Megachurch pastor John Hagee vowed this week at a pro-Israel conference to “never again” endorse a political candidate in reference to his fall-out with Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
"There have been a great many misrepresentations and a great deal of confusion sown," Hagee said to the thousands of Israel supporters gathered for the annual conference by Christians United for Israel on Tuesday night, according to the Jewish news service JTA.
After listing off a chain of “never agains,” the CUFI founder declared, "What will I say the next time I'm asked to endorse a presidential candidate? Never again."
The Texas megachurch pastor, best known for his staunch support of Israel, had endorsed McCain earlier this year but was rejected by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee after several controversies arose about Hagee’s theological beliefs.
A recording from the late 1990s surfaced in which the preacher suggested Adolf Hitler was part of God’s plan to force Jews to settle in the promised land. The Texas pastor was also criticized for his views on Roman Catholicism, including what some interpret as the pastor’s labeling the Catholic church as “the great whore.”
For months McCain weathered the controversy that went along with Hagee’s endorsement, saying that although he disagrees with the pastor’s views, that wouldn’t stop him from accepting his support. But McCain cut ties with the pastor after being confronted with Hagee’s view about Hitler and Israel.
The presidential candidate called the preacher’s comments “crazy and unacceptable” and rejected the endorsement, according to The Associated Press.
In defense of his statement, a hurt Hagee explained that the clips were taken out of context and that he was only offering a divine explanation for a terrible historic event.
But others, besides McCain, are seeking to distance themselves from the controversy-laden pastor.
A recent poll by pro-Israel organization J Street found 78 percent of the American Jews questioned do not support Jewish groups working with Hagee or other Christian organizations that believe Jews must control the Holy Land before Jesus can return.
The non-profit group, J Street, had urged Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), who is Jewish, to back out of his speaking engagement at CUFI’s “Night to Honor Israel.” But Lieberman was not persuaded and showed up at the event showering Hagee with praises.
Lieberman referenced the J Street petition during his speech, but said while he recognizes Hagee’s flaws the pastor’s good works outweighed his faults.
Sen. Lieberman, although refusing to repudiate Hagee, is also a vocal supporter of McCain.