STOCKTON, Calif. — Republican John McCain on Thursday rejected endorsements from two influential but controversial televangelists, saying there is no place for their incendiary criticisms of other faiths.
McCain rejected the months-old endorsement of Texas preacher John Hagee after an audio recording surfaced in which the preacher said God sent Adolf Hitler to help Jews reach the promised land. McCain called the comment “crazy and unacceptable.”
McCain issued a statement Thursday announcing his decision about Hagee.
“Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them,” he said.
“I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee’s endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well.”
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Later, in Stockton, he told reporters: “I just think that the statement is crazy and unacceptable.”
Then in an interview with The Associated Press, McCain said he rejected Parsley’s endorsement, as well.
“I believe there is no place for that kind of dialogue in America, and I believe that even though he endorsed me, and I didn’t endorse him, the fact is that I repudiate such talk, and I reject his endorsement,” McCain said.
Hagee had sparked controversy since the San Antonio pastor endorsed McCain on Feb. 27 shortly before the Texas presidential primary.
Parsley’s views were aired Thursday in an ABC News report.
McCain actively courted Hagee, who leads a megachurch with a congregation in the tens of thousands and has an even wider television audience.
Former GOP presidential rivals also sought Hagee’s backing.
Hagee has referred to the Roman Catholic Church as “the great whore” and called it a “false cult system.”
He also has linked Hitler to the Catholic church, suggesting it helped shape his anti-Semitism.
And Hagee said Hurricane Katrina was God’s retribution for homosexual sin.
McCain has faced a barrage of criticism over Hagee, with some comparing the situation to the controversy Democrat Barack Obama faced over the views of his longtime and now former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
McCain tried Thursday to draw a distinction between the Obama-Wright connection and his own relationships with Parsley and Hagee, saying Hagee was not his pastor.
“My church I attend is North Phoenix Baptist Church; my pastor and spiritual guide is Pastor Dan Yeary,” McCain said.
“I’ve never been to Pastor Hagee’s church or Pastor Parsley’s church. I didn’t attend their church for 20 years. I’m not a member of their church.”
Until now, McCain had tried to distance himself from Hagee’s views but had not rejected the endorsement.