Evangelical preacher Franklin Graham appeared on “Washington Watch” with Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins on Tuesday and made a dumbfounding claim that President Bill Clinton could have stopped the genocide in Rwanda if he hadn’t been impeached.
The comment was a digression from Graham’s call for a day of prayer for President Trump on June 2. As Right Wing Watch reported earlier this week, more than 250 other “Christian leaders” signed on to ask American Christians to pray “that God would protect, strengthen, embolden, and direct” Trump.
In his comments on Clinton, Graham appeared to be trying to make the case that Democrats shouldn’t impeach Trump. “And so that impeachment process should have never happened with Bill Clinton. What he did was wrong, but it should’ve never had an impeachment—it distracted the country,” Graham said. “We had Rwanda at that time, the massacre, the president was sidetracked, he was not paying attention, and he was trying to pray for his survival. And that’s what happens when the president gets distracted.”
And yet, that would have been chronologically impossible. The Rwandan genocide happened in 1994. Clinton wasn’t impeached until 1998.
The comments that Bill Clinton shouldn’t have been impeached seem contrary to an op-ed Graham wrote in the Wall Street Journal in 1998. “If [Clinton] will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, those with whom he is most intimate, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?” he wrote at the time. And as recent as January 2018, Graham defended his support for Trump and evangelicals’ criticism of Clinton in 1998. “[Clinton] did this while he was in office. There’s a big difference,” he said.
Perkins then chimed in that if impeachment proceedings hadn’t taken place, the U.S. could have eliminated the threat of Osama bin Laden. “I was just reading a historical account of Osama bin Laden, of how in the early days when he was getting started, Bill Clinton had the intelligence of where he was located, and he hesitated to take action because it was right in the middle of the controversy he was in with Monica Lewinsky,” he said.
As been noted elsewhere, the reasons for the failure to capture or kill Osama bin Laden included fear of civilian casualties and intelligence uncertainties—not Clinton’s impeachment. In fact, Clinton did conduct airstrikes on bin Laden’s base in Afghanistan shortly before the vote on his impeachment, and Republicans excoriated him by alleging that he had conducted the military operation just to avoid impeachment. In any case, the opinion that Clinton shouldn’t have been impeached is an interesting one and may illustrate the shift in evangelical opinion on morality and politics in the age of Trump.
Perkins then went on to suggest that the media and Democrats should not distract the president. “If there’s legitimate issues that Congress absolutely needs to take care of, but we know that’s not the case after these investigations have been brought forward by the special counsel,” Perkins added in reference to Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and obstruction by the president.
Mueller noted in a public statement Wednesday that charging a president with a crime was “not an option” as the special counsel was bound by longstanding Justice Department opinions that say a president can’t be indicted while in office. But Mueller did not say Trump was innocent and suggested that Trump may have committed a crime. “If we had confidence that the president did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller said.
Earlier in the show, Graham discussed why he had called for a day of prayer and questioned whether the hatred for Trump was “a demonic attack.” He also admitted that Trump isn’t the “best example of the Christian faith” but insisted that “there’s something in his heart where God has placed it there to defend the Christian faith and religious liberty.”
“I appreciate that about him, and we need to try to lift him up in prayer and support him where we can,” Graham said.