Joe Scarborough asserted on MSNBC's Morning Joe: "John McCain has never attached himself to these people on the far right that say if you're gay, you're going to hell, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera." In fact, McCain has "attached himself to" some notable religious figures who have made controversial statements, among them John Hagee and Rod Parsley.
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On the March 18 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, discussing controversial comments by Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor, host Joe Scarborough claimed that Sen. John McCain "has never attached himself to these people on the far right that say if you're gay, you're going to hell, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera." Scarborough later added, "Please, don't bring up [televangelist] John Hagee in Texas and tell us that there is any comparison [to Wright], because there is not." Scarborough appeared with MSNBC analyst Rachel Maddow on the previous night's edition of MSNBC's Race for the White House, during which Maddow said that if she could "have Barack Obama do anything, I would have him go on the offense" concerning Wright, adding, "I would have [Obama] play the comments from Pastor John Hagee, where Hagee said that New Orleans deserved Katrina because they were going to have a gay pride parade." Contrary to Scarborough's assertion that McCain "has never attached himself to these people on the far right," Maddow noted that Hagee "has endorsed [McCain], and John McCain said he was honored by the endorsement." McCain has also accepted the endorsement of Rod Parsley, senior pastor of World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio, who has reportedly said of Islam, "The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed." In addition, while McCain called Rev. Jerry Falwell and Rev. Pat Robertson "agents of intolerance" in a 2000 speech, he said in a 2006 interview on NBC's Meet the Press that he no longer believed that about Falwell and later delivered a graduation speech at Falwell's Liberty University.
On February 27, prior to the March 4 Republican primary in Texas, Hagee, founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, 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." Hagee has made controversial statements about, among other topics, homosexuality, Islam, the Catholic Church, and women.
As Media Matters for America has noted, on the September 18, 2006, edition of National Public Radio's Fresh Air, host Terry Gross said to Hagee, "You said after Hurricane Katrina that it was an act of God, and you said 'when you violate God's will long enough, the judgment of God comes to you. Katrina is an act of God for a society that is becoming Sodom and Gomorrah reborn.' " She then asked, "Do you still think that Katrina is punishment from God for a society that's becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah?" Hagee responded:
HAGEE: All hurricanes are acts of God, because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they are -- were recipients of the judgment of God for that. The newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades. So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing. I know that there are people who demur from that, but I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the day of judgment. And I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.
Earlier in the program, Gross had asked Hagee if he believed that "all Muslims have a mandate to kill Christians and Jews." Hagee replied: "Well, the Quran teaches that. Yes, it teaches that very clearly."
In his book What Every Man Wants in a Woman (Charisma House, 2005), Hagee wrote: "As I write this book, the issue of same-sex marriage rages on the front pages of America's newspapers and is seen on national telecasts each evening," and noted that "Massachusetts has just agreed to recognize same-sex marriages." Hagee added: "For a fact, Sodom and Gomorrah are being reborn in America." Several paragraphs later, he asserted that if the United States Congress failed to pass an amendment "recognizing only the marriage between a man and a woman," then "the gates of hell will be opened." He continued: "It will open the door to incest, to polygamy, and every conceivable marriage arrangement demented minds can possibly conceive. If God does not then punish America, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah." He also wrote: "It is impossible to call yourself a Christian and defend homosexuality. There is no justification or acceptance of homosexuality," and "Homosexuality means the death of society because homosexuals can recruit, but they cannot reproduce."
Additionally, journalist Sarah Posner wrote in God's Profits: Faith, Fraud and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters (PoliPointPress, January 2008) that Hagee "complains that the military is downsized -- not that it matters since he predicts there will be a nuclear war to bring about Armageddon -- and blames it on Bill Clinton for making 'the military the habitat of homosexuals by executive order. ...The military will have difficultly recruiting healthy and strong heterosexuals for combat purposes. Why? Fighting in combat with a man in your fox hole that has AIDS or is HIV positive is double jeopardy' " (Page 83).
A March 7, 1996, article (accessed via the Nexis database) in the San Antonio Express-News reported that Hagee was going to "meet with black religious leaders privately at an unspecified future date to discuss comments he made in his newsletter about a 'slave sale,' an East Side minister said Wednesday." The Express-News further reported:
Hagee, pastor of the 16,000-member Cornerstone Church, last week had announced a "slave sale" to raise funds for high school seniors in his church bulletin, "The Cluster."
The item was introduced with the sentence "Slavery in America is returning to Cornerstone" and ended with "Make plans to come and go home with a slave."
The Wall Street Journal also noted the incident in a July 27, 2006, article:
To help students seeking odd jobs, his church newsletter, The Cluster, advertised a "slave" sale. "Slavery in America is returning to Cornerstone," it said. "Make plans to come and go home with a slave." Mr. Hagee apologized but, in a radio interview, protested about pressure to be "politically correct" and joked that perhaps his pet dog should be called a "canine American."
In What Every Man Wants in a Woman, Hagee wrote (Page 14):
Do you know the difference between a woman with PMS and a snarling Doberman pinscher? The answer is lipstick. Do you know the difference between a terrorist and a woman with PMS? You can negotiate with a terrorist.
He further wrote that "[o]nly a Spirit-filled woman can submit to her husband's lead. It is the natural desire of a woman to lead through feminine manipulation of the man." He added that a woman is, "by instinct, a manipulator of the situation. Fallen women will try to dominate the marriage. The man has the God-given role to be the loving leader of the home" (Pages 12-13).
