Discussing supporters of Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, Bill O'Reilly said of Rev. John Hagee's controversial comments, "[T]he Hagee thing isn't going to take off because there's no tape on Hagee." In fact, there is audiotape of several of Hagee's comments about Jews, Islam, and Hurricane Katrina.
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During the May 30 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly discussed controversial supporters of Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama and claimed that "the [Pastor John] Hagee thing isn't going to take off because there's no tape on Hagee." Hagee withdrew his endorsement of McCain after McCain rejected it following the revelation of comments Hagee made in the late 1990s about Adolf Hitler. Contrary to O'Reilly's claim, there is audiotape of several of Hagee's comments. In a May 21 post on The Huffington Post, reporter Sam Stein linked to the audio of Hagee asserting that God allowed Hitler to happen "[b]ecause God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel." Further, audio is available of Hagee's appearance on the September 18, 2006, edition of National Public Radio's Fresh Air, during which Hagee asserted of Hurricane Katrina: "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." He later added: "Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans." Also during that broadcast, when asked by host Terry Gross whether 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."
Moreover, while O'Reilly discussed Hagee on the May 30 edition of The O'Reilly Factor and asked McCain about Hagee during their interview on the May 8 edition of the program, Hagee had been mentioned on only one previous show since his endorsement of McCain on February 27. During that broadcast, on March 14, it was Fox News anchor Geraldo Rivera -- not O'Reilly -- who brought up Hagee. Discussing Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Rivera stated of Obama, "[H]e's not the first candidate, in fairness ... to be burned by a religious endorsement, like Hagee." O'Reilly did not respond to Rivera's mention of Hagee.
A Nexis search* of O'Reilly Factor transcripts between February 27 and June 2 produced only three broadcasts on which Hagee was mentioned. A similar search for Pastor Rod Parsley** yielded zero results. Parsley, a senior pastor of the World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio -- whose endorsement McCain accepted on February 26, but then rejected on May 22 -- has been widely criticized for comments about Islam. Indeed, audio is available of Parsley saying about Islam:
I do not believe our nation can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam. I know that this statement sounds extreme, but I'm not shrinking back from its implications. The fact is that America was founded -- I'm gonna stagger you right now -- 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.
Moreover, ABC aired video footage of Parsley on the May 22 edition of Good Morning America.
By contrast, using a Nexis search*** of broadcasts of The O'Reilly Factor between February 27 and June 2, Media Matters for America found that Wright was prominently discussed and/or mentioned in the context of Obama's presidential campaign on at least 37 editions of the program, often during multiple segments of the same edition.
Likewise, a search covering the same period for mentions of Father Michael Pfleger**** -- who made controversial remarks during a sermon at Obama's former church on May 25 -- found that Pfleger was prominently discussed on at least three editions of O'Reilly's program and once in multiple segments.
From the May 30 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: OK, Tanya, I mean, I don't know what to say here. I think this is a huge issue and is going to be one up until the vote in November. And what say you?
TANYA ACKER (Democratic strategist): A couple of things. You know, I'd like to jump back to Geraldine Ferraro's point, because she said something that I thought was really insightful about the responses that she's getting from white people who feel that their voices aren't being heard and they can't discuss these issues honestly.
I think that there are probably a lot of people in that congregation, you know, the people who she referenced who are standing up and clapping when a lot of these statements were made. I think that they may feel the same way. I think that there is an issue of racism in America and anger around race in America that people are just not confronting openly. And I wish we could have that conversation divorced from all of the incendiary sermons that are coming from different pulpits -- not just Reverend Wright's, but also John Hagee's. I don't think that -- just like I don't think that Wright speaks for Hagee or Pfleger, or -- I'm sorry, Wright speaks for Obama or Pfleger speaks for Obama, I don't think that Hagee speaks for McCain.
But I think that they're -- we're raising important conversations now. I just wish we could have the conversation --
O'REILLY: OK. I don't disagree with you that --
ACKER: -- in a more dispassionate way.
O'REILLY: -- that both black and white Americans, some of them, feel that they can't say what's on their mind. I don't disagree with that.
But the key in this discussion is that Barack Obama thought he had finally gotten this Reverend Wright thing at least in the background. And now you have another nut, Pfleger, come up, associated with the Obama campaign, because Pfleger is involved or was involved -- I think they might have fired him recently. But very close to Obama. And now Americans are going, look, how many more of these people are going to come out of the woodwork? You see what I'm talking about, Tanya?
