McCain Rejects And Denounces Evangelical Pastor Hagee After Hitler Controversy

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Let’s face it: this is a VERY BAD YEAR for candidates’ relationships with men of the cloth who support them. Senator John McCain has rejected the support of a well-known pastor after it came out on an Internet website that the pastor had said Nazism was God’s will:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) today rejected the endorsement of megachurch pastor and ardent Zionist John Hagee after learning of a sermon in which Hagee posited that Nazism was God’s will.

Hagee’s sermon was delivered in the late 1990s but a video of it began circulating widely this week on the Web on the site talk2action, which monitors the religious right. The sermon calls Hitler a “hunter,” a reference to the Book of Jeremiah, which quotes God saying he “will restore [the Jews] to the land I gave to their forefathers.”

Hagee is one of the country’s best-known evangelical Christian Zionists; he founded a pro-Israel alliance of Christian groups and has donated tens of millions from his Texas-based ministry to support humanitarian causes in Israel. He has said he is driven by the belief that the creation of the state of Israel, and the return of Jews to Palestine, are God’s will.

“A hunter is someone with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter,” Hagee says in the sermon. “And the Bible says — Jeremiah writing — ‘They shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and from the holes of the rocks,’ meaning there’s no place to hide. And that might be offensive to some people but don’t let your heart be offended. I didn’t write it, Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth. How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.”

McCain issued a statement indicating he is today trying to put himself as far away from Hagee as quickly as humanly possible:

“Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them,” McCain said. “I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee’s endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well.

But news reports note that McCain had balked at rejecting Hagee’s support earlier, after it came out that Hagee had made inflammatory remarks about Catholicism and said Hurricane Katrina represented Divine retribution. At the same time, McCain has been blasting Democratic Senator Barack Obama for not totally distancing himself early on from Obama’s pastor’s inflammatory comments.

McCain tried to draw this distinction:

“I have said I do not believe Senator Obama shares Reverend Wright’s extreme views. But let me also be clear, Reverend Hagee was not and is not my pastor or spiritual advisor, and I did not attend his church for twenty years,” McCain said in the statement. “I have denounced statements he made immediately upon learning of them, as I do again today.”


But as MSNBC’s First Read notes
, the bottom line is this:

McCain renouncing Hagee’s endorsement comes almost three months after the Arizona senator received it. Hagee endorsed McCain on Feb. 27. Two days later, McCain issued a statement disagreeing with some of Hagee’s views, but he didn’t outright denounce the endorsement until today.

Why did McCain move today? First Read again:

Advisers acknowledge this endorsement was not properly vetted and that McCain was not aware of the range of controversial comments Hagee has made. The latest surfaced remarks were that “Hitler was a hunter” — regarding the Holocaust — and today advisers called those statement “heinous.” While they acknowledge a “bit of concern” that some evangelicals needed by McCain might be offended, the campaign felt this step was needed today.

McCain’s distinction about his pastor problem being different than Obama’s will satisfy those who already support him and Shaun and Rush will say it’s clear. But to many others — including independent voters — it’ll smell like Obama’s situation because of his delay in nixing Hagee’s support.

It shows a tin political ear in waiting so long (like Obama) and his distinction is “nuance” — the thing conservative radio and cable talk show hosts always snicker at and accuse the Democrats of employing…an attempt to avoid taking a hard position.

Here’s the Huffington Post article
that generated the controversy.

But this is definitely not the year for religious figures linked to politicians.

Should Senator Joe Lieberman’s rabbi be nervous?

(Photo shows McCain and Hagee in happier times)

For more blog reaction to this story go HERE.

UPDATE
: This controversy brings this song to mind.

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  • jchem

    This to me seems to be a wash. We were led to believe that the whole “guilt by association” mantra is meaningless. But now that it comes out that Hagee has some skeletons in the closet, all of a sudden this is an issue against McCain? If it is an issue against him then I would submit that everything that Rev. Wright said is fair game. But we're not going to be electing a pastor to the White House. Enough already. I could personally care less who endorses who. Many posts have been written on this website about the meaning of endorsements. With the Rev. Wright, we needed to take the entire sermon “in context.” So what exactly is the rest of Hagee's sermon? I don't know. But at the end of the day, I will not vote for someone just because I think their pastor is “less evil” than the other candidate's.

  • http://www.whyweworry.com ChrisWWW

    We were led to believe that the whole “guilt by association” mantra is meaningless. But now that it comes out that Hagee has some skeletons in the closet, all of a sudden this is an issue against McCain?

