Mr. Moon’s long involvement with American politics began in the 1970s during the administration of President Richard Nixon, when the church leader said God had proclaimed that “Americans must love Nixon.” Unificationists prayed and fasted outside the U.S. Capitol during the Watergate hearings, earning the fallen president’s gratitude and a White House invitation for Mr. Moon.
He spent liberally to fight communism and champion traditional family values. In the 1980s, he and his followers founded Causa, an anti-communist group that promoted “Godism” as an alternative to Marxism and was active in more than 20 countries, including Uruguay, where it bought a newspaper, banks and a luxury hotel.
During the height of the Nicaraguan civil war in the 1980s, the Washington Times led a fundraising drive on behalf of the contras, a rebel group that sought to overthrow the country’s leftist government. Another church-linked organization, the American Freedom Coalition, paid for a direct mailing to 25 million households that criticized 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Michael S. Dukakis.
Mr. Moon cultivated often-uneasy relationships with American political, cultural and religious leaders, who undoubtedly appreciated his largess but were often hesitant to publicly embrace the controversial preacher.
Former president George H.W. Bush spoke frequently at Moon events. He received an undisclosed amount from the church in speaking fees and a $1 million donation from the Times foundation to build a library for his papers. In Tokyo, before an audience of 50,000, he and wife Barbara appeared alongside Mr. Moon’s wife as she credited Mr. Moon with bringing about the fall of communism.
Comedian Bill Cosby tried to back out of a contract to perform at a 1996 convention in Washington when he learned that it had been organized by Mr. Moon’s Family Federation for World Peace; Moon’s lawyers convinced Cosby otherwise, and he appeared on a slate including former president Gerald R. Ford, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and the civil rights activist Coretta Scott King.
Christian evangelist Jerry Falwell, who once likened Mr. Moon to “the plague,” appeared at Unificationist events as a supporter after a Moon-sponsored organization donated $3.5 million to rescue Falwell’s Liberty University from the brink of bankruptcy.
Some luminaries who agreed to appear at Moon-sponsored events said they had been duped. When President George W. Bush was sworn into office in 2001, the Washington Times Foundation hosted an interfaith prayer luncheon for 1,700 political and religious leaders, among them soon-to-be U.S. attorney general John D. Ashcroft and Southern Baptist Convention President James Merritt. Mr. Moon was honored at the event. “We had no idea the luncheon was hosted by Moonies,” Merritt told a reporter at the time.