ACKER: No, I do. And I think that it's not an invalid question. I would simply say that, you know, it's not really fair to ascribe that to Obama, because I do think that if we start parsing through and scouring relationships that any of us have, that any politician or public figure has, there are going to be people close to that person who have written --
O'REILLY: Not at this level.
ACKER: -- things or said things.
O'REILLY: Not -- look, when you go --
ACKER: I don't know about that, Bill.
O'REILLY: -- when you go Bill Ayers, when you go Bernadette Dohrn, when you go Reverend Wright, when you go Father Pfleger -- not at that level. You're just not going to have it.
And the Hagee thing isn't going to take off because there's no tape on Hagee. And it's just -- it's basically a convenience thing that McCain went down, and he regrets doing it. And then I gave him hell for doing it when I interviewed him. How do you see it, Andrea?
ANDREA TANTAROS (Republican strategist): Well, I see it as this is how Obama handles dealing with nuts. I mean, he hasn't quit this church. Why?
From the May 8 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: OK. John Hagee is a guy --
O'REILLY: -- that you sought his endorsement in San Antonio, Texas. He said bad things about Catholics, and gays, and other things like that. And your opponents are saying, "Hey, you know, McCain hangs around with Hagee. Obama hangs around with Wright. No difference."
McCAIN: I do not embrace a view that he stated about the Catholic Church. I steadfastly reject it and repudiate it. I've never been in Pastor Hagee's church. I know him, and -- but the fact is that I accept his endorsement --
O'REILLY: Yeah, but you courted him.
McCAIN: -- which means he supported --
O'REILLY: You went down there --
McCAIN: When you say --
O'REILLY: -- had breakfast with him, you know?
McCAIN: Well, I had breakfast with him and I've met with him. I don't embrace all of his views. He endorsed me.
O'REILLY: OK. You ready for the viciousness of this campaign? We understand The New York Times has -- you know, a squad of reporters looking to dig up any dirt they can on you. You know that, right?
From the March 14 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Tonight, four hot topics: the Obama conundrum, did Eliot Spitzer use campaign money to pay prostitutes, and the men who murdered that University of North Carolina student body president. Also, there's been a verdict in the John Ritter medical malpractice case. Here is Fox News anchor Geraldo Rivera.
All right, let's knock them down one by one.
RIVERA: Well, I want to take to you a radical synagogue first, after you get out of church.
O'REILLY: Listen, I'm a man who is very curious about things. And I would love to attend --
RIVERA: I know a firebrand rabbi that really is gonna --
O'REILLY: Well, I mean, you know, the ladies were nice to come on here, and they believe what they're saying. But I don't think they see the big picture here, Geraldo.
RIVERA: The big picture is that Obama's candidacy brink -- is on the brink of disaster and --
O'REILLY: Yeah, it is.
RIVERA: -- ruin right now.
RIVERA: He released a statement that was very good, just out an hour or so.
RIVERA: Let me just read you the part that is the most important part. "The statements that Reverend Wright made that were the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation." So now, Barack Obama has set up a factual straw man here. If, indeed, it can be proven that he was in the church when statements like this were uttered --
O'REILLY: Well, I think he's toast.
RIVERA: -- then he's in real trouble.
O'REILLY: He's not there every week. He might not have heard those statements, but he knew about them.
RIVERA: I hope -- I hope he didn't. Because he really had -- he had to strongly condemn it. And in tactical terms, you're right: He should have done it before this --
RIVERA: -- rather than his campaign.
O'REILLY: Right. And because he knew it was coming down the road.
RIVERA: But he's not the first candidate, in fairness --
O'REILLY: No, but you -- if you couple it --
O'REILLY: -- if you couple it -- if you couple it with Michelle Obama's comments from a few weeks ago -- which I defended; I defended her. Again, I want to give the candidates the benefit of the doubt. If you couple that with this and you're running on judgment, man, it's tough.
*Search terms: "Show (O'Reilly) and (Hagee)"
**Search terms: "Show (O'Reilly) and (Parsley or Parsely or Parsly)"
***Search terms: "Show (O'Reilly) and ((Jeremiah pre/2 Wright) or Rev! Wright)"
****Search terms: "Show (O'Reilly) and (Pfleger)"