Evangelical leaders have falsely called the coronavirus an anti-Trump conspiracy and claim to be able to heal people through the television screen.
Evangelical leaders with close ties to Donald Trump are peddling false conspiracy theories and lies to downplay the COVID-19 outbreak, even as actual public health experts warn that without drastic measures the virus could overrun the country's health system.
Jerry Falwell Jr. — whose early endorsement of Trump in the 2016 primary helped Trump rise in popularity with the Evangelical community — said on "Fox & Friends" Friday morning that people are "overreacting" to the virus.
"It makes you wonder if there's a political reason for that. Impeachment didn't work and the Mueller report didn't work and Article 25 didn't work so maybe now this is their next attempt to get Trump," Falwell said Friday morning, referring to the Constitutional Amendment that some said could be used to remove Trump from power.
Falwell then summoned a baseless conspiracy theory that North Korea may be behind the virus, saying he thought of it only because someone at a restaurant reminded him that North Korea's Kim Jong Un had sarcastically promised Trump a "Christmas present" last year.
Peddling conspiracy theories like this are dangerous, as it could convince people vulnerable to the virus that they don't have to follow public health experts' advice to practice social distancing.
An Axios/Survey Monkey poll this month found that 62% of Republicans think the severity of the coronavirus is "generally exaggerated."
And given that faith leaders often have considerable sway among their followers, pushing lies that contradict actual public health experts' advice is equally dangerous.
Falwell isn't the only faith leader close to Trump who has minimized the virus' threat.
On Wednesday, David Herzog Ministries — run by a man who was part of a prayer breakfast at the Trump Hotel during Trump's inauguration — announced that it will hold a conference from April 9 to April 12, despite calls to cancel large gatherings over fears of the virus spreading.
According to Right Wing Watch, in announcing the conference, David Herzog Ministries wrote: "Today many people including Believers are in fear of the corona virus [sic] among other sicknesses. But the Word of God promises us protection from these very things."
Paula White, one of Trump's "spiritual advisers," is also scheduled to speak at the conference, which promises "supernatural protection that is activated when we apply Jesus Blood and celebrate the Passover Lamb," Right Wing Watch reported.
And Kenneth Copeland — a televangelist whose wife, Gloria, advised Trump's campaign — claimed to heal viewers of his televised sermon of the coronavirus through the television screen.
Copeland made headlines recently when he defended his use of private jets and lavish lifestyle.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.