and be the head of everything. I can see it in the US culture, which is a spirit that wants to get the HEADSHIP of the country. But this is NOT from God, nor is it Biblical. I believe every one can be a leader, women and men, and women are amazing and wonderful leaders, but God gave the HEADSHIP to men. So there is a difference between leadership which women and men have and the headship which God gave to men. That’s the nature that God created in us.

Don’t vote for Hillary Clinton. Don’t give the HEADSHIP of a country to this woman.

I believe in equality of women and men but there are differences in how God orchestrated the leadership of our homes and life so that we can function in an orderly manner.

This is (or ought to be) a delicate subject for man who pleaded guilty to a domestic abuse charge in 2007 following an argument about a laptop, and whose now-former wife has accused him of long-term “physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse through… addiction to pornography”. Naghmeh Abedini claims that the abuse continued even while her husband was imprisoned in Iran and their contact was limited to phone calls, and in January she wrote that

Three months ago Saeed told me things he demanded I must do to promote him in the eyes of the public that I simply could not do any longer. He threatened that if I did not the results would be the end of our marriage and the resulting pain this would bring to our children.

Naghmeh Abedini filed for a legal separation on the day of his return to the USA from Iran; her preferred way forward was marriage counselling, but her husband apparently declined and he carried through his threat by filing for divorce just a couple of weeks ago.

Saeed Abedini was famously a prisoner of conscience in Iran from 2012 to January 2016, when he was released as part of a deal. His imprisonment brought him not just support and sympathy (although there were concerns that his account of prison conditions had been embellished), but also celebrity: on his return he was greeted by Franklin Graham (who, true to type given his recent defences of Trump, cautioned against taking the claims of abuse at face value), and his Facebook statements are regularly covered by Christian media.

In May, a post by Abedini about how Christians must support Israel ahead of the End Times was covered by the Christian Post, while just a few days ago, Charisma News reported under the headline “Saeed Abedini Waxes Prophetic on Trump vs. Clinton Presidential Race” that

The United States presidential election closely mirrors God granting Israel kings, pastor Saeed Abedini says.  

“If they were walking with God and were depending on and repentant to God, He allowed them to rule accordingly,” Abedini says in a recent Facebook post. “If people were wicked, God gave them a wicked leader. If they were humble they would get a humble leader.”

…”First we need to humble ourselves before God before we can expect others to humble themselves. We need to stop judging and take care of our own problems.” 

In his most recent post, immediately following the third election debate, Abedini states that Trump and Clinton are both “amazing”, but – just as his distinction between “leadership” and “headship” is obscure –  it’s difficult to reconcile this generous assessment of both candidates with his view that Clinton is associated with Jezebel, the great villainess of the Hebrew Bible whose evil manifested in dominance over her husband. Abedini previously criticised Clinton in June, again invoking Jezebel and at that time complaining that she had not been in contact with him during his first months of imprisonment.

Abedini’s latest “Jezebel” post is illustrated by a remarkable portrait photo. Abedini sits dressed in a white suit at a white desk in a white room; in front of him is a white Apple laptop – unhappily bringing to mind the 2007 incident – and to his right (our left) sits a copy of the NIV Dad’s Devotional Bible. In the background, we have on our left an American flag and on the right the “Christian flag” that was designed at the end of the 19th century. Between them sits a white display cabinet, on which has been placed two small Israeli flags, another small US flag, and a print by Nancy Cupp, entitled Isaiah Sixty One Verse One. The image shows a crucifix that morphs into a sword, breaking chains of bondage.


The Christian Times: A Hoax Christian News Site

From Mike Cernovich at the end of last month:

Cernovich is disingenuous when he suggests that the site threatens to bring conservatives down to a lower level that is currently occupied only by liberals – and given his own extravagances, this warning was probably issued in bad faith for his own purposes.

The context here is an election campaign in which a random anonymous troll Tweet by someone claiming (without evidence or even plausibility) to be an Ohio postal worker destroying ballots for Trump can sweep across conservative media, and in which the Republican presidential candidate has embraced fringe conspiracy-mongers such as Alex Jones. Thus, copy and paste the Christian Times url into Twitter, and dozens of Tweets appear taking its content at face value.

