On Meet the Press, host Tim Russert ignored Republican strategist Mike Murphy's reference to Sen. John McCain's acceptance of an endorsement by evangelist John Hagee. Russert did not identify Hagee by name or mention Hagee's statements denouncing or disparaging homosexuality, Islam, Catholics, and women. By contrast, during the last Democratic debate, Russert persisted with questions to Sen. Barack Obama about Louis Farrakhan's support of Obama, despite Obama's repeated denunciations of Farrakhan's statements.
During the March 2 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, host Tim Russert ignored a reference by guest commentator and Republican strategist Mike Murphy to Sen. John McCain's acceptance of an endorsement by evangelist John Hagee, founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. Murphy asserted that "[t]he McCain campaign's got to -- in my view, anyway, from the outside -- understand that the primary is over, they don't need to be campaigning with televangelists in San Antonio." But Russert did not address Murphy's comment: He did not identify Hagee by name. Nor did he mention Hagee's endorsement of McCain, the Catholic League's Bill Donohue's criticism of McCain over the endorsement, or Hagee's controversial statements about, among other topics, homosexuality, Islam, Catholicism, and women. Rather, Russert moved on to a different subject after Murphy finished speaking. By contrast, during the February 26 Democratic primary debate in which he was a moderator, Russert repeatedly asked Sen. Barack Obama about comments made by Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan despite Obama's saying in answer to Russert's first question on the topic: "I have been very clear in my denunciation of Minister Farrakhan's anti-Semitic comments. I think that they are unacceptable and reprehensible" and despite repeating his "denunciation" in response to follow-up questions. Obama had also previously denounced Farrakhan's statements.
On February 27, Hagee endorsed McCain at a press conference in which the two appeared together. Following Hagee's endorsement, McCain said, "All I can tell you is I'm very proud to have pastor Hagee's support." Subsequently, Donohue criticized McCain for his failure to repudiate Hagee's support, issuing a statement in which he called Hagee "anti-Catholic" and a "bigot" and stated: "Senator Obama has repudiated the endorsement of Louis Farrakhan, another bigot. McCain should follow suit and retract his embrace of Hagee." McCain subsequently stated of Hagee: "When he endorses me, it does not mean that I embrace everything that he stands for and believes in." During the Meet the Press segment, Murphy said: "[W]ith all due respect to the good reverend, and I will say as a Catholic boy who has spent a lot of time with John McCain, there is not an anti-Catholic atom in John McCain; he loves my people."
From the March 2 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
MURPHY: The McCain campaign's got to -- in my view, anyway, from the outside -- understand that the primary is over, they don't need to be campaigning with televangelists in San Antonio. They need to pivot to the general election in a way --
-- in a way -- with all due respect to the good reverend, and I will say as a Catholic boy who's spent a lot of time with John McCain, there is not an anti-Catholic atom in John McCain; he loves my people -- but pivot to the general election and take the fact that McCain is a different kind of Republican and run with it in a very bad environment where we need that kind of guy to win, or Democrat city. It'll set the conservative movement back 50 years.
RUSSERT: Let me show you another issue where there will be a difference between John McCain and either Obama or Clinton, and that's NAFTA, [panelist and Republican strategist] Mary Matalin. North America Free Trade Agreement.