Update: McCain rejects Hagee's endorsement
One McCain endorser says Hitler was doing "God's work" while another gains reputation for wanting to destroy Islam
Presidential candidate John McCain has been embarrassed in the past few weeks by the statements of right-wing Pastor John Hagee, whose endorsement he actively sought and still said he was glad to have.
But on Thursday he finally rejected the pastor's endorsement, CNN reports.
Hagee has called the Catholic Church "the great whore" and has said that Hurricane Katrina was sent by God to punish New Orleans for an intended gay pride parade. Now newly revealed audio tapes of sermons from the 1990's show Hagee claiming that Hitler was doing "God's work" by forcing the Jews to return to Israel. Hagee has denied that his remarks constitute approval of Hitler any any way and claims he is being mischaracterized.
"I obviously find the remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible and a repudiate them," McCain said in a statement released late Thursday afternoon.
Referring to the Hitler comments, McCain denied foreknowledge of them, but also used his statement to differentiate his "pastor problem" from Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama's.
McCain's statement continues, "I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee's endorsement. I feel I must reject his endorsement as well. I've 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 do not attend his church. I did not attend his church for 20 years. I have denounced statement he made immediately upon learning of them and I do again today."
Abrams: McCain should say enough is enough
MSNBC's Dan Abrams was outraged by the reluctance of the media to call out McCain on his ties to Hagee. "Shouldn't John McCain finally say enough is enough?" Abrams asked. "Why isn't much of the mainstream media playing John Hagee's clips even a fraction of the amount that they played Jeremiah Wright's clips?"
Former Bush Assistant Press Secretary Reed Dickens acknowledged to Abrams that "this is going to haunt [McCain]" and that "of course he's got to denounce [Hagee]."
However, Dickens rejected any suggestion that the media is giving McCain a free pass when compared with Obama, noting that Hagee is not McCain's friend or mentor and calling it a "very flawed premise ... that something Hagee says is on equal footing ... with Jeremiah Wright."
Former Romney Press Secretary Kevin Madden was also quick to describe Hagee as "somebody who John McCain hardly even knows."
However, Roy Sekoff of the Huffington Post was in full agreement with Abrams. "It is a complete double standard," he insisted. "For some reason, the media remains in rapture to John McCain, the 'maverick straight-talker' of 2000. But that's not what we're seeing. ... He worked for a year to get this endorsement."
Dickens also repeatedly attempted to paint McCain as having innocently stumbled because of his unfamiliarity with evangelicals. "McCain doesn't understand the evangelical world enough to know which evangelicals to go after," he stated. "The real story here is how awkward and uncomfortable McCain is within this sector of the party. ... There's a lot of evangelicals that he needed to go get their endorsement. ... This was not the guy."
Sekoff, however, suggested that McCain knew very well what he was doing, and that he deliberately "went searching for Hagee so he could prove his bona fides to the right."
Hagee is not McCain's only embarrassing endorser. Pastor Rod Parsley, whom McCain has called "one of the truly great leaders in America, a moral compass, a spiritual guide," is becoming widely known in the Muslim world as a hatemonger,
Parsley has stated, "Islam is an anti-christ religion that intends through violence to conquer the world. ... America was founded in part with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed."
Newspapers and websites in the Muslim world are now running stories with headlines like "McCain's spiritual advisor calls for the destruction of Islam." This is undercutting McCain's own stated goal "to win the hearts and minds of the vast majority of moderate Muslims."
A McCain spokesman told ABC that McCain rejects Parsley's statements.
This video is from MSNBC's Verdict, broadcast May 21, 2008.
This video is from ABC's Good Morning America, broadcast May 22, 2008.