Paula White, a Florida televangelist and religious adviser to President Donald Trump, defended herself Sunday after a video circulated online of her calling for the miscarriage of “satanic pregnancies,” language that she said was taken out of context by critics.
The clip, which is about 1 minute 30 seconds long, was brought to light on Twitter on Friday by Right Wing Watch, which scrutinizes the speech of many conservative activists and politicians.
The video shows part of a nearly 3-hour-long service at the City of Destiny church in Apopka, Florida, on Jan. 5. In it, White can be seen talking about fighting witchcraft and demonic manipulation.
She called for any “strange winds that have been sent to hurt the church, sent against this nation, sent against our president, sent against myself” to be broken.
“In the name of Jesus, we command all satanic pregnancies to miscarry right now,” White said. “We declare that anything that’s been conceived in satanic wombs, that it’ll miscarry. It will not be able to carry forth any plan of destruction, any plan of harm.”
As of Monday, the video had been watched more than 8 million times. Many commenters interpreted White’s comments as a theatrical, politically motivated attack calling for literal miscarriage for those who are either anti-Trump or deemed to be evil.
White said in a tweet that the video was taken out of context and that she was referring to a specific Bible passage, Ephesians 6:12. “I was praying Eph 6:12 that we wrestle not against flesh and blood,” she said. “Anything that has been conceived by demonic plans, for it to be canceled and not prevail in your life.”
“Let’s be clear what is really going on,” White said in another tweet. “This is a disingenuous attempt to use words out of context for political gain. I will just keep praying!”
White could not immediately be reached for comment. Ephesians 6:12 reads, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
The Rev. Rob Schenck, an ordained evangelical minister for 37 years who has advised many Republican politicians in Washington, said White’s words were “typical” of a small, insular slice of American evangelicalism that uses provocative, emotionally charged rhetoric in speeches and sermons.
He said he had never heard a connection between “satanic pregnancies” and the passage White cited to explain the clip. He said many evangelicals would find her words “repugnant.”
“There’s a deep and well-informed ethic that places the highest of value on first, the pre-born child in the womb and secondly, the pain and anguish of losing a pregnancy, whether by intentional abortion or by miscarriage,” Schenck said.
He said White’s speech may drive evangelicals away from Trump.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
André Gagné, a theological studies professor at Concordia University in Montreal, who researches the Christian right, said that White’s language reflected the worldview that she is engaged in a spiritual struggle against evil. The “satanic pregnancies” reflect Satan’s influence on people.
“You can’t read this is as someone that’s pregnant and they’re pregnant with a satanic baby,” he said.
He added, “People that are in the know of this language and understand and embrace this worldview, they would understand what she means.”
Still, Gagné said it was “troubling.”
“It’s because people like Trump, she has the ear of someone like Trump and she’s exhibiting this kind of worldview, which really splits people,” Gagné said.
Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at Right Wing Watch, which is a project of People for the American Way, a left-leaning organization based in Washington, said the clip of White was “emblematic of the way that she demonizes Trump’s opponents as agents of Satan.”
Trump has called White his friend and personal pastor for years. They met in 2002, she said, after he watched White on television and called her to tell her she was “fantastic,” repeating several sermons back to her.
Trump invited White to the set of his reality show “The Apprentice,” where she prayed with the cast and crew before taping the first season’s finale.
White has been associated with the so-called prosperity gospel, the belief that followers should seek personal health, wealth and eternal salvation. She has said her teachings cannot be narrowed to such a theology.
Trump sought White’s help to rally evangelical support in the 2016 presidential election, and invited her to deliver an invocation at his inauguration. She has said that Trump has “a heart for God, a hunger for God.”
Last year, White officially joined Trump’s administration in the Office of Public Liaison to advise on the Faith and Opportunity Initiative, which seeks to provide religious groups a greater voice in government programs related to issues such as defending religious liberty.
On Jan. 3, White introduced Trump and prayed with him and others at a Miami church event to shore up support among evangelical Christian supporters. The public appearance, which also included Cissie Graham Lynch, a granddaughter of the Rev. Billy Graham, the pastor who counseled several presidents and founded Christianity Today, was Trump’s first since he ordered a strike that killed a powerful Iranian general.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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