Is Tony Perkins really responsible for Trump’s “Two” Corinthians slip-up?

When Donald Trump spoke at Liberty University earlier this week, Christian observers caught Trump saying “Two” Corinthians instead of “Second” Corinthians. After all of the things Trump’s said that have made it plainly obvious that the man is to Bible verses what Sarah Palin is to newspapersthis was their last straw. This is their proof that Trump’s religious conviction is fraudulent.

As if that would be news to anyone.

Calling in to Don Lemon’s show on CNN last night, Trump came up with a number of explanations for this slip-up. His mother was from Scotland, where they say “two” instead of “second” (really?). The verse was written down with the number 2 in his notes. And, most interestingly, Tony Perkins wrote that part of his speech for him:

Said Trump:

Frankly, Tony Perkins wrote that out for me, Tony thought it would be great. He knew I was going to Liberty, he has a great respect for Liberty.

David Badash wrote this morning that, if Trump and Perkins really have started palling around, this should sound off all kinds of alarm bells for the LGBT community. And he’s right: Trump’s campaign has been a series of odious public policy proposals that would be disastrous for pretty much every minority group in the United States, but his Pissed Off and Angry coalition has by and large targeted racial minorities. If he really is teaming up with Tony Perkins, who knows what kind of Christian supremacist ideas could start popping into his head at the expense of the LGBT community?

That said, I’m also about 70-ish percent sure that Trump and Perkins aren’t, in fact, new BFFs. As in, I’m pretty sure that Trump was just fishing for an answer and threw in Perkins’s involvement for good measure.

Here’s why:

For starters, plenty of Christians across the political spectrum — both in and out of the United States — say “two” instead of “second.” And that may have something to do with the fact that it really is written with the number instead of the word. Of all of Donald Trump’s heresies, this really isn’t one of them. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal, and there are plenty of easy answers Trump could give as to why.

Tony Perkins, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Tony Perkins, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

But! Instead of giving a simple answer, Trump flailed around for a complex one, eventually passing the buck to Tony Perkins for having written the verse down (correctly, as it happens). This carries the dual benefit of shifting the blame for his error onto a leader who the Evangelical community considers to be unimpeachable while also implying that he’s friendly with said unimpeachable leader. Bear in mind that Tony Perkins is already committed to backing Ted Cruz for president. By claiming that he and Perkins aren’t just friendly, but that Perkins is literally writing parts of his speeches for him, Trump’s at least suggested that Perkins would be fine with him, as well. This could potentially blunt the effects of Perkins’s eventual endorsement of Cruz, who currently represents Trump’s most (only?) serious threat to the Republican nomination.

To be clear, if Perkins really wasn’t involved in Trump’s speech, then Trump is basically daring him to say so and call Trump a liar. It’s a gamble, sure, but it wouldn’t be the first time that Trump has exaggerated or made up endorsements from faith leaders.

In any case, it’ll be interesting to see if Perkins responds, and what he says.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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