Pat Boone-as in the long-ago teen idol, Hollywood heartthrob, and 1960s-era TV star turned right-wing activist and evangelical celebrity-claims that Barack Obama was an illegitimate president. He has similarly erroneous doubts about Joe Biden, condemns same-sex marriage as an abomination, embraces various conspiracy theories concerning Democratic Party uber-donor George Soros, argues that the lethal Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol was led by Antifa members wearing MAGA hats, believes Armageddon is just around the corner, and voted twice for Donald Trump.
Yet in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast-two weeks after millions of Americans soundly rejected many of Trump's preferred candidates for the House, Senate, and governors' mansions, causing a midterm election disaster for the Republican Party-Boone made clear that he's pretty much done with the 45th president.
"If Trump were to ask my advice, I would ask him not to run," Boone told me, never mind that the previous week Trump had announced his 2024 campaign for the White House. (Boone recalled a phone call from Trump during the 2016 campaign, interrupting his tennis game at the Bel Air Country Club, in which the crooner pleaded with the candidate to "stop calling names and acting like a schoolyard bully, because it's not presidential"-advice Trump laughingly dismissed.)
"I don't think there are enough Republicans who would vote for him so he could be elected," Boone continued. "But he was his own worst enemy in his manner and his speech. And he made so many enemies that, while he could be a great president again if he muted his speech and all of that-which I'm not sure he's capable of-I would advise him, 'Please don't run. I think you will divide the Republican Party even more.' Sure, there are a few million people that will support him no matter what. But I think-because of the implacable, unmovable enemies he's created, even in the Republican Party-that he would not be elected."
Looking miraculously fit and preternaturally handsome as an 88-year-old apostle of fire-and-brimstone Christianity, Boone-whose chart-topping popularity once rivaled Elvis Presley's-spoke via Zoom from his longtime Beverly Hills estate (which, he confided, he's happy to consider selling to any serious buyer who offers $25 million). The occasion of the chat was the honor Boone is scheduled to receive, dubbing him a "Warrior for Truth," from the Jewish newspaper The Algemeiner Journal Tuesday night at a gala dinner in New York in recognition of his decades-long support for the state of Israel and his opposition to antisemitism.
"The award is not intended to be a commentary on the entirety of any individual recipient-the past, the present and the future of everything they've ever done," dinner chairman and former Algemeiner Editor in Chief Dovid Efune told me, acknowledging Boone's controversial public profile. "It's a tribute to a particular component of his activism, at a time when antisemitism is at a record high. Here's a person who wears a Star of David and speaks in solidarity with the Jewish people and against the defamation of the Jewish people and against the bigotry and hatred for the Jewish people-so that's what we're recognizing at the event."
Boone, who indeed wears gold chains with the Star of David and a Jewish Chai symbol around his neck instead of a crucifix, calls himself "an adopted Jew" and a proud Zionist. He has been friendly for decades with Israel's perennial hardline prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu-who nicknamed Boone "Speedy," Boone said, after his 1962 hit single "Speedy Gonzales." Boone opposes the so-called "two-state solution," arguing that the Jewish state should expand, not cede, territory and never share a square inch with the Palestinians, who instead must be absorbed by surrounding Arab countries.
Boone is a charming raconteur, brimming with anecdotes about Old Hollywood and the music biz, and speaks in a lilting baritone that can be weirdly soothing even when the things he says are false, outrageous, or both. Ever the performer, he occasionally burst into song during our chat and did a spot-on impression of Buddy Hackett while recounting his unsuccessful effort years ago to get the late Jewish comedian membership to the Bel Air Country Club. (When Boone told Hackett he would resign from the club to protest the membership committee's "no" vote, Hackett told him not to because, as Boone quoted Hackett, the comedian checked and Boone couldn't join the largely Jewish Hillcrest Country Club either.)
The Algemeiner's honor for Boone, unsurprisingly, is freighted with irony. Wealthy philanthropist Mark Gerson, whom the singer personally asked to present him with the award at Tuesday's dinner, was among moderate Republican gay rights advocates who filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of what became the 2015 decision, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, to legalize same-sex marriage as a constitutional right. Then there's Boone's uncompromising theology that posits a less-than-pleasant destiny for world Jewry during the supposedly imminent End Times and the messianic return of Jesus Christ. (According to various fundamentalist interpretations of scriptural prophecies, after the Jewish diaspora regathers in Israel, two-thirds of their number-those who do not accept Christ as their Lord and Savior-will be incinerated during the seven years of Tribulation. The third who do acknowledge Christ as the messiah, the so-called "Jewish remnant," will be saved and welcomed into heaven.)
The Bible "predicts in no uncertain terms, the end of that time and the end of civilization as we know it. It's called the Day of Judgment," Boone asserted in a recent interview with The Shortlisted, a British music and entertainment magazine. "And there is a battle coming over literally Israel. And it's the enemies described in the Old Testament as Gog and Magog, which have been identified by some as China and Russia…And the time is coming…the time is drawing very near. And the signs are the things that are happening right now, the destruction of everything that holds up morality."
I asked Boone if he subscribes to a belief articulated by Liberty University theology professor Thomas D. Ice in a May 2009 essay titled "God's Purpose for Israel During the Tribulation": "As part of the process of bringing the Jewish remnant to faith [there will be] a purging out of the non-elect Jewish element from the nation…the Lord will use the fire of the tribulation to purge out the unfaithful."
