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Evangelical rift intensifies over Trump immigration remarks

President Donald Trump gestures as he boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, to travel to Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

NEW YORK – Donald Trump’s vulgar remarks about immigration have worsened the divide among evangelicals about his presidency.

Some of Trump’s staunchest evangelical backers are defending what he said.

In an Oval Office meeting, Trump questioned why the U.S. should admit immigrants from Haiti and “shithole countries” in Africa.

That’s according to one participant and people briefed on the conversation.

Other Christian conservatives have called the remarks racist. They say evangelical leaders had a moral imperative to condemn the president’s views.

Trump won 80 per cent of the white evangelical vote in 2016.

But a recent Pew Research Center survey found that a lower share 61 per cent approved of his performance.

Still, a divide has hardened between evangelicals who consistently defend the president and those who reject him as unfit and prejudiced.