Thus it is worth paying a little some attention to the site, despite it being not just fake, but egregiously so (five of its stories have featured on Snopes).

We begin with the site’s self-presentation. It carries crudely manipulated images (“photoshopping” is giving the site too much credit – the site owner seems to be using MS Paint); it mixes its own material with stories ripped off from elsewhere; and there is a mysterious owner, one “John Chefetz”, who is untraceable despite having an unusual name. The site was created at the end of last year but claims to be the new digital presence of a print publication that has been in existence “for upwards of twenty-five years” – however, although the site’s generic title gives a general impression of familiarity, there is no evidence of continuity with any older publication. I’ve seen this kind of thing before.

Now for the content. The site’s religious veneer extends to the claim that Chefetz “travels the country speaking about current events and theology”, and that that site offers “daily devotionals to help you in your walk with Christ.” There is also a token and derivative section on “religion”. However, most of the site consists of sensational stories of Democrat corruption and Hillary Clinton’s malice and ill-health. One item may just about pass muster as a poor sort of “satire” (“Hillary Clinton Blames Racism for Cincinnati Gorilla’s Death“), but it is clear that most of the site’s content is meant to deceive. The site’s most successful item, in terms of dissemination, is perhaps “‘Tens of thousands’  of fraudulent Clinton votes found in Ohio warehouse”, which is discussed by Bloggerheads here.

Along with the site itself, there are some related Facebook pages. The site’s main Facebook page can be seen here, but the site also heavily promotes a Facebook page called “1,000,000 Americans Saying Hillary Stole The Election”. Both pages are anonymous. Readers are also encouraged to join the “Stop the Steal team”, and there is also a “Stop the Seal” Facebook page (again anonymous) which has previously promoted Christian Times Newspaper content. This Facebook page describes itself as “a page influenced and in admiration of Roger Stone’s work”, but although it encourages visitors to go to Stone’s Stop the Seal website it does not have any affiliation with it.

UPDATE (18 January 2017): The New York Times has traced the website’s owner. It turns out that “John Chefetz” is one Cameron Harris, “a 23-year-old former college quarterback and fraternity leader” currently living in Annapolis, Maryland. The report says that prior to Google’s decision to ban adverts from such sites his creation was worth up to $125,000. Harris is actually from a place called Kings Mountain, and his studies at Davidson College were in Economics and Political Science. Presumably there was no ethics module, let alone any theology involved.

According to the story, “Mr. Harris said he would have been willing to promote Mrs. Clinton and smear Mr. Trump had those tactics been lucrative”. However, he used to have a blog on the subject of “North Carolina Politics From A Conservative Perspective” (since deleted, but available here), and his new “political consulting business” mentioned in the report is pitched specifically towards Republican candidates. This business, Chesapeake Strategy Partners, says that it helped “raise over $350,000 for Republican candidates & organizations in 2016 alone” through “events, direct mail, call programs, & digital”. The company site is currently “under construction”, although Google cache shows an impressive roster of politicians it has apparently worked with. There was also apparently an investment opportunity included.

Man Who Accused Dead MPs of Child Sex Abuse Defends Donald Trump From Groping Allegation

From the Sunday Mirror, July 2014:

Tory child abuse whistleblower: ‘I supplied underage rent boys for Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet ministers’

Senior Tory cabinet ministers were supplied with underage boys for sex parties, it is sensationally claimed.

Former Conservative activist Anthony Gilberthorpe said he told Margaret Thatcher 25 years ago about what he had witnessed and gave her names of those involved.

…He says one person who attended a party is a current serving minister.

Others said to be present at the parties included Keith Joseph, Rhodes Boyson, Dr Alistair Smith and Michael Havers.

