Samantha Bee Explains the Ugly History that Led the Religious Right to Trump’s Door

Spoiler alert: It didn’t start with abortion.

In the words of Samantha Bee, former GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz “was grown in a vat to be the perfect evangelical candidate.” So how did he lose evangelical support to a loud-mouthed New York billionaire? On Monday night’s episode of Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, the host joked, “Most evangelicals said, ‘Nah, we’re going to go with the thrice-married, foul-mouthed tit judge who likes Planned Parenthood and thinks Corinthians is a type of car upholstery.'”

Bee then unpacked the surprisingly brief but society- and politics-changing relationship between the Republican Party and the evangelical community, from its very beginnings to the elections today. It started in the early 1970s when Paul Weyrich, a co-founder of the Heritage Foundation whom Bee describes as a “Dwight Schrute understudy,” realized he could tap America’s churches for “potential Republicans” and found the perfect vehicle in a prominent court case.

“It wasn’t abortion that birthed the religious right,” she said. “It was good old white nativism and anti-government anger when the IRS challenged evangelicals’ God-given right to go to school without black people.

Since then, the Republican platform has vehemently opposed abortion, sex education, and gay marriage, and the party has focused on religious freedom and “family values.”

Bee offers a bit of optimism: The religious right has seen many of its most cherished causes defeated in the last 15 years. Gay people can marry and serve in the military, and there has been overwhelming opposition in the business community and elsewhere to North Carolina’s sweeping anti-transgender law. “When North Carolina Republicans tried to get people to the polls with a bathroom culture war, the country held their heads in the toilet while the attorney general gave them a swirley,” Bee said, referring to Loretta Lynch’s condemnation of the new law.

Nonetheless, they still remain a powerful force, so much so that Donald Trump has courted them aggressively. With their strong support for Trump’s presidential bid, Bee suggested, evangelicals may just be happy to “ditch the Bible” in exchange for “good old-fashioned white nativism and anti-government anger.” 

And a special bonus on Monday night? In another segment, Bee gave Mother Jones (and our new redesign) a shout-out. Watch here:


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.