Ms. White, a controversial figure even among evangelical Christians, will be overseeing a White House division that conducts outreach to key parts of the president’s base.Paula White, President Trump’s personal pastor, during a prayer at an evangelical leadership dinner at the White House last year. Credit... Doug Mills/The New York Times
Paula White, a televangelist based in Florida and personal pastor to President Trump whom he has known since 2002, has joined the Trump administration in an official capacity, according to a White House official.
Ms. White will work in the Office of Public Liaison, the official said, which is the division of the White House overseeing outreach to groups and coalitions organizing key parts of the president’s base. Her role will be to advise the administration’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative, which Mr. Trump established last year by executive order and which aims to give religious groups more of a voice in government programs devoted to issues like defending religious liberty and fighting poverty.
As Mr. Trump campaigns for a second term, he cannot afford to lose support from the religious conservatives who voted for him in 2016 in significant numbers. Without their backing, his path to re-election would be significantly narrower.
He has taken repeated steps to ensure they turn out for him again — by issuing executive orders, making cabinet appointments and nominating federal judges that pass muster with the religious right. On a range of issues from abortion rights to tax exemptions for churches, Mr. Trump has tried to grant Christian conservatives their policy wish lists whenever legally and politically feasible.
But Ms. White cannot be easily categorized as either a political asset or a liability. She has a large following among Christians who believe in the “prosperity gospel,” which teaches that God blesses people he deems to be of strong faith with wealth, good health and other gifts.
But many other Christians consider these beliefs to be heresy. And Ms. White’s presence in the top tier of Mr. Trump’s coterie of informal religious advisers has long been a source of contention with many evangelical Christians.
Despite this controversy, Ms. White has remained in good standing with Mr. Trump, who invited her to deliver an invocation at his inauguration and has hosted her as a guest at the White House numerous times. In a recent interview with The New York Post to promote her new book, she said she sometimes visits the White House several times a week.
In the interview, she spoke admiringly of the president’s intellect. “He’s in total control,” she told The Post. “He’s not at all impulsive — he’s so far ahead of everyone, very much a strategic thinker.”