Pastor John Hagee has been trouble for presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain ever since McCain sought, and Hagee delivered, his endorsement of the Arizona senator. But some comments made by Hagee, which Bruce Wilson reported on Talk to Action last week, were the last straw, and McCain finally rejected Hagee's endorsement on Thursday.
Statements Hagee has made in the past, including the assertion that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for New Orleans and some anti-Catholic remarks, have come back to bite McCain before, and he'd previously repudiated the anti-Catholic statements. But there apparently was no ignoring the comments Wilson revealed, at least not after the Huffington Post picked them up today. In a sermon he delivered in 1999, Hagee said Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were essentially sent by God as a force that would drive Jews from Europe and to Israel. (Hagee is a nominal supporter of Israel, primarily because he believes the Jewish return to Israel must occur for Jesus Christ to return to earth.) During the sermon, Hagee asked, speaking of the Holocaust, "How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel."
In a statement, McCain said, "Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them. I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee's endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well." But McCain also threw in a dig at Barack Obama, saying the controversy over Obama's former pastor doesn't compare to the one involving Hagee:
I have 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 did not attend his church for twenty years. I have denounced statements he made immediately upon learning of them, as I do again today.
Hagee also released statements of his own. In one, released before McCain's, he said, "The intentional mischaracterization of my statements by an Internet journalist seeking to use me as a political football in the upcoming presidential race is a gross example of bias at its worst... To assert that I in any way condone the Holocaust or that monster Adolf Hitler is the biggest and ugliest of lies. I have always condemned the horrors of the Holocaust in the strongest of terms."
Later, Hagee withdrew his endorsement of McCain, saying, "I am tired of these baseless attacks and fear that they have become a distraction in what should be a national debate about important issues. I have therefore decided to withdraw my endorsement of Senator McCain for president effective today, and to remove myself from any active role in the 2008 campaign.
"I hope that the Senator McCain will accept this withdrawal so that he may focus on the issues that are most important to America and the world."