On February 29, McCain released a statement in which he asserted that "in no way did I intend for his endorsement to suggest that I in turn agree with all of Pastor Hagee's views, which I obviously do not." On March 8, the Associated Press quoted McCain's assertions that "[w]e've had a dignified campaign, and I repudiate any comments that are made, including Pastor Hagee's, if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics" and that "I categorically reject and repudiate any statement that was made that was anti-Catholic, both in intent and nature. I categorically reject it, and I repudiate it." As Think Progress noted, on the March 11 broadcast of Bill Bennett's Morning in America, McCain said, "I repudiate any, any comments that are anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, racist, any other. And I condemn them and I condemn those words that Pastor Hagee apparently, that Pastor Hagee wrote" and added, "I will say that he [Hagee] said that his words were taken out of context, he defends his position." But McCain has yet to address any of Hagee's specific remarks other than those concerning Catholicism.
In a March 12 article, Mother Jones Washington editor David Corn reported that Parsley had endorsed McCain on February 26, prior to the March 4 Republican primary in Ohio, at a campaign rally at which they both appeared. Corn reported that "Parsley praised the Republican presidential front-runner as a 'strong, true, consistent conservative,' " and that "McCain, with Parsley by his side at the Cincinnati rally, called the evangelical minister a 'spiritual guide.' "
According to Corn's article, Parsley wrote in Silent No More (Charisma House, April 2005), in a chapter titled "Islam: The Deception of Allah":
I cannot tell you how important it is that we understand the true nature of Islam, that we see it for what it really is. In fact, I will tell you this: I do not believe our country can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam. I know that this statement sounds extreme, but I do not shrink from its implications. The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed, and I believe September 11, 2001, was a generational call to arms that we can no longer ignore.
Fox News reported on March 15 that, "[r]egarding Parsley's comments on Islam, campaign officials point to McCain's denunciation of similar comments made by Rev. John Hagee -- noting that the presumptive GOP nominee was not endorsing Parsley by accepting the pastor's endorsement and does not agree with all of his views."
The New York Times reported May 14, 2006, that McCain's appearance at Liberty University "came as Mr. McCain -- trying to establish an early dominance in the Republican presidential nomination battle -- has sought to ease tensions with Republican conservatives who have long been suspicious of his commitment to conservative ideals, a perception that was stirred by his difficult history with Mr. Falwell."
During a September 13, 2001, appearance on The 700 Club, Falwell reportedly said of the 9-11 attacks: "What we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be minuscule if, in fact, God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve. ... I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the A.C.L.U., People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.' '' Falwell subsequently apologized.
From the March 18 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
SCARBOROUGH: Here's the problem. I was on David Gregory's show last night -- great, great new show. There was a -- there was a moment when somebody said, "Well, you know, there are these right-wing pastors that have choirs that sing these hymns of hate." And I say, "But you know what? It's different with Barack Obama here." And this is his biggest problem, he's -- John McCain has never attached himself to these people on the far right that say if you're gay, you're going to hell, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
But Barack Obama is so attached to this pastor. His best-selling book, he let us all know, was inspired by this pastor's sermon. He let us know that this pastor brought him to Christ. He let us know that this pastor married he and Michelle, probably told us that. He let us know that this pastor baptized his two children. He let us know that this pastor played a key, key role in his life. Please, don't bring up John Hagee in Texas and tell us that there is any comparison, because there is not.
From the March 17 edition of MSNBC's Race for the White House:
DAVID GREGORY (host): But Rachel, if you hear that sound bite from Reverend Wright, and one of the things that's important to hear is the applause that he's getting. The mood in the room. Does Barack Obama have to straddle a line here and try to explain to people who might be turned off by this kind of rhetoric that it comes from someplace real? Inside the African-American community -- that he can represent the African-American community, can Barack Obama, while also being a kind of post-racial presidential candidate?
MADDOW: I think he could do that. But I think he's already tipped his hand that he's not going to. He posted on Huffington Post on Friday night, Barack Obama did. And he very, very, very emphatically distanced himself from and condemned those remarks by his pastor. He's not condemning his pastor, but he's condemning those sentiments.
If I could wave a magic wand and have Barack Obama do anything, I would have him go on the offense about this. I would have him play the comments from Pastor John Hagee, where Hagee said that New Orleans deserved Katrina because they were going to have a gay pride parade.
GREGORY: You're talking about Joe [sic] Hagee, who has endorsed John McCain?
MADDOW: John Hagee, who has endorsed him, and John McCain said he was honored by the endorsement.
MADDOW: He did distance himself from Hagee's anti-Catholic comments. But Hagee said that New Orleans deserved what it got from Katrina, that God was smoting them essentially for having a gay pride parade. I would play that clip.
GREGORY: Joe Scarborough, what's different? Get in here.
SCARBOROUGH: I wouldn't even -- I would make sure that people kept Rachel Maddow out of the room, because that is a fight that is good for Air America versus Rush Limbaugh.
MADDOW: Oh, come on, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: That's a fight that's good for The Huffington Post versus the Drudge Report.
What Barack Obama has done that's magical this campaign season, and, yes, I will say the word "magical." He's unified people. He's made white Iowa come out and vote for him. He's made Republicans believe that even though he may disagree with him, he doesn't hate them. That is a change. That turns our back on eight years of Bush wars, eight years of Clinton wars. Barack Obama needs to remain the unifier, and I will tell you tomorrow he does need to go on the offensive. But he needs to go on the offensive against this speech, which most white voters in the states that he needs -- Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida -- sees this as hate speech.
He doesn't have to explain African-American churches. He doesn't have to explain his pastor. He needs to condemn this language, get it behind him, and say, "It doesn't matter whether it's from my church, or a church in Texas, or an Islamic mosque. We need to bring America together." That's his message. And he needs to distance himself from this speech as quickly as possible.