Evangelical leader Franklin Graham has declined to back former President Donald Trump in the Republican race for 2024. Instead, he remained uncommitted.
Graham has been one of Trump's most ardent backers. According to a CBS News interview, he first indicated an interest in running for president in 2011, according to a report by The Washington Examiner.
He went on to assist energize the evangelical vote in favor of Trump in 2016, and especially in 2020. He ascribed his triumph in 2016 to divine providence.
Despite his strong support for Trump, Graham declined to endorse him in the GOP primaries in 2024. But, he insisted, it was not a dig at the former president.
"I'm going to stay out of it until after the primaries have finished," he told CBS News at the March for Life rally in Washington, D.C.
"I'm just not going to get involved in supporting this one over that one. Let's just let the people decide. And when the dust is settled, I'll make a decision on that point," he added.
Graham, who left the Republican Party in 2015 and has been an independent since then, does not typically endorse during primaries, but his decision not to support Trump's primary bid for 2024 may come as a surprise given his outspoken support for him during his presidency, and his prediction in 2020 that Trump would go down in history as "one of the great presidents."
Graham's choice not to support during the primary season isn't a "big decision — it's an easy decision," he says. He went on to say that not endorsing Trump in the primary was not a "big decision — it's an easy decision."
Last Monday, the former president accused evangelical leaders of "great disloyalty" for failing to endorse him for a presidential run in 2024.
“Nobody has ever done more for right to life than Donald Trump. I put three Supreme Court justices, who all voted, and they got something that they’ve been fighting for 64 years, for many, many years," Trump told journalist David Brody during an interview. “There’s great disloyalty in the world of politics, and that’s a sign of disloyalty."
Graham, the president of the humanitarian organization Samaritan's Purse, had an early interest in Trump's presidential ambitions. He stated in 2011 that Trump "could be" his choice for the 2012 presidential election (Trump opted not to run). He also addressed during Trump's inauguration in 2017.
Graham did not endorse in 2016, but he did hold rallies across the country during the primaries and general election to increase Christian involvement. Later, he said Trump's triumph in 2016 was proof that "God's hand was at work."
Graham tweeted in December 2020 that he "tend[s] to believe" Trump's bogus claim that the 2020 election was stolen, and he chastised the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him following the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol.
Several other Christian leaders are waiting for the field to fill out in the coming months as well. It's an indication that, despite being the former president and the sole declared contender, Trump will not begin the forthcoming Republican primary season with the full support of important allies and fans.