    It's about taking spurious rightwing attacks and turning them on their authors.

    Attacking McCain over Hagee with no pretext would be spurious at best. Attacking McCain over Hagee after his supporters have droned on for months about Wright, that's just playing fair.

  • jchem

    ChrisWWW,

    I totally agree with your analysis. But it just seems to me that now we have this whole circular argument taking place. When the Republicans didn't like Wright, they piled it on while the Dems seemed to suggest it was a non-issue. But now that Hagee's demons come out, it becomes an issue. I think both sides are at fault here. But again, I have to ask, why is this an issue?

  • http://www.whyweworry.com ChrisWWW

    I want to add:
    I think “they did it first” is a valid explanation here. Democrats can pretend to be above the fray, like John Kerry did in 2004, and spend their entire campaign defending themselves from bull**** attacks, and let the media narrative be controlled by their opponents. Or they can demand Republicans be held to the standards implied by their own attacks.

    And like I said, this would and should be a non-story *if* Republicans hadn't made these sorts of associations an issue with Obama.

  • CStanley

    Chris, jchem is right about the circularity. You claim that it's fair game to go after McCain about Magee because conservatives have attacked Obama over Wright. But you're failing to close the circle because you omit the other side- that it could be said that it's not fair game to turn the attack back on McCain after Obama supporters have spent months rejecting the idea that there is such a thing as guilt by association. By using as the defense of Obama the idea that the attack itself was unwarranted, you take the teeth out of any such attack on McCain.

  • DLS

    “it could be said that it's not fair game to turn the attack back on McCain after Obama supporters have spent months rejecting the idea that there is such a thing as guilt by association”

    Moreover, it's not identical “association,” by even the stretch of any leftist's overactive imagination. The tie between Obama and Wright is substantial and of many years; it dwarfs into nearly nothing-ness any “tie” (if the word could even be used honestly at all here) between McCain and Hagee. (Plus we already know An Inconvenient [and Real, This Time,] Fact, that McCain has publicly criticized and even can be said to have opposed the Religious Right in the past.)

  • CStanley

    LOL, I actually had another paragraph making the point about the disparity of the two situations but decided to just make my first point, agreeing with jchem.

    Another blogger brought up that if anything, this just reflects a bit badly on McCain's campaign staff for not having vetted out Hagee's degree of unpalatability enough. But really, I think it just goes to the fact that McCain's camp underestimated the turn of the tide, misreading the situation so that he probably didn't realize that it's just as important for him to not associate with the religious right too closely as it is to make sure he doesn't alienate them too much.

    But the fact remains, that any vetting of Hagee's comments would have been necessary because there is zero actual association between McCain and Hagee. Deciding whether to court or accept an endorsement from him was purely a political calculation, and at worst what he did was neglect due diligence in figuring out what Hagee's really like. It's a far cry different than choosing to have a close, lifelong association with someone and call them a mentor. Wright goes to Obama's judgment, while Hagee goes to McCain's political competency in calculating when to pander vs. when non-pandering gets more votes.

  • jchem

    “By using as the defense of Obama the idea that the attack itself was unwarranted, you take the teeth out of any such attack on McCain.”

    I couldn't say it any better. The headline on memeorandum is “McCain officialy rejects Hagee endorsement”. I don't recall seeing that headline when Obama's name is substituted for McCain's and Wright's substituted for Hagee's.

    Joe's original post talked about the length of time it took McCain to reject this…isn't this what many were asking when it came to Obama and Wright? Obama gave a great speech on race relations and how he couldn't reject his pastor; but when Wright came out trotting himself around and reaffirming many of the ideas he was spouting then Obama thought it necessary to “distance” himself from Wright. Talk about “politics.”

  • http://www.whyweworry.com ChrisWWW

    Chris, jchem is right about the circularity.

    No he's not correct. It's not an equal situation if the Democrats don't start it.

    By using as the defense of Obama the idea that the attack itself was unwarranted, you take the teeth out of any such attack on McCain.

    Only if the attack doesn't call attention to hypocrisy of the original attacks on Obama.

  • http://www.whyweworry.com ChrisWWW

    The headline on memeorandum is “McCain officialy rejects Hagee endorsement”. I don't recall seeing that headline when Obama's name is substituted for McCain's and Wright's substituted for Hagee's.

    Ummm. http://www.memeorandum.com/080429/p93#a080429p93

  • http://www.whyweworry.com ChrisWWW
  • AustinRoth

    ChrisWWW -

    You (lack) of principles is showing, regardless of how you wish to spin it. Either you believe such stuff is irrelevant, or you don't.

