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Franklin Graham “Tends To Believe” Stolen Election Narrative

From Franklin Graham, on Twitter:

Since the 2016 election, @POTUS @realDonaldTrump has been falsely accused, maligned, and attacked. He told us his campaign was spied on. He was right. He told us there was no collusion. He was proven right. When he says this election was rigged or stolen, I tend to believe him.

This is clever: Graham’s position does not rely any particular piece of evidence that might be deconstructed. Instead, he appeals on his many followers to invest in the election fraud narrative simply by having faith in the leader.

Even here, though, Graham qualifies his statement with “tend to”. This slight hedge against giving a hostage to fortune has been characteristic of his comments since the election. On 4 November he wrote that “many fear that some are trying to steal the election”, but although he didn’t explicitly give his own view he called for prayer “that the enemies of God would be quieted”; in the weeks that followed, he opined that “if there was fraud, let’s pray that God would reveal it, and that those responsible would be found out” and on 8 December he exhorted everyone to join him “in praying that if there is fraud, it would be proven… Forces of evil are at work”.

Yet despite piously intoning that “the American people need to know the truth”, he has had nothing to say about the shortcomings of the many cases that have been put before the courts, nor about the overheated conspiratorial rhetoric of the lawyers around Trump. The word “if” gives Graham an out, but there is no possibility in his mind that it might be Trump’s lawyers who ought to be “found out”, for spreading “fears” that are baseless and corrupt in intent.

Graham’s new statement is surprising given that on 14 December Graham seemed at last to have accepted that Trump had lost the election. On Facebook, he wrote that

I’m disappointed about the election… It is unfortunate that many people got confused and made the election about personalities rather than the policies of the candidates. President Trump will go down in history as one of the great presidents of our nation, bringing peace and prosperity to millions here in the U.S. and around the world. May God bless him, Melania, and their family, as God leads him to the next chapter in his life.

The evangelist then turned to the holy task of whipping up resentment against Biden’s appointments, on 18 December complaining that while Trump had “searched for the best of the best to run the various levels of gov’t” for Biden “competence doesn’t seem to be as important as diversity”.

So why now has Graham suddenly now come closer than ever to endorsing election fraud claims? Perhaps he was encouraged by news that Trump had discussed a military option for staying in power with Michael Flynn – Graham is an enthusiast for the disgraced general, whom he has described as “a man who has a distinguished record of service to this country and who many people feel was unfairly targeted”.

It’s also possible that he feels his position ought to align more clearly with what is now the default position on the Christian Right. If he were to say outright that Trump ought to accept that he has lost, it would put him at odds with allies such as Eric Metaxaas and alienate much of his base. Public thanks he received from Trump for his Facebook post may also have been an influence.

UPDATE: On 22 December, Graham promoted an article alleging election fraud by Newt Gringrich, adding: “I’ve known former Speaker of the House @NewtGingrich for a number of yrs. He might be one of the smartest people in politics today. In this article he shares his perspective of where we are today politically.” This amplification via character reference once again allows Graham to dodge the risk of endorsing any particular detail put forward as evidence.

Excurcus

On 5 November, before all the votes were finalised, Graham Tweeted that “my prayer is that we will have four more years of leadership that defends religious freedom, supports law and order, and is the most pro-life administration ever”. A few days later, this formed the basis of a item on the Christian Right website Charisma News by Amir George headed “Franklin Graham Says ‘4 More Years’ for President Trump”. The article was mainly about election fraud allegations and Rudy Giuliani’s planned lawsuits, and a false impression was given that Franklin’s comment was a reaction to these developments, rather than something he had said earlier.