Gilberthorpe came forward two weeks after articles had appeared in the media suggesting that the former Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, had mishandled “dossiers” given to him by Geoffrey Dickens MP containing information about child sex abuse in high places. These “Dickens dossiers” have in recent years acquired something of a mythical status, although from what we know of them they actually contained little of substance and were produced by Dickens as publicity stunts. John Mann MP made further claims about one of them a year ago, although interest has since waned.

Gilberthorpe’s sudden claim about his own “dossier” – which was supposedly seen by the Prime Minister – was thus obviously opportunistic. Nevertheless, his story was picked up by other tabloids, such as the Daily Mail, and the Sunday Mirror ran follow-up pieces in which Gilberthorpe’s claims were described as a “revelation”, as if confirmed.

It was left to Private Eye magazine (1372) to dredge up some pertinent context in its “Street of Shame” column:

Gilberthorpe, a former Gloucestershire county councillor and party activist, says that in 1989 he sent a 40-page dossier to Margaret Thatcher (a friend of his, or so he claims) … Other newspapers, especially the Daily Mail, have eagerly recycled the story. But none has taken the precaution of warning readers that Gilberthorpe – known to his few remaining friends as “Gilby” – is not the most reliable of witnesses…

In September 1987, for example, he announced his engagement in the Times to Miss Leah Bergdorf-Hunt, a fashion designer from California… But there was no engagement, and indeed no Miss Bergdorf-Hunt. As revealed in Eye 690, the whole thing was a fantasy.

And that’s just the warm up: the article goes on to relate how Gilberthorpe had won a libel action in 1988 over a claim that he had contracted Aids, despite the newspaper concerned claiming that the false information had been supplied by Gilberthorpe himself (the award was later overturned on appeal); how it had been claimed that he had somehow acquired £250,000 “from a former patient of a nursing home he owned”; and, most notoriously, how he had surreptitiously videoed his friend, the late Piers Merchant MP, having sex with a teenage girl and then sold the recording to the Sunday Mirror. For some reason, though, the Eye left out allegations of fraud in relation to an antiques centre in York in 2003.

Gilberthorpe is now in the news once again, in unexpected circumstances. From the New York Post:

Donald Trump’s campaign says a British man is countering claims that the GOP presidential nominee groped a woman on a cross-country flight more than three decades ago.

The man says he was sitting across from the accuser and contacted the Trump campaign because he was incensed by her account — which is at odds with what he witnessed.

“I have only met this accuser once and frankly cannot imagine why she is seeking to make out that Trump made sexual advances on her. Not only did he not do so (and I was present at all times) but it was she that was the one being flirtatious,” Anthony Gilberthorpe said in a note provided to The Post by the Trump campaign.

Gilberthorpe’s testimony is apparently the “evidence” to which Mike Pence recently referred. Gilberthorpe is currently 54 years old; in 1980, then, he would have been 18 or 19 years old when he was travelling business-class across the USA.

Inevitably, there is now a new flurry of interest in Gilberthorpe, with articles appearing in SlateBuzzfeed, TPM, and other outlets, including the Daily MailIn contrast to its 2014 article, however, the Mail this time notes in its subheading that Gilberthorpe has “no evidence” to support his claim.

UPDATE: Gilberthorpe has now flown to the USA to appear on Fox News’s Justice with Judge Jeanine:

Jeanine Pirro: Tell me about you, what is the worst thing that you have done? Because we are going to find out about it one way or another.

Gilberthorpe: The internet’s full of it, they’re on overdrive. And frankly, let this be testimony to the weaponry that I have.

Gilberthorpe went on to explain that he had provided “the Trump organization” with

factual evidence of the configuration of those seats, where Trump was, where she was, where I was. That was just after she made no mention whatsoever of a witness… It was between [her] first and second statement that I gave my evidence to Trump.


Rhodes Boyson and Keith Joseph were also supposedly named in yet another alleged dossier, this time one supposedly given to a journalist named Don Hale by Barbara Castle MP. According to Hale, this dossier was seized by police before he could make use of it, and by the time he decided to go public with his story Castle had been dead for some years.

Hale’s story was reported in the Daily Mail a few days after its derivative Gilberthorpe article, and the paper treated his claims as confirmed facts. More recently, the Mail has been scathing on the subject of false VIP abuse allegations.

