Five things to know about David French
Campaign 2016 | Conservative lawyer and writer reportedly considering a long shot independent presidential bid
by J.C. Derrick
Posted 6/02/16, 02:33 pm
WASHINGTON—Last Sunday, Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, sent the Washington rumor mill into overdrive in less than 140 characters.
“Just a heads up over this holiday weekend: There will be an independent candidate—an impressive one, with a strong team and a real chance,” Kristol wrote in a tweet that sparked a Twitter war with presumptive Republican Party nominee Donald Trump.
Bloomberg and other media outlets began reporting that the mystery candidate in question is David French, a National Review staff writer who graduated from Harvard Law School, earned a Bronze Star in the Iraq War, and has worked for both Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). By late Tuesday, French was trending as the second most popular topic on Twitter.
French hasn’t spoken publicly about his intentions, but he thanked supporters in a Tuesday tweet, and late Wednesday his wife Nancy confirmed he is considering his options: “My husband @DavidAFrench is in Vermont thinking and praying,” she posted on Twitter along with a clip from The Lord of the Rings.
David and Nancy French, who have a multi-racial family and are members of Zion Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Columbia, Tenn., are both New York Times best-selling authors and have more than 90,000 combined Twitter followers, but many in the mainstream media asked: “Who is David French?”
WORLD members may already know who he is, since WORLD has cited or quoted French more than two dozen times since 2004. Below are five takeaways:
French is vehemently anti-Trump. French is one of the “Never Trump” participants in WORLD’s ongoing evangelical insiders survey. Although he is not quoted in any of the published articles about the survey, he submitted a comment for publication last month when asked if it would make a difference if Trump pledged to nominate a pro-life Supreme Court justice.
“Only an idiot would believe a single word that comes out of his mouth,” French wrote in an email.
French is a champion of religious freedom. In his work for ADF and the ACLJ, French has defended counter-cultural views on marriage and gender, and the rights of religious adherents to hold them—especially on college campuses.
“Abandoning one’s own religious beliefs should not be a precondition at a public university for obtaining a degree,” French said in 2007.
French has a deep understanding of foreign policy. In addition to his military experience, French co-authored Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore (Howard Books, 2014), which topped the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list.
Last December, in the aftermath of the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist attack, WORLD’s Mindy Belz noted findings that showed negative views of Muslims were not based in conservative Christian attitudes—a nuance French also observed:
“I wonder if the media is missing a powerful, largely uncovered influence on America’s hearts and minds—the experience and testimony of the more than 2 million Americans who’ve served overseas since 9/11 and have experienced Islamic cultures up-close. … [Wars conducted] from within a culture that was shockingly broken.”
French takes a hard line on child sex abuse. When then–Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, formerly college football’s all-time wins leader, was accused of not doing enough to stop his former assistant, Jerry Sandusky, from sexually abusing dozens of boys, French issued biting criticism:
“It was cowardly for a college-football legend to do the absolute bare minimum required by law (if he even did that) in response to contemporaneous reports that a child had been abused in the coach’s own facility. I’m sorry, Coach Paterno, but the call to your athletic director did nothing to defend the defenseless, and when you saw that nothing happened as a result of that call, it was your absolute moral obligation to take action.”
French organized the group Evangelicals for Mitt. French and his wife are friends of Mitt Romney and helped the former Massachusetts governor make evangelical inroads during his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. Last week, French urged Romney to run again, but Romney appears ready to support French.
“I know David French to be an honorable, intelligent and patriotic person,” Romney tweeted Tuesday. “I look forward to following what he has to say.”
What are French’s chances? Longer than long—especially without Bernie Sanders or some other progressive candidate launching a serious challenge from Hillary Clinton’s left. It’s already too late to get on the presidential ballot in all 50 states.
But French says Americans deserve a better option than Clinton and Trump, whom he calls “walking impeachment risks.”
A 2014 speech French delivered to Tennessee homeschoolers—which also includes his rationale for joining the military in his 30s—may provide some insight into his thinking:
“Our forefathers did not sacrifice their lives so that we could live a life of navel-gazing and self-indulgence. Christ’s admonition applies to us all. ‘Take up your cross,’ He said. ‘Lose your life,’ He said. Embracing our responsibilities means leading with our actions, not just our words.”
J.C. is WORLD Radio’s managing editor. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012 and eventually becoming WORLD’s Washington Bureau chief. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.