Mark Burns (pastor)
John Mark Burns|
September 21, 1979
Anderson, South Carolina
|Occupation||Pastor, political spokesperson|
|Known for||Supported 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. 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. Burns is co-founder of the NOW Television Network.
Early life and education
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. 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. On February 19, 2005, Burns was ordained at Traveler's Rest Baptist Church, in Seneca, SC.
Burns claimed to have held a bachelor of science degree from North Greenville University; said he was a member of the historically African-American fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi; and claimed to have served six years in the U.S. Army Reserve. But in August 2016, those longstanding claims in his biography were disproved after CNN fact-checked them. 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. When questioned about his attendance at Andersonville Theological Seminary, also mentioned in his biography, Burns was unable to clarify. His church's website also claimed he was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, a national historically black fraternity. 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." Website host Wix.com however, responded that there was no evidence of a hack. 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."
Burns, along with his wife, Tomarra Burns, founded the NOW Television Network, 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.
Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign
Burns, labeled by Time magazine as "Donald Trump's Top Pastor" and named one of the "16 People Who Shaped the 2016 Presidential Election" by Yahoo News, supported the Trump campaign as a surrogate, appearing on several news channels on behalf of the campaign, including CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, Al Jazeera-America, BBC, CBS News and National Public Radio. He traveled extensively with the Trump campaign, speaking before and introducing the candidate. Burns said he had usually voted Democratic, 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." He later said, in 2016, he had "seen the light." Of Trump he said "He's a smart man. He knows authenticity. I believe he knows and recognizes real character."
At a Trump rally in North Carolina, Burns said that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, "gotta get saved". 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."
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.'"
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.
2018 U.S. House election
In February 2018, Burns announced his candidacy for South Carolina's 4th congressional district in the 2018 election. He ran for the seat Trey Gowdy, who is retiring from Congress, has held since 2011 and lost during the first round.
- "The Harvest Praise & Worship Center of Easley, SC". theharvestpraise.org. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
- Vitali, Ali. "Outspoken pro-Trump pastor Mark Burns jumps in race for Gowdy seat". NBC News. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
- "The NOW Television Network". thenownetwork.org. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
- "Pastor Mark Burns: From poverty to Trump supporter and now candidate for Congress".
- Morin, Rebecca (September 3, 2016). "Trump surrogate admits to falsifying biographical claims". Politico.
- Tatum, Sophie (2016-09-03). "Trump surrogate admits falsifying biographical claims". CNN. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
- 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.
- Flores, Reena (September 3, 2016). "Pastor Mark Burns, Donald Trump supporter, "overstated" biography details". CBS News. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
- Blake, Aaron (September 3, 2016). "Trump backer Mark Burns's painfully bad attempts to defend his inflated resume". Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-09-06.
- "Lift Every Voice Gospel Show". The Impact Network. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
- Dias, Elizabeth; Tsai, Diane (2016). "Meet Donald Trump's Top Pastor". Time. Retrieved 2016-12-22.
- "16 people who shaped the 2016 election: Pastor Mark Burns". Retrieved 2016-11-22.
- "'Pro-Faith' or 'Profane?' Trump Surrogate Gets Heckled at Faith and Family Forum". The Blaze. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
- "Pro-Trump pastor: Bernie Sanders 'gotta get saved' - CNN Video". CNN. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
- "Inside Trump's private meeting with pastors". MSNBC. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
- Fox News (2015-12-02), Trump reaches out to coalition of African American pastors, retrieved 2016-03-19
- "Why some African-American evangelicals are playing the Trump card". www.cbsnews.com. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
- "New York Public Radio Popup Player". www.wnyc.org. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
- "Trump's Liberty University speech inspires laughs, cheers". CNN. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
- Right Side Broadcasting (2016-03-15), Pastor Mark Burns Introduces Donald Trump Victory Party/Press Conference (3-15-16), retrieved 2016-03-19
- Jagannathan, Meera (2016-05-15). "Meet Donald Trump supporters from the various groups he's offended — including women, Muslims and Mexican-Americans". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2016-12-22.
- Barnett, Ron (2016-07-14). "Easley pastor to address Republican National Convention". Florida Today. Retrieved 2016-12-22.
- "Pro-Trump Pastor Backtracks on Claim That Bernie Sanders 'Gotta Meet Jesus'". Retrieved 2016-07-22.
- Barnett, Ron. "SC pastor Mark Burns' delivers benediction at Republican National Convention". The State. Retrieved 2016-07-22.
- Gass, Nick (2016-08-30). "Trump surrogate apologizes for Clinton blackface tweet". Politico. Retrieved 2016-08-31.
- "Pro-Trump pastor regrets cartoon of Clinton in blackface, but "not the message"". CBS News. 2016-08-30. Retrieved 2016-08-31.
- Bradner, Eric; Wright, David (2016-08-30). "Trump backer apologizes for blackface tweet, but stands by message". CNN. Retrieved 2016-08-31.
- "Outspoken pro-Trump pastor Mark Burns joins the race for Gowdy seat".
- "Pastor Mark Burns: From poverty to Trump supporter and now candidate for Congress".
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