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Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Pensacola, Fla., in January. (Photo: AP/File)
Donald Trump’s campaign is distancing itself from the Rev. Carl Gallups, a Florida-based pastor and radio host who believes the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was staged. But the campaign is not disavowing Gallups’ endorsement, which it received in January.
“The campaign was not aware of this individual’s personal views, which we do not share or support,” Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Republican frontrunner, said in a statement to Yahoo News.
Gallups, a senior pastor at Hickory Hammock Baptist Church in Milton, Fla., has been urging conservative Christians to vote for Trump at next week’s Florida primary.
“I tell them, if you are not thoroughly satisfied with what you might interpret the depth of his faith might be, then the next thing we must look at is the candidate who will best preserve your First Amendment rights and allow you to express your Christian faith,” Gallups told the Associated Press this week. “We’re not electing a priest, a pope or a pastor. We’re electing a president.”
Gallups, who introduced Trump at a rally in Pensacola in January, told listeners of his radio show last month that the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre in Newtown, Conn., was a “hoax” perpetrated by the U.S. government and that the grieving parents of the first and second graders killed were actors “employed by the Obama administration to take away your guns.”
“There is no denying it,” Gallups said. “This guy named David Wheeler … was dragged before the nation by Obama after the Newtown school shooting, supposedly, Sandy Hook, and was — played the part of a grieving father with a woman standing beside him crying, slinging snot, carrying on.”
Wheeler and his wife Francine’s 6-year-old son, Benjamin, was one of 20 children killed in the shootings at the school.
Last week, Trump was pressured by black leaders to disavow the support of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, who recently told listeners of his radio show that a vote against Trump is “treason to your heritage.”
But while the Trump campaign condemned Gallups’ views on Sandy Hook, it did not dismiss his endorsement.
It wasn’t the first time Gallups had aired a fringe conspiracy theory. The website Media Matters reports that the pastor has a long history of floating them.
In 2014, Gallups narrated a video that erroneously claimed President Obama was born in Kenya — the so-called birther conspiracy that Trump himself once championed.
“The evidence is condemning,” Gallups says in the video. “In a court of law, the evidence would be practically overwhelming.” He added that Obama’s birth certificate appears to be “a fabricated forgery.”
And in 2010, Gallups suggested in another video that Obama is “Saudi-sponsored Muslim” plant.
“Could it be that Obama’s handlers have pulled off the greatest stunt and scam in history?” he asked. “Could it be that they have put an anti-American and Saudi-sponsored Muslim in the White House thanks to a brain-dead American public and news media both obsessed with skin color and with an ‘American Idol’ mentality?”
“It is my great honor to receive endorsements from each of these incredible people,” the GOP hopeful said in a statement on Jan. 13. “Their support for my message and endorsement of my candidacy for President of the United States means so much to me, and with their help, and the help of so many great people in Florida and all over the country, we will Make America Great Again!”