Mark Burns (pastor)

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Mark Burns
Mark Burns (48514226041) (cropped).jpg
Burns in 2019
John Mark Burns

(1979-09-21) September 21, 1979 (age 40)
OccupationPastor, political spokesperson
Known forSupported Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign

John Mark Burns (born September 21, 1979) is an American evangelical Christian who serves as the pastor of Harvest Praise & Worship Center in South Carolina.[1] He was a supporter of Republican nominee Donald Trump's 2016 candidacy for the U.S. presidency. In February 2018, Burns announced his candidacy to replace retiring Republican Trey Gowdy in South Carolina's 4th congressional district.[2] Burns is co-founder of the NOW Television Network.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Burns was born in Anderson, South Carolina, on September 21, 1979, as John Mark Burns, to parents Otis and Debra Burns. At an early age, he began playing the keyboard and singing gospel music with his family group, the Burns Brothers of Belton, South Carolina, traveling extensively around the country. In 1995, at the age of 16, Burns was licensed as a minister of the gospel under his father at the Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church, in Pelzer, South Carolina. While preaching, he attended Belton-Honea Path High School but did not receive his degree due to an unplanned pregnancy.[4] He would eventually get his GED from the South Carolina Department of Education in 1998. Burns briefly attended Southern Wesleyan University and Tri-County Technical College before dropping out. He later attended North Greenville University for one semester before dropping out.[5] On February 19, 2005, Burns was ordained at Traveler's Rest Baptist Church, in Seneca, SC.[citation needed]

Burns claimed to have held a bachelor of science degree from North Greenville University[6] and claimed to have served six years in the U.S. Army Reserve.[6] But in August 2016, those longstanding claims in his biography were disproved after CNN fact-checked them.[6] North Greenville University told CNN that Burns attended the school for just one semester and did not receive a degree. Additionally, when questioned by CNN about his claimed participation in the Army Reserve, Burns, who had served in the South Carolina Army National Guard, from 2001 to 2005, stated "the Army South Carolina National Guard is Reserves." However, CNN noted that the South Carolina National Guard is a completely separate organization, unrelated to the Army Reserve.[7] The National Guard is in fact, one of the seven Reserve components along with the Army Reserve.[8] National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers train and fight as a unified team, even wearing the same uniform.[9] When questioned about his attendance at Andersonville Theological Seminary, also mentioned in his biography, Burns was unable to clarify.[10] His church's website also claimed he was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, a national historically black fraternity.[11] Burns responded that he had "started the process," but did not complete initiation. Burns also claimed about the website: "Obviously this has been manipulated or either hacked or added."[10] Website host however, responded that there was no evidence of a hack.[6] Later he admitted that he had lied and had unacceptably exaggerated his education, but said he was attacked because he is "a black man supporting Donald Trump for president."[5]


Burns, along with his wife, Tomarra Burns, founded the NOW Television Network,[3] a Christian television network based in South Carolina, on March 1, 2015. He is also executive producer and host of the Lift your Voice Show.[12]

Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign[edit]

Donald Trump speaking with Pastor Burns while flying back to NYC during the 2016 Presidential campaign.

Burns, labeled by Time magazine as "Donald Trump's Top Pastor"[13] and named one of the "16 People Who Shaped the 2016 Presidential Election" by Yahoo News,[14] supported the Trump campaign as a surrogate,[15] appearing on several news channels on behalf of the campaign, including CNN,[16] MSNBC,[17] Fox News,[18] Al Jazeera America, BBC, CBS News[19] and National Public Radio.[20][21] He traveled extensively with the Trump campaign, speaking before and introducing the candidate.[22][23] Burns said he had usually voted Democratic,[23] which included support for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, saying "I'm not ashamed to say that as a black man I wanted the first black man to enter the office."[24] He later said, in 2016, he had "seen the light."[23] Of Trump he said "He's a smart man. He knows authenticity. I believe he knows and recognizes real character."[24]

At a Trump rally in North Carolina, Burns said that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, "gotta get saved".[16] Burns later addressed his statement and said he had not intended to criticize Judaism and that his remarks "had nothing to do with [Sanders'] faith or religion or conversion to Christianity."[25]

Burns offered the benediction on the first day of the 2016 Republican National Convention. Before the prayer, he addressed the convention, called Trump a "man of God" and called on Republicans to not attack each other, labeling Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party the "enemy." Critics of the message, including the Interfaith Alliance, accused Burns of inserting God into partisan politics. Later, he said "If I could go back and use different wording I wouldn't have said 'enemy,' I would have said, 'political opponents.'"[26]

In August 2016, Burns was criticized after he retweeted a digitally manipulated image of Hillary Clinton in blackface. Burns later stated, "I prayed that those who I offended really receive ... a sincere apology," adding that he believes that the Democratic Party uses black people for votes.[27][28][29]

