If you have liberal friends who try to rebut you and say that the same networks that had largely ignored Obama’s pastor Jeremiah Wright also ignored John McCain being embraced by harshly anti-Catholic evangelist John Hagee, you can first say that there’s a huge difference between someone’s selected pastor of two decades and a new endorser. A search through network transcripts shows that ABC has not reported on Hagee, although they broke the Wright flap. But CBS has done two stories and NBC, half a one.
On CBS, Jeff Greenfield put together a story that aired on the February 29 Evening News and the March 1 Saturday Early Show. Here’s the Evening transcript:
KATIE COURIC: Meanwhile, earlier this week, the two clashed over Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's support for Obama. Obama ultimately rejected it. Tonight, another candidate and a new endorsement controversy. Here's Jeff Greenfield.
JEFF GREENFIELD: Today it was Republican front-runner John McCain’s turn to answer questions about one of his supporters, Reverend John Hagee, a San Antonio pastor with a worldwide broadcast ministry. Hagee has offered some highly provocative views on a variety of subjects, for instance linking Hurricane Katrina to the gay rights movement.
Reverend JOHN HAGEE: (From NPR broadcast) All of the city was punished because of the sin that happened there in that city.
GREENFIELD: He has also denounced the Roman Catholic Church as the great whore of Babylon and as a cult. He blames it for the Holocaust and predicts its imminent demise.
Rev. HAGEE: This is the apostate church. This false religious system is going to be totally devoured by the Antichrist.
GREENFIELD: In a statement, Catholics United said, "We hope Senator McCain will take the principled position of publicly and unequivocally distancing himself from Pastor Hagee's anti-Catholic comments." And from the Catholic League's Bill Donahue:
BILL DONOHUE: John McCain better get the message and cut loose his ties from this man!
GREENFIELD: Today Senator McCain offered some carefully measured words.
JOHN McCAIN: I don't have to agree with everyone who endorses my candidacy. They are supporting my candidacy; I am not endorsing some of their positions.
GREENFIELD: The question, though, is whether Pastor Hagee's view on the Catholic Church constitutes a position or a view that presumptive Republican nominee has to address head on. This dust-up may also make it a lot harder for, Katie, for Republicans to criticize Obama for some of his more controversial supporters.
NBC offered half of a David Gregory story on the March 3 Nightly News:
GREGORY: But McCain is now in the firing line as well. Today he faced questions about the endorsement of Texas televangelist John Hagee. Social conservatives are a key GOP voting block, but some of the televangelist's public remarks have offended Catholics.
McCAIN: It’s pretty obvious that you get a lot of endorsements in a political campaign. That does not mean I embrace the views of the people who endorse me.
GREGORY: Today Hagee denied being anti-Catholic.
No McCain endorsement from feminist author and Hillary Clinton supporter Gloria Steinem, who belittled McCain's ordeal as a prisoner of war during Vietnam during a Clinton campaign event in Texas. She was quoted by New York newspapers saying, "This is supposed to be a qualification to be president?" The Clinton team later disavowed Steinem's remarks.
McCain is now looking for a knockout blow against Mike Huckabee tomorrow, giving him the chance to battle the Democrats full time. David Gregory, NBC News.
McCain satisfied the Catholic League that he had rejected Hagee's whore-of-Babylon wheezing.