Back in 1994 H. R. Haldeman published his White House diaries in which he revealed a conversation between the Rev. Billy Graham and President Nixon that took place in 1972 about how to deal with the problem of the “satanic Jews” whom Graham felt maintained a “total Jewish domination of the media.” This allegation was completely at odds with the public image America had of Billy Graham and, as would be expected, Graham quickly denounced and denied the statements as outright lies saying, “Those are not my words. I have never talked publicly or privately about the Jewish people, including conversations with President Nixon, except in the most positive terms.”
Flash forward to March 1st of this year and the most recently released Nixon tapes which covered the first six months of 1972. Who’s voice can be heard ranting about the Jewish control of the media? Why, the Rev. Billy Graham’s! Now 83 years old and in failing health, Graham probably didn’t expect to live long enough to have to face up to his previous antisemitic comments. Naturally this man of God, who has come as close as any to being the spiritual leader of America, immediately admitted his failings and his narrow-mindedness and asked for forgiveness for the trust he violated both in the Jewish community and the public at large, right? Right?!?
Don’t be stupid. Of course he didn’t. What he did instead was release a 4 sentence non-apology that neither acknowledged his making the statements at all as well as claiming he had no memory of such a conversation ever happening in the first place. Needless to say, the various Jewish organizations that once counted him as an ally are pissed. And who can blame them in light of statements like:
“I go and I keep friends with Mr. Rosenthal at The New York Times and people of that sort, you know. And all I mean, not all the Jews, but a lot of the Jews are great friends of mine, they swarm around me and are friendly to me because they know that I’m friendly with Israel. But they don’t know how I really feel about what they are doing to this country. And I have no power, no way to handle them, but I would stand up if under proper circumstances.”
Which brings us to yesterday and one more attempt by Graham to issue a slightly more substantial apology to head off the brewing firestorm. “I don’t ever recall having those feelings about any group, especially the Jews, and I certainly do not have them now. My remarks did not reflect my love for the Jewish people. I humbly ask the Jewish community to reflect on my actions on behalf of Jews over the years that contradict my words in the Oval Office that day.” Not exactly a ringing admission of guilt or repentance.
So, what lessons can we take away from all of this? From where I’m standing either Billy Graham was lying on that day back in 1972 and was merely spouting off what he thought the President wanted to hear in order to curry his favor or he’s lying now to try and save his reputation. You might claim he really did feel that way back in 1972, but had a change of heart. If that’s true then why not admit that as being the case instead of lying that he can’t recall the conversation or ever feeling that way about anyone? With the way he’s handling it now he ends up looking like a major hypocrite. His supporters have come out of the woodwork to offer all manner of flimsy rationalizations about the comments he made back in 1972. Stupid stuff like the idea that Mr. Graham was referring throughout his conversation only to those few Jews he considered unethical for distributing pornography. These excuses are piss-poor justifications for the comments Mr. Graham made in 1972 and do little to give the public any good reason to trust anything Graham has ever said. Instead of using the opportunity to admit to his past sins and try to make amends for them, he did what a lot of Christian fundamentalists do when caught with their pants down and try to claim the events never happened even in the face of undeniable proof.