Evangelical Leadership and Donald Trump: Faith No More

Reuters reports:

Leaders of religious conservative groups largely stood behind Donald Trump on Saturday, the day after vulgar sexual comments he made about women surfaced online.

…Most evangelical leaders did not condemn Trump, and instead pointed to an urgent need to prevent Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency, reshaping the Supreme Court and implementing liberal policies.

Similar ground has been covered by Buzzfeedthe Washington Post and TPM.

At the risk of providing superfluous commentary, it should always be emphasized that Trump did not just make “vulgar sexual comments about women” – he made vulgar comments in which he boasted about sexual assaults and attempting to have sex with a married woman. It is remarkable that while Republicans such as John McCain and Condoleezza Rice are keeping faith with their principles by repudiating Trump’s candidature, evangelical leaders who are supposed to “trust always in God” appear willing to make any compromise in return for worldly political influence.

At the neo-Pentecostal end of the Christian Right, there is a particular problem in that the movement’s leaders have announced that God has “anointed” Trump, and that he is the “prophesised President”. These leaders have heard directly from an omniscient being, which means that there is no room for them to re-assess their position based on new information, even if they wanted to.

However, as Reuters indicates, other evangelicals who could step back are instead choosing to double down, despite some formal criticism of Trump’s comments – and they are not just re-affirming their support through gritted teeth.

Perhaps the most shameless cant has come from James Dobson, who famously described Trump as a “baby Christian” – an odd formulation meant to flatter evangelicals that Trump is one of them while not requiring Trump to actually do anything to demonstrate his newly (and conveniently) found faith.

As others have noted, in 1998 Dobson moralized at length about Bill Clinton’s sexual behaviour – yet now his only comment is an oblique rebuke to those who regard Trump with disgust (including, presumably, those women who have been on the receiving end of his attentions):

The need to focus on political expediency rather than principle is also being emphasised by Franklin Graham. Graham has said that he is not endorsing either candidate, but this is just his way of avoiding taking ownership of where he obviously stands. In 2012, it was recently reported, Trump’s foundation donated $100,000 to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; the following year, Trump appeared in a group photo taken to celebrate Billy Graham’s 95th birthday, alongside Sarah Palin and Rupert Murdoch, among others.

Graham started the past week by opining that “nobody gives a rip about Donald J. Trump’s taxes”, and adding that tax money was being used for “for things like gender reassignment and hormone therapy for military personnel” anyway (an echo of Trump’s own defence, that money paid in taxes is “squandered”); there’s thus a nice symmetry that by the end of the week he was minimising “crude comments… made more than 11 years ago”, which he immediately contrasted with “the godless progressive agenda of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton”.

How allowing a man of Trump’s coarseness to occupy the USA’s highest office will make America more godly is difficult to envisage; and Russell Moore, of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, is of the view that “the damage done to the gospel this year, by so-called evangelicals, will take longer to recover from than the ’80s TV evangelist scandals.”

(For continuing information and analysis of the intersection between Trump and evangelicalism, I particularly recommend following @sarahposner and @JonathanMerritt; Sarah’s Twitter thread starting here is a must-read.)

Donald Trump: The Charismatic Anointing

In 2005, Time magazine listed publisher Stephen Strang as one of “The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America”, observing that

the former journalist, 54, has been a Bush favorite ever since his homegrown Christian publishing house, Strang Communications, released The Faith of George W. Bush, the first spiritual biography of the President, in 2003… Strang’s lead publication, Charisma, chronicles the fast-growing charismatic movement and has become powerful enough to wrangle a Bush interview last year.

These days, Strang Publications is known simply as Charisma Media. Charisma, according to a statement, “is read by more than 200,000 monthly, with four million unique online visitors per month.”

Strang originally endorsed Ted Cruz for next president, but Charisma is now officially – and enthusiastically – behind Donald Trump. As Strang himself writes:

The election was one of the topics I discussed Monday with Jim Bakker when I was a guest on his program. We talked about the October issue of Charisma, in which I endorse Trump for president and included powerful articles by Pastor Jim Garlow and Lance Wallnau that we’ve featured online.

