Mark Burns, a Donald Trump surrogate and the pastor of a South Carolina church, is owning up to false statements in his professional biography following a heated interview with CNN earlier this week.
“As a young man starting my church in Greenville, South Carolina, I overstated several details of my biography because I was worried I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a new pastor,” Burns wrote in a statement late Friday. “This was wrong. I wasn’t truthful then and I have to take full responsibility for my actions.”
Burns sent the apology in a tweet, adding that he was “thankful for a god who looks beyond our faults.”
The statement comes shortly after the interview with CNN anchor Victor Blackwell about several exaggerated professional accomplishments the pastor had listed on his website.
Burns, a televangelist who spoke at the Republican National Convention and regularly introduces Trump at events, was asked to explain some of his bio’s discrepancies, including his supposed membership in the historically African-American fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi, his active duty in the U.S. Army Reserve and his completion of a Bachelor of Science degree from North Greenville University.
Asked of his website biography’s claim that he belonged to Kappa Alpha Psi -- which CNN reported to be untrue -- Burns said in the interview, which aired in full on Saturday: “I did, without question, say that I had crossed, I mean not crossed, but I had started the process of being a part of that organization. But that’s the furthest that I’ve gotten.”
And when pressed on the site’s statement that he had been a member of the Army Reserve, Burns had this reply: “I was never part of the... no, no... South Carolina National Guard.”
“I just asked you about the Army Reserves,” CNN’s Blackwell noted. “That was my question. You, in this bio, claim six years in the Army Reserves.”
“Which is... it is Reserves,” said Burns, who did serve from 2001 to 2005 in the state’s National Guard. “The Army South Carolina National Guard is Reserves.”
Blackwell also questioned whether the pastor had obtained a bachelor’s degree from North Greenville University, as his website had also claimed.
“Did you attend from North Greenville University?” the CNN host asked.
“Yes, I did attend,” Burns responded.
“Did you graduate from North Greenville University?” Blackwell followed up.
“No, I didn’t complete the degree at North Greenville University,” Burns responded. The university reportedly told CNN that Burns attended for just one semester.
During the course of the interview, Burns pushed back on CNN, claiming the questioning was “not fair at all.”
“I thought we were doing a profile, and all of a sudden you’re here to try to destroy my character,” Burns said. “I understand that this is what media does -- and I understand that when you find someone who is speaking out their heart and is speaking out their desire to bring people together and get past the political correctness of society -- that the job of investigative journalism, in this case, is to try to destroy the character of the individual so their voice is silenced.”
Later, Burns also seemed to imply that his website could have been hacked, with the information added without his consent.
In his statement released Friday, Burns repeated his condemnation of the media, claiming he was a target because he was an African-American backer of Trump:
“I do also want to set the record straight about why this attack is happening – because I am a black man supporting Donald Trump for president,” he said. “For too long, African-American votes have been taken for granted by Democratic politicians, and enough is enough.”