McCain Has It Both Ways with Hagee

When John McCain picked up the endorsement of far-right televangelist John Hagee, it was only the loud protests of the Catholic League that got the media to notice, and eventually, got McCain to issue a weak statement: “I repudiate any comments that are made, including Pastor Hagee’s, if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics.”

The story more or less dropped after that, as journalists seemed much less interested in Hagee’s views about things other than the Catholic Church—such as his statement that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for a sinful New Orleans (or perhaps for policy in the Middle East?) or his position that the U.S. should launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran to usher in the second coming of Jesus. In any event, McCain continued to promote his ties to Hagee.

And in an interview with George Stephanopoulos yesterday, John McCain reiterated that he was “glad to have” televangelist John Hagee’s endorsement. Yet the headline reads, “McCain Admits Hagee Endorsement Was A Mistake.”

McCain appears to be trying to have it both ways, assuring the media that it was “probably” a mistake to court Hagee’s support, while maintaining to the base that it was a mistake he’s “glad” he made.

Stephanopoulos. A lot of Senator Obama’s allies and others say that you should condemn the comments of Reverend John Hagee, an evangelical pastor …

McCain. Oh, I do. And I did. I said that any comments he made about the Catholic Church I strongly condemned, of course.

Stephanopoulos. Yet you solicited and accepted his endorsement.

McCain. Yes, indeed, I did. And I condemned the comments that he made concerning the Catholic Church.

Stephanopoulos. Yet you’re going to hold on to his endorsement. Your own campaign acknowledges that you should have done a better job of vetting pastor Hagee …

McCain. Oh, sure.

Stephanopoulos. So was it a mistake to solicit and accept his endorsement?

McCain. Oh, probably. Sure. But I admire and respect Doctor Hagee’s leadership of his church. I admire and appreciate his advocacy for the state of Israel, the independence and freedom of the state of Israel. I condemn remarks that are made that has anything to do—which is condemning of the Catholic Church. …

McCain. I’m glad to have his endorsement. I condemn remarks that are any way viewed as anti-anything. And thanks for asking. (Laughs.)

(Watch the video here—remarks at 16:45.)