In 2007, TV preacher Paula White got investigated by the U.S. Senate for her shady fundraising practices.
Ten years later, she will pray at Donald Trump’s inauguration.
White is a televangelist with a huge audience and a knack for stirring controversy. She’s been a Trump booster for years, and she helped organize a summit for him in the early days of his presidential campaign with other televangelists. Her presence at the inauguration is a very strong indicator that Trump’s White House will be a safe space for the Christian right’s most controversial characters.
Think of Paula White’s ministry as the church version of Trump University. She preaches the prosperity gospel, an approach to Christianity that is, shall we say, unorthodox. Prosperity-gospel preachers teach that God wants people to be rich, and that he makes them wealthy as a sign of his blessing and favor; the richer you are, the more God loves you.
Because, you know, Jesus wore wingtips and a Rolex.
These preachers also teach that the way to become wealthy is—you guessed it!—by giving them money. If you make a “seed offering”—and the bigger the better—then preachers like White say the Lord will repay your generosity with bounteous riches.
White’s website promises that such seed offerings will help givers get immediate word from God.
“When we receive your seed we have a very powerful Word from the Lord that we will send to you,” the site says. “We want to show our Gratitude to you and to help you grow in your Attitude of Gratitude.”
The Word from the Lord, in this case, is delivered via internet download, unless your seed is $50 or more, in which case you’ll get your Word of the Lord in the form of five DVDs.
If you think this sounds shady, you’re not alone. As ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and his staff spent three years scrutinizing the finances of White and a handful of other prosperity-gospel-preaching televangelists. Investigators didn’t find any definitive proof of wrongdoing.
While Grassley was investigating White, Trump was praising her. CNN quoted him in a broadcast aired Nov. 26, 2007, describing her in glowing terms.
“Paula White is not only a beautiful person, both inside and out, she has a significant message to offer anyone who will tune in and pay attention,” Trump said. “She has amazing insight, the ability to deliver that message clearly, as well as powerfully.”
White has expressed similar sentiments about Trump, once describing him as “a diamond that reveals a new facet each time it is turned in the light.”
And during Trump’s campaign, she vouched for his saintliness.
“I can absolutely tell you that Mr. Trump has a relationship with God,” she told Politico in July of this year. “He is a Christian, he accepts Jesus as his Lord and savior.”
As The Daily Beast detailed last year, the overlap between Trump’s and White’s message is glaring. One of the sermons for sale on her website is called “Why God Wants You Wealthy.” Trump, meanwhile, wrote a book titled Why We Want You to Be Rich. Trump and God both. Why aren’t you rich already?
At Trump’s inauguration, she’ll fit right in.