A side-effect of the Religious Right’s ardent embrace of serial adulterer Donald Trump is that many of the movement’s leaders have felt the need to construct their own narratives of how the president is supposedly a different man now. Many of them claim that, as a candidate, the former strip club and casino owner had been “anointed” by God.
Long-time Christian nationalist fixture James Dobson has claimed that Trump has experienced a religious conversion and should now be regarded as a “baby Christian.”
Inevitably, such tales are offered as justifications for why a group that spent decades claiming that “character counts” in political leaders are now interested in supporting a man who has publicly boasted about walking into teenage girls’ dressing rooms.
Occasionally, Trump fans have claimed that his wife, Melania, is the inspiration for his turnaround. She hasn’t spoken much publicly about her faith or much of anything else, so it’s tough so say how interested she is in religion.
But according to doomsday minister Paul Begley, Melania has been waging a spiritual battle of her own. Earlier this month, he claimed that the First Lady made sure that the White House was “completely exorcised” before she would move into the presidential residence, since former president Barack Obama had left the place littered with “idols” and other “demonic” artifacts.
In a podcast interview last week that was first reported by Right Wing Watch, Begley claimed that on Inauguration Day last year, the incoming First Lady ordered a massive physical and spiritual cleansing of the White House.
“During that five hours when they were ripping out carpets and changing drapes,” Begley told his host, Sheila Zilinsky. “Melania Trump said to her husband, ‘I’m not going to go into that White House unless it has been completely exorcised.’”
“There were people in there packing up every idol. The only thing that was left, Sheila, was one cross on one wall. They cleansed the White House. They had people in there anointing it with oil and praying everywhere.”
The First Lady’s office denied the story in a response to the Associated Press, calling it “not true in any way,” but in a subsequent interview also reported by Right Wing Watch, Begley stood by his claim.
Speaking with fellow doomsday Christian propagandist Doug Hagmann, Begley insisted that his tale was true and that the media were lying by claiming the First Lady had denied it. Instead, he argued, people needed to parse very carefully what the White House had said.
“The lamestream, mainstream fake news media tried to say that that was fake news or that there was no—I think they said the White House, Melania Trump’s spokeswoman said there was no ‘exorcism’ in the White House,” Begley said.
“There may not have been a, quote, ‘exorcism’ in the White House, but they didn’t say that they didn’t remove all of the idols, all the relics, all the witchcraft, all the voodoo, all of the things that were in there. They are not going to tell you those weren’t removed because, believe me, they were.”
The far-right pastor claimed that his story was accurate based on the word of an anonymous person he claims was “involved” with the objects’ removal.
This is hardly the first time that Obama’s right-wing critics have caricatured him by attempting to associate him with paganism or non-Christian religions. Usually, however, these sorts of caricatures arrive via racist jokes or cartoons. Begley just might be the first person to actually assert that Obama believes in voodoo.
In a May 2016 survey, two-thirds of respondents who supported Donald Trump said they believed that Obama was a Muslim.