"I can't say yes because it makes me sound cruel and harsh; it makes God sound cruel and harsh," Boone answered. But, he was quick to add, "I cannot argue with the scripture."
As for the alarming rise in global antisemitism-to say nothing of the rantings of Kanye West and the linkings of Kyrie Irving-Boone's theory is as follows: "If God is real… there is also a Satan. Satan is his adversary. And when God chose the people of Israel as the ones who would bless the world, guess who his enemy is, and was? Satan made the chosen people his target. All antisemitism is satanic. It's irrational. It's not based on any truth. It's based on fabrication. It's false. It's demonic. It's demeaning."
Boone said he recently appealed publicly to West-"who I consider my Christian brother"-to "please sit down with me and let's have a talk. I want to clear your mind of all the obfuscation, the misrepresentation that has come your way."
West has yet to take him up on the offer. Boone has never met the self-avowed genius who now goes by Ye, but years ago he was a social friend of Robert and Kris Kardashian, knew their daughters as little girls, and occasionally played tennis on their private court. Kris was even a prayer partner of Boone's late wife Shirley (who died, at 84, in 2019). "But then things began to happen in the Kardashian family," Boone added with a laugh.
Much of what Boone has to say, however, is no laughing matter. In our chat, for instance, he promoted the discredited conspiracy theory that the FBI identified Antifa operatives leading the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection-a batshit assertion denied by no less than FBI Director Christopher Wray-and suggested Biden's 2020 election victory benefited from voting machine "chicanery."
He told me that Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor George Soros-who, according to Federal Election Commission records, donated $128 million to Democrats running in the 2022 midterms-tried to subvert the midterms. Boone said Soros and other Democratic high rollers also spent additional tens of millions to prop up unqualified and unelectable Republican primary candidates, a claim for which there is no credible evidence.
And more than six years after even birther-in-chief Donald Trump, at the height of his 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton, acknowledged that then-President Obama was born in the U.S., Boone continues to argue otherwise. Boone told me he hasn't changed his views since September 2011, when he claimed on camera, among other counterfactual assertions, that during a post-2008 election visit to Kenya, people kept telling him that the 44th president was born there, that Obama's African grandmother admitted to having been present at Obama's birth in Mombasa, and that the president's long-form birth certificate-identifying his birthplace on Aug. 4, 1961 as Honolulu's Kapiolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital-was "a Photoshopped fraud."
By his own account, Boone is a political outlier in his own family, although he said the crowded Thanksgiving dinner the other night at his daughter Debby's house was perfectly pleasant. But he recounted how during an earlier family gathering, one of his four sons-in-law (he wouldn't say who) "got up in my face and gleefully-gleefully!-told me that he voted for Obama." And rather than support Donald Trump, who Boone concedes was always a flawed candidate, "they would have voted for Charles Manson."
Boone explained these ideas with a dogged patience born of certitude. He got testy only once, when I asked him to account for his longstanding condemnation of the LGBTQ community and his well-documented hostility toward gay rights activism.
"I'm not anti-gay, as I've said many times," Boone told me, adding that he has dear gay friends, including "the guy who decorated this house." He said he has prayed with AIDS victims, including Rock Hudson, whom he anointed with holy oil at the movie star's hospital bedside on the last night of his life. "I love gay people-I mean, some intimately and personally-but I want them to go to heaven. I love them more than some of their friends who may be encouraging them in the wrong directions.
"Because I know what the Bible says irrefutably in many places in the Old and New Testaments," he continued. "Leviticus and Deuteronomy, where God says that man lying with man and women with women is an abomination! And they're to be stoned to death under the old covenant and absolutely in the Book of Romans and other places in the New Testament, again, it is condemned and says it's worthy of death. And it's absolutely forbidden. I go with the Bible."
Boone said he has authored a couple of short books about what he calls "the gay exodus," in which both men and women, along with a transgender person to whom Boone refers as "an emasculated male" who "calls himself a eunuch for Christ," offer testimonials concerning their conversion.
"We proved to ourselves at least that it is not something you cannot overcome if you want to," he said.
Boone was getting increasingly exasperated by the line of questioning. "I'm not going to say I resent your bringing these things up, because I don't mind answering them normally. But this was in effect subterfuge," he said, adding an erroneous claim that the agreed-upon interview was to cover only his Algemeiner award. "It's that that I have some resentment about now."
It's apparently a touchy subject because, among other reasons, Boone's daughter Debby, who followed him into showbiz and scored a megahit with her 1977 tune "You Light Up My Life," publicly contradicted her father's anti-LGBTQ stance and even walked the red carpet at the 2014 GLAAD Media Awards gala.
"She came out in a gay magazine and said she was 'taught error' growing up," Boone said. "So I sat her down on this couch in this room and said, 'Honey, you know I love you. You're blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh. I'll love you till I die and beyond. I'll do anything I can for you, but do you realize you've broken the Fifth Commandment?'"
The conversation, according to Boone, then went something like this:
"Honor your father and mother."
"She said, 'I didn't do that.' I said, 'Yes you did. You have proudly, and even now, say you were 'taught error' growing up. Who taught you that?... You're saying you were 'taught error' by your parents.'"
At which point, Boone said, his daughter tearfully protested, "I didn't mean it that way."
"I know you didn't mean it that way. And I can forgive you. I do forgive you. But it doesn't erase the fact that it's out there as a matter of record… That dishonors your mama and me. And I forgive you for it. But until and if you go back and say 'You know I was wrong to say that,' it's a matter of record. So I'll have to let you deal with it. And we'll just pray for each other.'"
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