televangelist and all-out conspiracy theorist. Burns is the pastor of the Harvest Praise & Worship Center in South Carolina and co-founder of the NOW Television Network; he was also an early supporter of Donald Trump in 2016, and himself an unsuccessful House of Representatives candidate for South Carolina’s 4th congressional district in 2018 and 2022 on a promise “to help fight to bring God back to the center of American politics and culture” and a general platform of theocratic insanity (it is perhaps noteworthy that Trump didn’t endorse him). As for his background, Burns has claimed to have a Bachelor of Science degree from North Greenville University (he does not) and to have served six years in the U.S. Army Reserve (he did not). After initially claiming that his website had been hacked, Burns later admitted to lying but emphasized that he was attacked for lying because he is “a black man supporting Donald Trump for president.”
Campaigning for Trump
Describing himself as “Donald Trump’s Top Pastor”, Burns claims to have seen the light in 2016 when he realized that Trump is “a smart man. He knows authenticity. I believe he knows and recognizes real character”, suggesting that what he saw, whatever it was, was not “the light”. Apparently, Trump is powered by the Holy Spirit; that’s why he is facing so many attacks from “the enemy” (i.e. those who disagrees with Burns or Trump on politics must be in league with Satan). Burns is in general deeply entrenched in Trump-finds-God religious right fan ficion.
He quickly brought his own character to the show, saying for instance that Bernie Sanders “gotta get saved” and calling on Republican leaders not to attack each other but rather focus on the “enemy”, Clinton – lots of wingnuts are scared of Clinton, but Burns has certainly kicked the paranoia up a couple of notches. He later retweeted a digitally manipulated image of Hillary Clinton in blackface, something for which he offered “a sincere apology” by accusing the Democratic Party for using black people for votes. His benediction delivery at the Republican National Convention in 2016 wasn’t entirely uncontroversial either.
He has also accused, in an interview with InfoWars, Clinton of trying to enact “the extermination of or genocide of many in the African American community,” which according to Burns is the deliberate plan of Planned Parenthood and pro-choice activists; Planned Parenthood was “designed to destroy the African American community.”
After the 2020 election, Burns was an early promoter of stop the steal conspiracy theories. Asserting with no evidence that “President Trump is the clear winner of this 2020 Presidential election”, Burns forwarded a barrage of unfounded accusations of fraud and concerns about “those who seek to undermine the sacred election process in our democracy”, which would primarily be himself. He has subsequently participated in a number of deranged efforts to have Trump reinstalled as president – according to Burns, attempts to deny Trump a second term is “a demonic attack from the gates of Hell,” but he is certain of victory since “in the book of Revelations, Jesus wins.” It is admittedly a challenge, though, since Trump “is under demonic attack” from e.g. the FBI – precisely because “the hand of God” is upon him so that he can “bring the Christian right back to the forefront of American politics,” (Thus, according to Burns, we need “demon-killing machines” to serve as elected officials). He has also (repeatedly) called for civil war.
As for his own Congressional campaign, Burns vowed that if he were elected to Congress, he’d “kick Joe Biden in the head” and work tirelessly to reelect “the blackest president that we’ve ever had in the United States of America, and that’s Donald J. Trump.” Here and here are Burns on education (mask mandates and critical race theory are training schoolchildren to become Nazi Stormtroopers: “It is exactly what is happening today. History is repeating itself;” Burns does not appear to have read the history books the rest of us have. Also not singing ‘Jingle Bells’ is a “direct attack” on Christianity.)
His contribution to January 6 is discussed here. Afterwards, Burns was among the conspiracy theorists who tried to argue that people associated with Antifa were responsible for the attack, tweeting e.g. that “This is NOT a Trump supporter...This is a staged #Antifa attack” (Eric Trump was among those who liked the tweet). He went on to urge conservatives to start smashing the car windows of anti-fascist activists (i.e. random bystanders they suspect of not sharing their political views – there is tradition for this kind of move).
Burns’s rather typical combination of theocracy support (according to Burns “any policy that is contrary to the word of God” – such as the First Amendment – needs to be made illegal) and persecution complex is nicely summarized in his praise of televangelist Kenneth Copeland’s Victory Channel network as one of the only places where people like him can openly “talk about Jesus Christ and taking over government.” According to Burns, not only is the US a Christian nation, but a nation that “was founded on the fact that Jesus is the messiah.”
Burns has called for the arrest of supportive parents of transgender children as “a national security threat” and compared them, as well any teacher sympathetic to LGBTQ issues (“the groomers”, Burns called them), to the leaders of the Hitler Youth; in what might be a world record in poor analogies, Burns described it as being “1922 Nazi Germany all over again when they were indoctrinating children before Hitler came to power in 1933. They were children in 1922, and they were indoctrinating those young minds then. They are doing the very same thing here in America.”
Indeed – to ensure that no reasonable person would ever take him seriously – Burns called for parents and teachers to be convicted of treason (because being a national security threat is treason), before reminding us that the penalty for treason is death. He also said that Congress should relaunch the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to hold people “accountable for treason”. In Burns’s mind, the whole LGBT movement is an agenda-driven conspiracy: “The LGBT transgender grooming [of] our children's minds is a national security threat because it is ultimately designed to destabilize the republic we call the United States of America.”
The committee, when reenacted, should also hold Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell accountable for treason for signaling a willingness to consider proposed gun legislation: “Graham should be held accountable for treason for supporting Joe Biden’s gun-grabbing Second Amendment law that he is trying to push forward,” and McConnell for encouraging “other Republican senators to support Lindsey Graham to come after our guns, to confiscate our guns.” We need, said Burns, to have “some public hearings and start executing people”, just “like they did back in 1776.” Apparently, CNN (who broke the news that Burns had lied about his credentials) should be executed, too, as should “any and all members of society […] who work with foreign governments such as […] Ukraine” (the comment was made in July 2022, and thus tells you quite a bit about Burns’s foreign policy stances).
He has also promoted a simple solution to the issue of gun violence in America: “simply add more guns.”
In 2022, Burns also rushed to the defense of Kanye West after the latter’s anti-semitic remarks, saying that what is happening to West in the wake of the comments is “true, real Nazism in America” and “a form of racism”: “They are ostracizing him. That’s what real Nazism is.” That is not what real Nazism is.
Diagnosis: A firm promoter of Christian nationalism, at least Burns doesn’t seem to care very deeply about the values that the US has actually purported to stand for. At least one would assume that he has little chance of getting elected, but we’ll not take anything for granted anymore.