The leader of the oldest megachurch in the US says he continues to support and endorse Trump for president because he doesn't want "some meek and mild leader or somebody who's going to turn the other cheek".
Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, told National Public Radio host Michel Martin: "When I'm looking for a leader who's going to fight ISIS and keep this nation secure, I don't want some meek and mild leader or somebody who's going to turn the other cheek. I've said I want the meanest, toughest SOB I can find to protect this nation. And so that's why Trump's tone doesn't bother me."
Martin quizzed Jeffress on how he could continue to support Trump in light of the growing number of allegations that he has sexually assaulted several women. "There are those who do believe that his personal conduct is disqualifying," Martin said.
"Yes. And understand, much has come to light and many allegations have been made," Jeffress said.
"But what I would say is this. You know, in 1980, evangelicals overwhelmingly elected a candidate who was a known womaniser when he was in Hollywood. He would be the first divorced president in US history. His name was Ronald Reagan. And when evangelicals voted for Reagan, they weren't endorsing womanising. They weren't endorsing divorce. They were endorsing Reagan's policies.
"And I think that's why Donald Trump continues to enjoy evangelical support. They're not endorsing necessarily his lifestyle. What they're saying is this is a binary choice between one candidate, Donald Trump, – who is pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-conservative justices of the Supreme Court – and another candidate, Hillary Clinton, who has an opposite view on all of those issues."
Jeffress said that Trump had "redeemed himself" during the second presidential debate last weekend.
"I think he was very strong in that debate. And I think he showed a real quality that every leader needs, and that's resiliency. I mean, let's face it, he's up against the ropes right now. But he hasn't thrown a pity party for himself. And I think if he should become commander in chief, we all want that in a leader, somebody who is able to fight back."
Christians lending their support to Trump "are mature enough to understand that by voting for a particular candidate, they're not endorsing a particular lifestyle," the pastor continued.
"They're simply voting on the issues."
He did concede that he understood the stance of one Christian blogger when she said she couldn't support Trump because she had been a victim of sexual assault herself. "I can understand that. I can sympathise with that," he said.
However, he suggested that Clinton, "supports the greatest assault on women of all" – abortion.
Jeffress concluded the interview by agreeing that he would love Clinton "as a sister in Christ" were she to win on November 8.
"I'll go one step further. I'll certainly be praying for her, too," he said.
Trump has enjoyed much high-profile evangelical support during his campaign, but this was thrown into jeopardy following the release of a video tape from 2005 in which he can be heard openly speaking about groping women and trying to seduce a married woman.
James Macdonald, a church pastor serving on Trump's Evangelical Executive Advisory Council, last week condemned the Republican presidential candidate as "lecherous and worthless" and Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said of the tape: "It didn't look like just someone who was talking locker room talk. It looked like someone who was premeditating being a sexual predator."
Southern Baptist ethicist and theologian Wayne Grudem announced that he had reversed his support of Trump after having previously argued that voting for the Republican candidate was a "morally good choice".
"I cannot commend Trump's moral character, and I strongly urge him to withdraw from the election," Grudem said.
"There is no morally good presidential candidate in this election."