    A principled man stands by his own convictions and acts accordingly, not on the basis of actions of those whom he purports are his inferiors.

  • StockBoySF

    “Advisers acknowledge this endorsement was not properly vetted and that McCain was not aware of the range of controversial comments Hagee has made.” Are these the same advisers that were working for some pretty awful regimes in other countries?

  • StockBoySF

    Both McCain and Obama knew about Hagee's and Wrights comments. Not all of the comments, but enough to know better. McCain claims he wasn't aware of the “range of controversial comments Hagee has made.” As if some controversial comments are better than others…. Besides one would think that McCain's camp would do a basic vetting of Hagee. And I'm sure they did, only to determine that Hagee helped McCain more than hurt.

    McCain has been trying to have his cake (by using Hagee as evidence of his religious bona fides to pander to that certain group of people) and eat it too (by attacking Obama and using Wright's comments).

    Now that someone in the McCain camp finally figured out that McCain's problem is like Obama's problem, and that McCain's problem is now more of a liability with necessary centrist voters and no longer an asset with religious voters, McCain has finally decided to dump Hagee.

    It's a shame that we're distracted by these inconsequential issues when there are so many more important discussions to have.

  • daveinboca

    jchem is correct. What's sauce for the goose…… Of course, the attacks on Wright, a total nutjob devotee of Farrakhan, are completely incorrect by standard Dem “what's mine is mine & what's yours is negotiable” ethos. Why did Obama support the TUCC if that Church was a hybrid of anti-American and anti-Christian scream-sermons? G-d Damn America & The Golden Boy sat in his pew and nodded, or was he absent, or was Michele screaming about her low SATs as part of a plot by “Whitey?” Maybe it's all on tape. Maybe Hillary has it and will nuke Barack-o if he doesn't come around.

    Does the MSM even investigate any of this, or does the blogging community have to do what used to be investigative journalism.?

    If Barack had a 20-year relationship with an off-the-wall whack-o Farrakhan supporter, doesn't that trump the Hagee flirtation by McCain?

    Strap on some frontal lobes over there on the left, if they're not completely burnt out. Obama is going to crash & burn. Or as the LA Times would put it, The Magic Negro has run out of tricks.

  • http://www.whyweworry.com ChrisWWW

    You (lack) of principles is showing, regardless of how you wish to spin it. Either you believe such stuff is irrelevant, or you don't.

    A principled man stands by his own convictions and acts accordingly, not on the basis of actions of those whom he purports are his inferiors.

    You can spare me the holier than thou speeches. I stand by the principle of universality. If McCain is going to apply a standard of conduct to someone else, then he better damn be ready and willing to have it applied to him.

    If McCain and his supporters don't like having attention called to his crazy pastor friends (Hagee and Parsley), then he should shut up about Wright.

    If McCain doesn't want attention called to his dubious divorce and second marriage, then he shouldn't lecture gay people on the sanctity of marriage.

    And so on.

  • http://www.whyweworry.com ChrisWWW

    Or as the LA Times would put it, The Magic Negro has run out of tricks.

    Stay classy.

  • mikkel

    CS I think your concern about how Wright reflects on Obama's judgment is valid and is about he only valid concern re: Wright or Hagee on how the Presidency would actually be affected.

    I seriously doubt Obama will have all the blacks rise up to kill whitey and as for McCain: a political pandering? Oh no say it ain't so! I think the whole epsiodes reflect a lot more on society rather than the candidates.

    That said, is there anything Obama could actually do to allay your fears he had bad judgment?

  • Rudi

    Jesse Ventura was on a talk show and nailed the issue. Religion needs to be removed as a point of issue in campaigns. Will the POTUS debates ask if Jonah's whale or Noah's ark is a part of our history or just a silly fables? Or should global warming or Iran be debated?

  • http://greendreams.wordpress.com GreenDreams

    The same “judgment” issue does apply to McCain, if it applies to Obama (I would say moreso than Obama, but that's my bias). McCain didn't get the Hagee endorsement as a surprise in the mail. According to the best political team on television (heh) the McCain campaign sought it for A YEAR. And no one bothered to read his book? Or listen to his cassettes? Is that the kind of attention to issues we want in a president? Is that the kind of vetting we want for his appointees? Very very bad judgment. CS, I can't believe you're willing to say vetting Hagee is someone else's responsibility. Is that going to be acceptable buck-passing for a president? (“Not my fault. My staff told me he had WMD”)

    But you protest, he wasn't McCain's spiritual adviser. No, that's Parsley, praised by McCain as “a great leader, moral compass and spiritual adviser.” That is unequivocal. That wasn't a failure of vetting by his staff. He didn't just accept Parsley's endorsement, HE ENDORSED Parsley. The guy who says America was founded to wipe out Islam, that mainstream Islam–not Islamic extremism–is the Antichrist.

