Ever since John Hagee endorsed John McCain back in February, the McCain campaign has been struggling to explain just why it thought that having Hagee’s endorsement would be a good thing, suggesting that it was a mistake and that Hagee was poorly vetted while McCain himself has been forced to repeatedly distance himself from Hagee’s statements. At the same time, McCain has also repeatedly stated that he glad to have Hagee’s endorsement.
The McCain campaign has seemed particularly concerned about Hagee’s anti-Catholic views and gone out of its way to repudiate them and Hagee himself as been particularly taken aback by the outrage, insisting he has been misquoted and misunderstood. And so, today Hagee undertook some damage control by issuing a letter of apology to his most insistent critic, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League:
An evangelical pastor backing John McCain tried to put his controversial remarks about the Catholic Church behind him today, issuing an apology to the head of the Catholic League expressing “deep regret for any comments Catholics found hurtful.”
In an attempt to solidify his backing among evangelicals, McCain actively sought the support of Pastor John Hagee, who heads the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, when he launched his presidential bid last year. McCain’s campaign was caught off guard by the uproar over Hagee’s comments after the pastor’s February endorsement.
In his letter to the Catholic League today, Hagee said he now understands that other terms he used to describe the church – “the great whore” and the “apostate church” – are “rhetorical devices long employed in anti-Catholic literature.” He said he had gained a better understanding in recent weeks of the Catholic Church’s relationship to the Jewish faith. Hagee wrote of his “profound respect for the Catholic people” in the letter and said he hoped to advance “greater unity among Catholics and Evangelicals.”
The Catholic League said in a statement that it accepted the apology.
Of course, Donohue has his own issues, as we wrote about just yesterday, so one right-wing extremist apologizing to another right-wing extremist doesn’t do much to quell the controversy for the McCain campaign.
Plus, Hagee has yet to apologize for all the other controversial things he has said, such as his insistence that New Orleans was targeted for destruction by God with Hurricane Katrina because a “homosexual rally” was being planned for the following Monday, that the United States must launch a pre-emptive military strike against Iran in order to fulfill God’s plan, that the US State Department is inviting a “bloodbath” by encouraging Israel to give up land as part of any Middle East peace accord, or that those who take public policy positions he disagrees with on issues from abortion and gay marriage to welfare are “counterfeit Christians.”
If Hagee is hoping to undo the damage he’s done to McCain’s campaign by reaching out to his critics in “a spirit of mutual respect and reconciliation,” he’s got a long way to go and several more letters to write.