By Holly Bailey
It's taken almost three months of uproar, but John McCain today finally rejected the endorsement of controversial Texas Rev. John Hagee. The move comes after audio of yet another controversial Hagee sermon was posted online this week. First reported by a group called Talk to Action and then linked on the Huffington Post, Hagee suggests in the sermon (which Talk to Action says dates back to the late 1990s) that the Nazis had been working on God's behalf to drive the Jews from Europe back to Israel. According to Hagee, who once called the Catholic Church "a great whore," Adolf Hitler was a "hunter" acting on God's will to help Jews re-establish the state of Israel.
McCain, who aides say was unaware of Hagee's controversial statements, had initially declined to reject the pastor's endorsement until now, saying that while he didn't agree with all of his views he did respect Hagee's work on behalf of the state of Israel. But apparently, word of Hagee's latest comment was too much. On the campaign trail today in California, McCain issued this statement:
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. 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.
Hope you didn't miss that Rev. Wright dig. But wait... Literally within seconds of McCain's statement, a second e-mail hit our in-box, this time from Hagee himself, who announced he was withdrawing his support from McCain:
Ever since I endorsed John McCain for president, people seeking to attack Senator McCain have combed my records for statements they can use for political gain. They have had no qualms about grossly misrepresenting my position on issues most near and dear to my heart if it serves their political ambitions.
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.
And there you have it: McCain breaking up with Hagee; Hagee breaking up with McCain. It's almost like a Seinfeld episode. Will Hagee's comments continue to follow McCain on the campaign trail? Just as Obama's opponents have done with Rev. Wright and his sermons, it's almost a guarantee that someone is digging through statements of other pastors who have endorsed McCain, looking for more controversial soundbites.