Fox News hosts rushed to defend Rev. Franklin Graham both before and after the Pentagon's decision to rescind his invitation to National Prayer Day, reportedly due to concerns over his incendiary comments about Islam. In doing so, the hosts often played portions of Graham's April 22 Fox News interview but omitted controversial comments Graham made during that appearance; they also ignored previous inflammatory comments Graham has made about the religion.
Graham on Fox: Muslims need to know "they don't have to die in a car bomb" if they'd convert to Christianity
Graham attempts to convert Muslims who are "enslaved" by Islam so "they don't have to die in a car bomb." Graham appeared on the April 22 edition of Fox & Friends to discuss reports that the Pentagon was considering rescinding his invitation to speak at National Prayer Day. During the segment, Graham said he wants Muslims "to know that they don't have to die in a car bomb; they don't have to die in some kind of holy war to be accepted by God" and that he's speaking "out for people that live under Islam, that are enslaved by Islam." From the segment:
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): I guess this all stems back from some comments that you had after 9-11, where you said that Islam is "a very evil and wicked" religion. Do you still believe that, Mr. Graham?
GRAHAM: You know, Gretchen, first of all, I love Muslim people, and I want Muslims everywhere to know what I know: that God loves us, that he sent his son Jesus Christ into this world to take our sins, and he died for our sins and rose from the grave, and that Christ can come into their heart and change them and they can have the hope of eternal life, salvation. I want them to know that they don't have to die in a car bomb; they don't have to die in some kind of holy war to be accepted by God. But it's through faith in Jesus Christ and Christ alone.
But when you look at Islam -- I love the people of Islam -- but their religion -- I do not agree with their religion at all. And if you look at what the religion does just to women, and women alone, it is just horrid. And, so yes, I speak out for women. I speak out for people that live under Islam, that are enslaved by Islam, and I want them to know that they can be free -- free through faith in Jesus Christ and Christ alone.
CARLSON: So I understand that because of your feelings about the religion of Islam, a watchdog group had a problem with you speaking at National Prayer Day at the Pentagon. So here is what one of their spokespersons said about you doing that. He said there are two egregious issues with the Pentagon having Franklin Graham as a speaker: Graham's outrageously bigoted statements describing the entire religion of Islam as evil and wicked. So now there's this scuttle about whether or not you should actually be invited, and the Army, frankly, is considering whether or not you should be there. Do you still want to be there, Mr. Graham?
GRAHAM: We're in war, and we need to pray for our military. We need to pray for our president and all those in authority. That's what the National Day of Prayer is all about. It's not about Islam versus Christianity or whatever. It's about the nation coming together and praying for its leadership, and that's what we're going to do on May 6, National Day of Prayer, to focus this nation on praying to God to ask for his help.
Carlson asks if Army decision, coupled with a court ruling that the National Prayer Day was unconstitutional, is an "assault against Christianity, against prayer." Carlson then reported that "a judge ruled that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional" and asked Graham: "So do you think in any way that this is an assault against Christianity, against prayer, that not only does a judge say National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, but now they don't want you speaking at this event?"
Army rescinded invitation to Graham reportedly because of Graham's "inappropriate" comments about Islam. Later in the day, the Army officially rescinded Graham's invitation. An April 22 Associated Press article reported that "Graham's invitation to speak at a Pentagon prayer service has been rescinded because his comments about Islam were inappropriate, the Army said Thursday." The AP reported that Army spokesman Col. Tom Collins said "Graham's remarks were 'not appropriate.' " The article further quoted Collins as saying, "We're an all-inclusive military. We honor all faiths. ... Our message to our service and civilian work force is about the need for diversity and appreciation of all faiths."
Fox News hosts defend Graham, omit his "car bomb" comments
In April 22 segments on America's Newsroom and The O'Reilly Factor, and on the April 23 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News hosts defended Graham while discussing portions of his appearance on Fox & Friends. While Fox aired audio clips of or made reference to Graham's April 22 Fox & Friends appearance, none of the segments included Graham saying, "I want them to know that they don't have to die in a car bomb; they don't have to die in some kind of holy war to be accepted by God."
Carlson on Fox & Friends: "So many people believe that the Army acquiesced" to Graham opponents. On the April 23 edition of Fox & Friends, Carlson reported that the Army had rescinded its invitation and stated: "So many people believe that the Army acquiesced to the request of that one group to not have Graham there. Graham says he strongly supports the U.S. military, regrets the Army's decision, but stands by his comments."
Peter Johnson: "I think vindictiveness has won over redemption, has won over prayer." Later in the show, after co-host Steve Doocy noted that "nine years ago, Graham described Islam as 'evil,' " Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. defended Graham, saying, "Vindictiveness has won over redemption, has won over prayer," and asked whether "we have an America-lite now where we are embarrassed by our sons?" Johnson stated:
JOHNSON: No one is out to make any excuses for the statements that Franklin Graham made. And they were made nine years ago in the wake of 9-11, in the wake of 3,000 deaths. He doesn't need excuses. He's made his viewpoint clear as an evangelical minister and as someone who wants to proselytize the world in the word of Jesus Christ.
But what we've said now is that the Army wants to decide what the religious content should be. We've seen now that the government wants to decide that the old regime -- that the old regime that is associated with Preacher Graham and President Bush is over, and that we have an America-lite now where we are embarrassed by our sons.
