Hagee Endorsement of McCain Has Risks
Monday, March 3, 2008; 6:23 PM
SEDONA, Ariz. -- Endorsed by an influential Texas televangelist, Republican John McCain endeared himself to one group of voters but risked alienating another with the pastor's anti-Catholic views.
The controversy has been mild so far, but still, every vote counts in a presidential election that is expected to be closely contested.
Evangelical or born-again Christian voters were key to George W. Bush's victories, but so were Roman Catholics, who chose Bush over their fellow Catholic John Kerry in 2004 and over Al Gore in 2000.
The televangelist, San Antonio megachurch leader John Hagee, has referred to the Roman Catholic Church as "the great whore" and called it a "false cult system" and "the apostate church"; the word "apostate" means someone who has forsaken his religion.
He also has linked Adolf Hitler to the Catholic church, suggesting it helped shape his anti-Semitism.
McCain said he does not agree with some of Hagee's past comments. "It's simply not accurate to say that because someone endorses me that I therefore embrace their views," McCain told reporters at a news conference Monday in Phoenix.
Catholic groups are pressuring McCain to go further and reject the endorsement, which he announced at a news conference with Hagee last week. The Democratic National Committee also is publicizing Hagee's views.
"Indeed, for the past few decades, he has waged an unrelenting war against the Catholic Church," said Catholic League President Bill Donohue.
"Senator Obama has repudiated the endorsement of Louis Farrakhan, another bigot," Donohue said. "McCain should follow suit and retract his embrace of Hagee."
He was referring to Barack Obama, who said he would "reject and denounce" any help from Farrakhan when pressed in last week's Democratic presidential debate.
For his part, Hagee on Monday denied that he is anti-Catholic, saying in a statement to the Christian Broadcasting Network, "I have always had great love for Catholic people and great respect for the Catholic Church. I am shocked and saddened to learn of the mischaracterization of my views on Catholics."
However, Hagee did not explain exactly how his harsh criticisms of the Catholic church had been mischaracterized.