LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) — John McCain on Thursday rejected the endorsement of televangelist John Hagee after it was reported that the pastor once argued the Nazis operated on God’s behalf to root out Jews in Europe and get them to Palestine.
McCain’s rejection of Hagee was followed by the pastor’s withdrawal of his endorsement of the Arizona senator. Hagee had said in March that McCain sought his endorsement, but McCain has found himself repudiating a number of controversial remarks made by the minister since then.
The rejection was made after comments were unearthed on various Web sites. Hagee is quoted as saying Adolf Hitler hunted Jews in an effort to expedite their establishment of the state of Israel.
“Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them,” McCain said in a statement issued Thursday. “I did not know of them before Rev. Hagee’s endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well.”
Hagee countered by saying that his records have been combed by McCain critics and misrepresented to harm the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
“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,” the pastor said. “I have therefore decided to withdraw my endorsement of Sen. McCain for president effective today, and to remove myself from any active role in the 2008 campaign.”
Hagee has made a number of derogatory remarks about the Catholic Church, calling it “the Great Whore.”
He also suggested that God punished the residents of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina swept through in 2005, causing its levees to break and releasing floodwaters that covered three-fourths of the city.
Even though he is considered a supporter of Israel, Hagee has proposed that anti-Semitism and the Holocaust as the fault of Jews, who were being punished for ancient Hebrews who worshiped idols.
In his statement rejecting Hagee, McCain went on to say: “I have said I do not believe Sen. [Barack] Obama shares Rev. Wright’s extreme views. But let me also be clear: Rev. Hagee was not and is not my pastor or spiritual adviser, and I did not attend his church for 20 years. I have denounced statements he made immediately upon learning of them, as I do again today.”
He has a busload of reporters with him daily, and he just learned of this now?