Jordan Klepper interviewed Burns, who spoke during the Republican convention. Burns stated that "Trump believes in that marriage is between one man and one woman," to which Klepper adds, "…until a younger woman comes along?", referring to that fact that Trump was married three times. Then when Burns tries to pin Hillary Clinton as a bad Christian for "allowing" her husband to cheat on her, Klepper asks him a question that he just cannot seem to wrap his head around: "So what’s worse: Hillary allowing Bill to cheat, or Donald Trump cheating?"[30]

2018 U.S. House election[edit]

In February 2018, Burns announced his candidacy for South Carolina's 4th congressional district in the 2018 election.[31] He ran for the seat Trey Gowdy, who was retiring from Congress, has held since 2011. Burns lost during the first round receiving only 2.48% of the vote.[32]

Personal life[edit]

Burns is married to Tomarra Burns,[24] and together they have three children, with Burns bringing another three from a previous relationship.[4]


  1. ^ "The Harvest Praise & Worship Center of Easley, SC". Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  2. ^ Vitali, Ali. "Outspoken pro-Trump pastor Mark Burns jumps in race for Gowdy seat". NBC News. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "The NOW Television Network". Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Lovegrove, Jamie (March 3, 2019). "Pastor Mark Burns: From poverty to Trump supporter and now candidate for Congress". The Post and Courier.
  5. ^ a b Morin, Rebecca (September 3, 2016). "Trump surrogate admits to falsifying biographical claims". Politico.
  6. ^ a b c d Tatum, Sophie (September 3, 2016). "Trump surrogate admits falsifying biographical claims". CNN. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  7. ^ Flores, Reena (September 3, 2016). "Pastor Mark Burns, Donald Trump supporter, "overstated" biography details". CBS News. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  8. ^ "10 USC Ch. 1003: RESERVE COMPONENTS OF THE ARMED FORCES". Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  9. ^ "Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States (JP1)" (PDF). Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  10. ^ a b Blake, Aaron (September 3, 2016). "Trump backer Mark Burns's painfully bad attempts to defend his inflated resume". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  11. ^ Mooney, Noah (September 3, 2016). "Pastor Mark Burns Leaves CNN Interview: Trump Speaker Busted Over Kappa Alpha Psi, College Degree And Army Claims". Inquisitr. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  12. ^ "Lift Every Voice Gospel Show". The Impact Network. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  13. ^ Dias, Elizabeth; Tsai, Diane (2016). "Meet Donald Trump's Top Pastor". Time. Retrieved December 22, 2016.
  14. ^ "16 people who shaped the 2016 election: Pastor Mark Burns". Yahoo News. Retrieved November 22, 2016.
  15. ^ "'Pro-Faith' or 'Profane?' Trump Surrogate Gets Heckled at Faith and Family Forum". The Blaze. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  16. ^ a b "Pro-Trump pastor: Bernie Sanders 'gotta get saved'". CNN. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  17. ^ "Inside Trump's private meeting with pastors". MSNBC. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  18. ^ "Trump reaches out to coalition of African American pastors". Fox News. December 2, 2015. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  19. ^ "Why some African-American evangelicals are playing the Trump card". CBS News. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  20. ^ "New York Public Radio Popup Player". WNYC. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  21. ^ "Trump's Liberty University speech inspires laughs, cheers". CNN. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  22. ^ "Pastor Mark Burns Introduces Donald Trump Victory Party/Press Conference (3-15-16)". Right Side Broadcasting. March 15, 2016. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  23. ^ a b c Jagannathan, Meera (May 15, 2016). "Meet Donald Trump supporters from the various groups he's offended — including women, Muslims and Mexican-Americans". Daily News. New York. Retrieved December 22, 2016.
  24. ^ a b c Barnett, Ron (July 14, 2016). "Easley pastor to address Republican National Convention". Florida Today. Retrieved December 22, 2016.
  25. ^ "Pro-Trump Pastor Backtracks on Claim That Bernie Sanders 'Gotta Meet Jesus'". Retrieved July 22, 2016.
  26. ^ Barnett, Ron. "SC pastor Mark Burns' delivers benediction at Republican National Convention". The State. Retrieved July 22, 2016.
  27. ^ Gass, Nick (August 30, 2016). "Trump surrogate apologizes for Clinton blackface tweet". Politico. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  28. ^ "Pro-Trump pastor regrets cartoon of Clinton in blackface, but "not the message"". CBS News. August 30, 2016. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  29. ^ Bradner, Eric; Wright, David (August 30, 2016). "Trump backer apologizes for blackface tweet, but stands by message". CNN. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  30. ^ "The Divinity of Donald Trump: The Daily Show". April 6, 2017. Retrieved December 30, 2019 – via YouTube.
  31. ^ "Outspoken pro-Trump pastor Mark Burns joins the race for Gowdy seat". NBC News.
  32. ^ "South Carolina's 4th Congressional District election, 2018". Retrieved October 19, 2018.

External links[edit]