Should Preacher Graham and his son be embarrassed of each other's conduct? Preacher Graham's son is a 29-year-old West Point graduate who was wounded in 2007, is on his fourth duty in Iraq. What does he say to the noncommissioned officers, to the captains, to the colonels on the ground in Iraq? Does he say, I'm embarrassed by my father, that I'm embarrassed by my family's legacy of service to this country, of ministering to soldiers and to presidents and governors and senators, and say he's an embarrassment now to the world? Is Franklin Graham an embarrassment to the world in spite of one overstated, overblown statement that he probably now regrets, or if he doesn't, he should, or at least we should allow him to redeem himself. What does that say? What does that say to you, Gretchen?
Later, Carlson replied, "We live in a PC society where one person complains, and before you know it, the whole event's canceled," and Johnson stated: "There is no place in this country for divisiveness or for mass generalizations about any people or any religion. But there is a place, Steve Doocy, I think, in this country for redemption, for forgiveness, and the government should keep its hands off what ministers are saying to what group of people on National Prayer Day."
Carlson on The O'Reilly Factor: "He believes that the treatment of women within the Islam religion is horrid. That's his direct quote." On the April 22 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Carlson stated that during his appearance on Fox & Friends, Graham was "continuing to defend his remarks" that "the treatment of women within the Islam religion is horrid. That's his direct quote." Carlson said that because the Army rescinded the invitation, it had "acquiesced to the pressure of one person." Fox News analyst Margaret Hoover said the decision was "unfortunate" because Graham was just "call[ing] out something that's happening with the radicalized component of Islam right now, which is that it is inspiring violence."
MacCallum: "Pretty good point" that Army should be "worried" about Fort Hood shooter, not Graham. On the April 22 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum hosted conservative radio host Michael Graham, who is of no relation to Franklin Graham, to discuss the controversy. Graham said: "If I were looking for problems with riled-up Muslims at the Pentagon, I wouldn't be worried about Franklin Graham. I'd be worried about the Army sergeant -- captain, excuse me -- who was communicating with an Al Qaeda terrorist by email, who was telling his fellow doctors in the Army medical corps he wanted to cut off their heads and pour hot oil down their throats before he fired -- shot up people at Fort Hood." MacCallum stated that it was a "pretty good point" and later agreed with Graham that the watchdog group that complained about Graham may have "a larger agenda."
Palin: Army is disinviting "a fine patriotic man." On her Facebook page, Fox News contributor Sarah Palin wrote:
My, have things changed. I was honored to have Rev. Franklin Graham speak at my Governor's Prayer Breakfasts. His good work in Alaska's Native villages and his charitable efforts all over the world stem from his servant's heart. In my years of knowing him, I've never found his tempered and biblically-based comments to be offensive - in fact his words have been encouraging and full of real hope. It's truly a sad day when such a fine patriotic man, whose son is serving on his fourth deployment in Afghanistan to protect our freedom of speech and religion, is dis-invited from speaking at the Pentagon's National Day of Prayer service. His comments in 2001 were aimed at those who are so radical that they would kill innocent people and subjugate women in the name of religion. Are we really so hyper-politically correct that we can't abide a Christian minister who expresses his views on matters of faith? What a shame. Yes, things have changed.
Fox News also ignored that Graham has a history of claiming "[t]rue Islam" is wife beating, child killing
Following the September 11, 2001, attacks, Graham called Islam "a very evil and wicked religion." Following the 9-11 terror attacks, in November 2001, NBC's Nightly News aired a clip of Graham saying that "[w]e're not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. ... The God of Islam is not the same God. He's not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It's a different God, and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion." When later asked by NBC News to clarify his comments, Graham reportedly said that "[i]t wasn't Methodists flying into those buildings, it wasn't Lutherans. It was an attack on this country by people of the Islamic faith."
Graham in March: "I never backed down from" comments that Islam is "evil and wicked," claims that "true Islam" means allowing men to "beat" their wives. Contrary to Johnson's suggestion that Graham made the comment "nine years ago" and that he "probably now regrets" it, during a March interview with The Washington Post's Sally Quinn, Graham said that he "never backed down from" his controversial comments that Islam is a "very evil and wicked religion." He added: "True Islam cannot be practiced in this country, OK? It cannot. If you were my wife, I can't beat you, OK, because you didn't want to have sex with me or whatever." He went on to say, "I am not on a crusade against Muslims. Christ died for Muslims."
Graham in December 2009: "True Islam" means "beat[ing] your wife" and "murder[ing] your children if you think they've committed adultery." CNN's Campbell Brown asked Franklin on December 10, 2009, about his comment that Islam is a "wicked and evil religion." Graham said, in part, that "true Islam cannot be practiced in this country. You can't beat your wife. You cannot murder your children if you think they've committed adultery or something like that, which they do practice in these other countries." After Brown stated that there are "many people who ... define themselves as Muslim who don't practice in those extremes," Graham said:
GRAHAM: No, no. I said many of them would like to get out, but you cannot change from Islam. If you're a Muslim and you change your religion, you can be killed. Your family can kill you. They can warn you but if you don't come back, they can take your life. And that is the threat that many of these people live under Islam.
I've been working in some countries for 50 years, Campbell. And what they do to where I work in the southern Sudan where they tried to annihilate the Christians in the south, just murdered two million of them. All of this has taken place and all of it was done under the name of Islam. But there are millions of wonderful Muslim people. And I love them. I have friends that are Muslims and I work in those countries. But I don't agree with the teachings of Islam and I find it to be a very violent religion.