Twitter is in an uproar over Joel Osteen's purported endorsement of Donald Trump for president, but there's one problem: Osteen never really endorsed Trump.
Osteen, the preacher/CEO/public face of Houston's Lakewood megachurch, definitely seems to lean to the right, but he intentionally remains publicly apolitical to avoid
losing customers controversy. Yet somehow, an old radio interview is recirculating online from way back in October. Osteen was in New York City at the time to see the Pope's visit, and he sat down with Fox News' Brian Kilmeade for about ten minutes to chat. At about the mid-point of the interview, Osteen called Trump a "good man."
This was well before Trump's penis talk at the GOP debate, but it was also a few months after Trump called all Mexicans rapists, so it's disconcerting to hear Osteen praise the man. Months later, reaction on social media was predictable, though misinformed:
Joel Osteen endorses TRUMP! Go FIGURE! https://t.co/C9dey8ZKX1— MRI Tech (@MRITech205) March 14, 2016
Wait Joel Osteen supporting trump? *snatches back every RT since 08*— CoffyBrown (@Yes_Indee_d) March 14, 2016
Joel Osteen pretends to speak for Christ but Jesus would never endorse a hateful, bigot like Donald Trump. Joel Osteen just exposed himself.— Dita Knights (@DitaKnights) March 14, 2016
Before you jump on the Twitter Shade bandwagon, it's important to understand the question that prompted Osteen's response. This is how Kilmeade asked Osteen about Trump:
"Trump's message of making America great again, 'I'm not doing it for the money, I'm so successful that I want to make you guys great again,' that seems to be the message to this point that got peoples attention and got him some support. Do you understand it?"
The way that convoluted question is framed, there's really not much Osteen could have done with it. Here's a transcript of what came next:
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Osteen: "I think I understand, because it's simple to understand, to make our country great again. But, again, you know, I'm not really up to speed on all the politics."
Kilmeade: "But you understand messaging, and getting your beliefs across?"
Osteen: "Well yeah, I think it resonates, like hey, look, maybe the country is not right where we should be, let's get back to where we were. Mr. Trump, he's uh... he's uh... [Osteen literally tosses his hands up here] he's an incredible communicator and brander, like President [Bill] Clinton said. He's been a friend to our ministry, he's a good man."
That's nowhere near a political endorsement. If anything, it was a pretty half-hearted endorsement of Trump's character. It seemed more like Osteen refused to take Kilmeade's bait and tried to keep his answer as impartial as possible.
Here's the entire video: