At a major event for conservative Christians this morning, a Republican senator joked about praying for President Obama’s “days to be short.”
Sen. David Perdue, a freshman senator from Georgia, opened his remarks at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference by encouraging attendees to pray for President Obama. But, he added in a joking tone, they need to pray for him in a very specific way: “We should pray for him like Psalms 109:8 says: Let his days be few, and let another have his office,” the senator said, smiling wryly.
The crowd chuckled and he moved on with his address.
The rest of that passage, which Perdue did not recite, reads, “May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes.”
The psalm is a pointed, lengthy death wish for one of David’s enemies.
“Let the creditor seize all that he has, and let strangers plunder his labor. Let there be none to extend mercy to him, nor let there be any to favor his fatherless children. Let his posterity be cut off, and in the generation following let their name be blotted out,” it continues.
Perdue’s joke drew immediate criticism. Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, tweeted, “Republican Senator David Perdue is praying for President Obama to die. This is why Trump is the GOP nominee.”
As the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel pointed out, conservatives have long invoked this verse in the yearning for an end to Obama’s days in office. A Christian Science Monitor report from November 16, 2009, detailed the popularity of bumper stickers that read simply, “Pray for Obama: Psalm 109:8.”
“It’s protected speech, but it’s clearly offensive,” the Anti-Defamation League’s Deborah Lauter said at the time.
The Road to Majority conference brings together top leaders in the social-conservative world, as well as prominent elected Republicans. Shortly after Perdue’s speech, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and top Trump adviser Sen. Jeff Sessions spoke. Donald Trump will keynote the event later today.
UPDATE: After publication, Perdue spokeswoman Caroline Vanvick gave this statement to Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur:
“Senator Perdue said we are called to pray for our country, for our leaders, and for our president. He in no way wishes harm towards our president and everyone in the room understood that. However, we should add the media to our prayer list because they are pushing a narrative to create controversy and that is exactly what the American people are tired of.”