Focus on the documented message

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 25, 2002

The stupid statement Evangelist Billy Graham made 30 years ago to a vile President Richard Nixon about Jewish "control" of the news media was properly reported by the media.

Monday, March 25, 2002

The stupid statement Evangelist Billy Graham made 30 years ago to a vile President Richard Nixon about Jewish "control" of the news media was properly reported by the media.

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It was proper reporting, because it was in fact news. Reporting news is one thing; comment is another. Caught in the awkward but heady euphoria of a private meeting with a president, Billy Graham allowed himself to be sucked into parroting Nixon’s prejudice despite Graham’s actual theology and ethics and his documented statements since.

Part of a systematic program of making available to the public previously confidential government records, the National Archives recently released another group of tapes from hidden recorders in the Oval Office. It was not only Nixon but also Graham whose voices were caught by the tape recorder, and the media has a responsibility to report anything significant in them – however embarrassing it is now and, as another matter, however contrary to present thinking.

It is too late to hold Nixon – he who was, mind you, elected by a majority of American voters – to account. Now, it is altogether appropriate that Graham should be called to account for his unacceptable remarks. Whenever we call a person to account, it becomes our obligation to listen to the account given.

This isn’t happening in every case.

The recorded remarks are historic fact, but therefore it must be commented upon within historic context. Many opinion pieces by some in the media and, even less inexcusable, by some Jewish spokesmen deny this context and attempt to make something of the remarks that is not there and never was.

Graham did not deny making the remarks, and initially said he does not recall them. At this point in his experienced and matured life and ministry, I should think he found it exceedingly difficult to imagine he could have said such a foolish thing. It probably wasn’t what he actually believed then, and it certainly isn’t what he has been saying ever since.

How many of the people now condemning Graham are certain that 30 years ago they did not say anything that would now embarrass them. If there should be nothing, it would mean such a person hasn’t grown very much in three decades. Some of his most intemperate critics haven’t even lived for 30 years to know how much their thinking might develop.

It was important to Graham’s ministry to address a president, and he was deeply grateful for the opportunity. Any of us, in such a situation, would bend over backward to be as accommodating to our impressive host as possible. And if we are sufficiently courageous to think back, we will recall any number of such occasions. (Just think of the stupid things advertisers get people to say about their products when they tell them it will be used in a television commercial.)

This wasn’t the first time Graham embarrassed himself before a president. In 1950, when he was but 31, he let photographers talk him into taking his picture kneeling on the White House lawn praying for Harry Truman with whom he had just met.

Graham began his 1997 autobiography, Just As I Am, with confessing the foolish inappropriateness of this grandstanding act. He frankly stated it to be one of the most indiscreet things he had ever done. Now, he has been reminded of another, but he has confessed and apologized for this as well.

When the news media do more than report history as news and try to construct politically upon a past event and disregard everything since, they betray themselves as pandering to unprofessional sensationalism. When Jewish spokesmen seek to paint this as characteristic of Graham or evangelical Christianity, they construct an anti-Christian stereotype as intolerable as the anti-Semitism with which these charge evangelicals.

Billy Graham has not only apologized but repudiated a very old foolish remark. Let’s now focus on his documented and accredited message of peace with God, which is the beginning of world peace among man.