Last December Neil D posted about Lanny Davis– a prominent Democratic lawyer who represented President Bill Clinton in his legal travails– now representing Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to cede power after losing an internationally-certified election for president of Ivory Coast.
It turns out Gbagbo also has friends among Republicans on the Christian Right.
That includes a U.S. senator and acquaintance of Gbagbo who declined to intervene in the crisis when asked by the State Department earlier this year, a former congressman who was hired by Gbagbo as a lobbyist, and a Christian right TV network that ran a fawning profile of Gbagbo, even as violence engulfed Ivory Coast. The senator, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, today released a letter to Hillary Clinton calling for new elections in Ivory Coast, putting him in direct opposition to the view of the Obama administration, the United Nations and the African Union that Gbagbo lost a fair election.
Gbagbo, along with his influential wife, Simone, are evangelical Christians who are known for lacing their speeches with religious rhetoric. “God is leading our fight. God has already given us the victory,” Simone Gbagbo, who is both first lady and politician in her own right, said at a rally in January. Both Gbagbos have attended the National Prayer Breakfast, a big annual Washington event run by the secretive Christian group known as the Family, or the Fellowship.
Gbagbo’s backing from the Christian right has come from a few sources, some of which share a common link to the Fellowship. The reasons for the support are not clear, though it may have to do with both long-standing relationships between Gbagbo and evangelicals active in Africa, and the fact that Gbagbo is Christian and his opponent, Alassane Ouattara — the internationally recognized president of Ivory Coast — is Muslim.
Inhofe frequently travels to Africa at taxpayer expense. In 2005 he said, “I have had a mission there for many years. It is more of a Jesus thing, but I have spent a lot of time in Africa.”
But it’s not just Inhofe. Another Christian right politician, former congressman Bob McEwen of Ohio — who has also been a longtime participant in the National Prayer Breakfast — recently worked as a lobbyist for Gbagbo. In December, McEwen was hired at a rate of $25,000 per month to assist the Ivorian ambassador to the U.S. “in exerting his influence in the most strategic way possible,” according to lobbying records.
Gbagbo has also found support in right-wing Christian media. Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network has run multiple pieces supporting Gbagbo. A CBN reporter even traveled to Ivory Coast to look into claims of voter fraud and to conduct a friendly interview with Gbagbo, who is portrayed as a pious man deserving of admiration.