Former President Donald Trump passed up a 9/11 memorial event attended by other former U.S. presidents over the weekend, choosing instead to address two gatherings organized by right-wing religious figures and ending his day providing color commentary for a boxing match. Using the high-profile anniversary to touch base with religious conservatives was one more sign that Trump appears to be putting a major emphasis on mobilizing the religious right, his most loyal constituents, as he puts the machinery in the place for another presidential campaign.
Trump appeared by prerecorded video at a “Let Us Worship” event on the National Mall organized by religious-right musician and politician Sean Feucht and at a “Rally of Hope” conference sponsored by the Universal Peace Federation, a group affiliated with the Unification Church, which has a long and intimate relationship with the U.S. religious and political right.
Feucht’s Saturday evening rally was one of several public prayer and worship events on Saturday and Sunday that were organized by Feucht, a musician and missionary associated with the controversial and influential Northern California megachurch Bethel. The worship events were preceded by a Saturday political summit organized by Hold the Line, a political action group Feucht founded last year after California voters rejected his bid for Congress.
The introduction to Trump’s video, narrated by Feucht, had the unmistakable feel of a pro-Trump campaign commercial. With footage of Marine One approaching the White House, Feucht’s voiceover declared:
He stood and fought for us. He stood for conservatives and defended family values. He stood for Christians and fought for our freedom to worship. He stood for life and fought for the unborn. He stood for Israel and fought to recognize Jerusalem as its rightful capital. No president has endured the onslaught of attacks that he faced from the media, Big Tech, corporations, and big businesses. They went after him tooth and nail. But he never backed down. He stood firm, and he never quit fighting for us.
While Trump’s remarks initially focused on the 9/11 anniversary and praise for first responders, servicemembers, and vets, he veered directly into political territory, slamming “terrible” decisions made by the Biden administration regarding the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Trump told the story of Mychal Judge, a New York Fire Department chaplain killed by debris when the South Tower fell, saying that Judge “reminds us that in the end there is only one true answer to the depth and the evil that we saw on Sept. 11. It is God that is the answer.”
In his remarks to the online Unification Church event, Trump cheered himself for having traveled to North Korea and praised the late Sun Myung Moon, a Korean religious leader who founded the Unification Church, for starting the right-wing Washington Times newspaper. (The Washington Times, which Moon founded early in the Reagan administration and which remains a platform for right-wing commentary and misinformation, dutifully reported on Trump’s appearance.)
Earlier “Rally of Hope” events have featured former Trump administration officials Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo and right-wing stalwarts like Newt Gingrich.
The Universal Peace Federation is presided over by Sun Myung Moon’s widow and successor, Hak Ja Han Moon, who Trump praised as “a tremendous person” in his recorded remarks. A separate offshoot run by one of the Moons’ sons, Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, has also actively promoted Trump through Rod of Iron Ministries, a group that worships with AR-15 rifles. Former White House aide Steve Bannon participated in Rod of Iron events to boost Trump’s reelection prospects in Pennsylvania. Sean Moon and some of his supporters were present at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection, a sort of reprise of the group rallying at the U.S. Capitol to defend former President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal. Rod of Iron has purchased a property in Texas as a place for “patriots” to prepare for a coming war with the “deep state.”