    So, have I changed my mind about this as an issue? No. I deplore it. But a part of that old song by Clinton and the Pundits is “can Obama throw a punch?” (Attention superdelegates, if he can't stand the heat…) We saw Kerry swiftboated and many people feel he responded too slowly and too timidly. Now the swiftboater himself has been hired by McCain to dig up dirt on Obama. It's pretty clear how McCain intends to run this campaign. I hope that Obama can prevail in calling a truce (pass on the Wright BS unless you want Parsley/Hagee on your back, and skip the stuff with Michelle unless you want to revisit all the crap Bush dug up on Cindy.) But I doubt that's possible. Fox will replay Wright clips right up to election day, and Obama supporters, including Olbermann, will fire back. And worse still, people of above average intelligence like those here are singing right along, both sides finding an excuse for why it's OK for our side to attack but not the other. The pathetic state of American politics.

  • http://www.whyweworry.com ChrisWWW

    GreenDreams + CStanley,
    McCain could have avoided this whole flap by rejecting and denouncing the guilt by association attacks on Obama. Instead he embraced them.

  • CStanley

    mikkelI think the whole epsiodes reflect a lot more on society rather than the candidates.
    Absolutely, and that's why it goes to judgment. And yes, GD, I can agree that there's a judgment issue on McCain's side as well- it's just that it's not the exact same type of judgment and like you, I admit that it could be partly evidence of my own bias that I think that Obama's lapse is a more serious one (isn't a 20 year close relationship more evidence of the degree to which Obama accepted Wright's ideas without confronting him on it? I don't mean accepted as in agreeing with him- but not seeing that that type of preaching is destructive enough that he should have taken his friend and mentor aside and said I can't abide by this stuff. Instead he only seems to have been concerned about the political liability part of it, not that the inflammatory stuff is actually detrimental to the people in Wright's pews, and for his own kids to be raised on, etc.)

    As for having his staff vet the stuff- I do think that's what staff are for, can't imagine how one man could sift through everything along with all else that he needs to be doing in a campaign. But by that I'm not absolving him of responsibility- that's why I did say that it reflects badly on the competence of his team (and that in turn reflects on him.) But with Obama's situation there's no middleman so it's a different type of error- one that he personally made in not considering the harm of Wright's preaching.

    That said, is there anything Obama could actually do to allay your fears he had bad judgment?That's hard for me to say because Obama's policies are all way too far to the left for me to consider him, so I have to admit I'm not motivated to try to reconcile this. If I had to answer, though, I think I would have felt a lot better about the judgment issue if he'd presented it as an epiphany when he gave his speech- perhaps saying that he'd known all along of some of Wright's controversial statements but perhaps he was too close to the situation to see it clearly and now that it's been put in front of him he has a different perspective and sees that he was wrong to not confront Wright more forcefully years ago.

    Just one example of why I have such a problem with Obama not denouncing Wright years ago- there are people who work in public health who've said that there is a problem with blacks in certain areas being suspicious of govt so that they are unable to successfully deliver public education that could be lifesaving, about AIDS prevention. That alone is a huge thing to me- how could you not then see that a beloved preacher who tells his flock that our govt may have created the AIDS virus in a genocidal plot against African Americans is doing a grave harm?

  • CStanley

    Oh, I actually didn't finish my thought about agreeing with mikkel that this reflects more on society than anything else. In Obama's case, my concern is that the divisive race baiting coalition is still alive and well- and that for Obama to move beyond that he'll need to be more forceful in telling the black leaders that that type of rhetoric needs to stop. The fact that he didn't break with Wright (even the fact that he sought out this type of church) tells me that people like that still have too much power and influence- I really think that Obama felt it was necessary to have people like Wright on his side in order to advance his political career in Illinois.

    And likewise, I think it's quite obvious that for some time now, the Religious Right has had that kind of inappropriate influence so that conservative leaders have had to kiss some, um, rings.

    It does look like in both cases, the backlash is starting to outweigh the benefits of those types of associations and endorsements, and I think that's a healthy thing.

  • http://www.whyweworry.com ChrisWWW

    It does look like in both cases, the backlash is starting to outweigh the benefits of those types of associations and endorsements, and I think that's a healthy thing.

    Hear hear!