Evangelist Franklin Graham declines to endorse Trump in GOP primary

Trump ruffled religious feathers recently with comments indicating a belief that many Republican midterm candidates lost due to them taking an uncompromising line on abortion restrictions.

Updated: January 23, 2023 - 4:41pm

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Evangelist Franklin Graham, formerly a stalwart ally of former President Donald Trump, has declined to endorse him in the 2024 GOP primary but will not back a challenger.

"I'm going to stay out of it until after the primaries have finished," Graham said to CBS News at Friday's March for Life. An independent, Graham had been a prominent defender of Trump during his time in office. Graham has not typically made endorsements in primary contests.

"I'm just not going to get involved in supporting this one over that one. Let's just let the people decide. And when the dust is settled, I'll make a decision on that point," he continued.

Graham's decision against endorsing Trump comes at a time of mounting tension between the former president and his traditional conservative voter base among evangelical Christians.

Trump ruffled religious feathers recently with comments indicating a belief that many Republican midterm candidates lost due to them taking an uncompromising line on abortion restrictions in the wake of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision that overturned the constitutional right to abortion.

"It wasn't my fault that the Republicans didn't live up to expectations in the midterms. It was the 'abortion issue' poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on No Exceptions, even in the case of Rape, Incest, or Life of the Mother, that lost large numbers of Voters," he wrote on Truth Social.

In an interview last week on "Water Cooler," Trump stood by his prior comments, telling host David Brody that "[Y]ou have to go with your heart. You have to go with what you feel. But when you have rape, incest and the life of the mother, I think that's something that a lot of people happen to agree with. I don't want to force anybody to do it. I think it's much harder to win elections."

Pastor Robert Jeffress also opted against making a primary endorsement, telling The Hill that he saw no "need to make an official endorsement two years out."

Roughly 84% of white evangelical voters backed Trump in 2020.

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