Rep. Louie Gohmert celebrated New Year’s Eve 2020 by dropping several thousand dollars into the coffers of a vitriolically homophobic and antisemitic pastor, federal records indicate. But his office insists the whole thing was just a giant mistake.
Team Gohmert claims it hired a Christian singer named Steve Amerson from Granada HIlls, California, but accidentally reported to the Federal Election Commission that the cash went to the Tempe, Arizona address of the Faithful Word Baptist Church, led by the infamous Pastor Steve Anderson.
Yes, the pastor happens to embrace a more extreme form of Gohmert’s homophobic rhetoric. And yes, the money was earmarked as a “donation.” But it wasn’t meant for Anderson, and wasn’t a donation at all, in Team Gohmert’s telling. They just screwed up the name, purpose, and address of the recipient of their largesse. Oops.
Disclosures to the FEC show that the Louie Gohmert for Congress Committee sent $5,500, to an entity in Tempe called “Anderson Ministries.” There is in fact no organization of this name registered in the Grand Canyon State—but the address in the campaign filing matches that of Anderson’s church.
“Anderson is a highly problematic individual who pumps antisemitism, hatred and bigotry into the rhetoric, the preachings, and the teachings of these other churches.”
— ADL’s Aryeh Tuchman
Standing at the vanguard of the small but growing New Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement, Faithful Word Church calls for homosexuality to be punished with the death penalty in the doctrinal statement published on its webpage. But that demand seems mild compared to the seething rhetoric Anderson has unleashed against the LGBTQ community: in a 2014 video posted to his now-deplatformed YouTube account, he declared “if you executed the homos, like God recommends, you wouldn’t have all this AIDS running around.” In 2016, he applauded the the mass shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, asserting “there’s 50 less pedophiles in this world.”
Gohmert’s rhetoric toward the LGBTQ community has been far less violent, though only slightly more tolerant. In 2010, he asserted that homosexuality is a form of adultery, argued for barring gay people from the military on the grounds that they “cannot control their hormones.” Four years later, he lauded a Mississippi statute that enshrined the right to discriminate against gay people on religious grounds. A year after that, he suggested as a thought experiment stranding gay and lesbian couples on deserted islands, and comparing their situation after a century to similarly marooned straight couples to “see which one nature favors.”
Anderson also has demonstrated a particular animosity toward Jewish people, as evidenced in titles of the sermons listed on his IMDB page, which include “The Jews Are Our Enemies,” “The Jews Killed Jesus,” “Unbelieving Jews Are Under God’s Wrath,” “Jews Worship a Female God Named ‘Shekinah,’” and “Jewish Synagogue = Synagogue of Satan.” He has also, as the Anti-Defamation League noted in a 2015 report, propagated false claims that millions of Jews were not gassed and cremated in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
“The real ‘burnt offering’ is going to be when all of these Jews that don’t believe in Jesus Christ go to hell for eternity,” Anderson said in one video, alluding to the literal Greek meaning of holocaust. “That’s the oven that they ought to be worried about.”
Anderson has also dabbled in crude documentary film-making, producing such works as Marching to Zion—which, according to the ADL, claims that Jewish people worship the Antichrist—and Marxist Lucifer King, about about civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom Faithful Word Church has labeled “a wicked false prophet, a sexual pervert, and a Communist tool.”
In 2009, after Anderson gave a sermon in which he prayed for the death of then-President Barack Obama, a member of Faithful Word Church brought a semiautomatic weapon to one of the commander-in-chief’s speaking events in Phoenix.
Such activity has prompted nations across Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean to forbid Anderson from entering or spreading his gospel in their lands—even to the point of deporting the preacher, as Botswana did in 2016.
“He’s incredibly antisemitic, incredibly homophobic,” said Aryeh Tuchman, associate director at the ADL’s Center on Extremism, noting that Anderson’s New IFB movement now encompasses 30 houses of worship. “He is a highly problematic individual who pumps antisemitism, hatred and bigotry into the rhetoric, the preachings, and the teachings of these other churches.”
Tuchman noted that Anderson has also called for denying women the right to vote and has denounced Islam. He called Gohmert’s donation “mysterious,” not just because of Anderson’s hateful statements toward vulnerable groups, but also because the preacher has shown contempt for many of the people and causes the conservative congressman treasures: namely, for ex-President Donald Trump, the State of Israel, and mainstream Baptist congregations like the one Gohmert belongs to.
“Why was this donation made?” Tuchman wondered. “If he knew what Anderson was about, then it is shocking and highly disturbing that he would give money to a known antisemite, Holocaust denier, and homophobe. If this was a donation where they were unaware of who Anderson was, and what he represents, I don’t know why they why they would send that donation, but there was a level of due diligence that wasn’t made.”
Tuchman acknowledged, however, that Gohmert has repeated false claims about Jewish billionaire George Soros that critics have deemed antisemitic.
The Daily Beast reached out to Anderson for comment, but received notice from his wife Zsuzsanna that he was unavailable. She would not verify whether Faithful Word had received and deposited the funds from Gohmert’s campaign, but asserted that she and her husband neither knew nor supported Gohmert.
“We can neither confirm nor deny that such a donation was made to our ministry,” she said. “We don’t follow the donations closely, and don’t see the urgency of setting aside the time on a very busy week to look into the financial records.”
“Anybody is allowed to donate to our ministry and we’re thankful for it and we’ll put it toward the Lord’s work,” she added.
“Anybody is allowed to donate to our ministry and we’re thankful for it and we’ll put it toward the Lord’s work”
— Zsuzsanna Anderson
Gohmert’s treasurer, William Long, told The Daily Beast that the gift to “Anderson Ministries” was “probably” intended for Faithful Word Baptist Church. However, he insisted that he was unfamiliar with the organization, and did not believe the congressman shared its views.
Still, he said that the eight-term Republican personally handles all donations from the campaign to churches and nonprofits.
“I’m sure that Louie sent it or carried it to him,” Long said. “Things like charitable contributions, yes, he pretty well makes the decisions.”
But Gohmert’s chief-of-staff, Connie Hair, subsequently called The Daily Beast and claimed the situation was a massive misunderstanding. The check the congressman signed was not to the Tempe-based Anderson, but to the Sunshine State-based Amerson, she asserted. Hair said the $5,500 was not a donation, despite what the filing said, but payment for Amerson’s appearance at a December fundraiser.
The address and information in the filing was the result of a botched internet search by Long, according to Hair—who maintained it was Amerson who got the money.
“That’s who it was written to, and Louie gave it to him, and when Bill Long got the check and the charge, he searched ‘Anderson Ministries’ instead of ‘Amerson,’” she said. “Bill Long is amending our filing.”
Hair did not immediately provide invitations or any other materials documenting Amerson’s appearance at an event last year. Amerson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.