Strang also took aim at “so-called evangelicals who are liberal and support Clinton in spite of her policies and beliefs that run counter to what we believe”.

Strang’s article was written in the wake of a “call to prayer” to support Trump ahead of Monday’s debate with Hillary Clinton; Right Wing Watch has the details:

On Sunday evening, Charisma posted an article calling for “urgent prayer” for Donald Trump for Monday night’s debate. The article said that former Trump adviser Frank Amedia had received a revelation from God and “began making phone calls to drum up support for the Kingdom Wide Prayer Watch.” Among those who got involved were Cindy Jacobs, Rick Joyner, Mario Bramnick, Lance Wallnau and Paula White.

Trump is on the focus of the October issue of Charisma magazine, whose cover story is Lance Wallnau’s tale about how God told him that He is raising up Donald Trump like the biblical King Cyrus. This week Strang posted a two-part podcast interviewing Wallnau about Trump’s “anointing” as a “prophetic” instrument of God’s purposes.

Of course, the “Kingdom Wide Prayer Watch” was not just a call for God to intervene – it was also political theatre, designed to impress on American readers that it is their crucial religious duty to vote for Trump, whose personal failings have been spun by James Dobson as the stumblings of a “baby Christian” who has only recently come to accept Jesus. Within the neo-Pentecostal and charismatic movement, leaders often claim to receive clear instructions about God’s purposes, and as such to disagree with someone like Rick Joyner on politics amounts to going against God.

However, Strang is not just playing on readers’ religious sentiments – Charisma also publishes rather more worldly anti-Clinton articles, of a sort more likely to be found on WND or Gateway Pundit. Here’s RWW again:

This week Bob Eschliman wrote that Clinton’s much celebrated shimmy after Trump said he had a better temperament to be president was in fact evidence of “medical episode”—Eschliman laughably mischaracterized Clinton’s mocking “whew, OK” as a “Howard Dean yell” and described her shimmy as troubling a “shudder” and “tremors.”

Eschliman is also flacking right-wing conspiracy theories that Clinton “cheated” during the early national security forum and Monday night’s debate by wearing a hidden ear piece that she could have used to get instructions from her campaign team.

That latter story was also picked up by WND, which credited Charisma (1). I wrote about Eschliman’s anti-Clinton polemics not long ago – Eschliman was previously employed by the Newton Daily News, but he was fired over his personal blog, on which he railed against the “Gaystapo”. Eschliman alleged that his termination was religious discrimination, and with the assistance of the Liberty Foundation he reached a confidential settlement last year.

Charisma also promotes the work of a certain Michael Snyder, an Alex Jones-style “economic collapse” conspiracy theorist who accuses politicians of worshipping Satan in Illuminati rituals and warns of demons entering our world through “portals” created by scientists or archaeologists (2). Snyder has diagnosed Clinton as suffering from ailments that range from tongue cancer to Parkinson’s Disease, and he suggests that she may even be dead by the time the election arrives.

All published by a site that presents itself as “the most trusted source for credible news and insight from a charismatic perspective”.


(1) There is particular overlap between Charisma and WND in the person of “End Times” prognosticator Jonathan Cahn. Cahn’s best-selling Harbinger was published by Charisma Media, and Strang believes that the book came into being due to the direct intervention of God, who engineered a chance meeting between Cahn and a friend of his. WND meanwhile published a tie-in DVD called The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment. WND also recently published an article complaining that the New York Times is not giving Cahn his due on its bestseller lists, although the article was mysteriously deleted after a few days. Cahn and WND CEO Joseph Farah (Trump’s go-to birther) have also led WND-branded tours of the Holy Land, in one instance in collaboration with Jim Bakker.

(2) This is more evidence of what I called “The David Ickeization of Christianity” in relation to Jim Bakker in July. Bakker these days heavily promotes conspiracy theories, which are often then publicized on Charisma.