During a press conference at the 2007 Christians United for Israel Washington-Israel Summit, I asked CUFI Executive Director Pastor John Hagee about passages in his book "Jerusalem Countdown" in which he appeared to blame Jews for their own persecution. Hagee was visibly piqued by my question, insisting that his statements were directly inspired by the Book of Deuteronomy. When I attempted to ask Hagee a follow-up question, a public relations agent, Kara Silverman, a former intern for AIPAC, cut me off.
Moments later, a team of off-duty DC police officers hired by CUFI surrounded my co-producer and I and demanded that we immediately leave the conference, threatening us with arrest if refused to comply. You can view my exchange with Hagee and the ensuing fracas at 7:45 of my video report on CUFI's summit, "Rapture Ready":
For nearly two years, a handful of independent journalists and I have raised the alarm about Hagee's long record of anti-Semitic statements. Until now, our reporting has been largely ignored by the mainstream press and the politicians who have clamored for Hagee's support. The supposedly "pro-Israel" groups that have joined with Hagee in support of Israeli military aggression, providing him with much-needed moral cover in the process, have also turned a blind eye to the pastor's Judeophobic tendencies.
Michelle Goldberg was, as far as I know, the first journalist to point out Hagee's Holocaust apologia, exposing his now-infamous "Hitler was a hunter" statement in a piece for the Huffington Post in November 2006. When AIPAC invited Hagee to headline its annual conference in March 2007, I noted Hagee's repugnant views on the Holocaust and his record of anti-Semitic remarks in a Huffington Post article entitled, "AIPAC Cheers an Anti-Semitic Holocaust Revisionist (and Abe Foxman Approves)."
Though this disturbing information was widely disseminated, and was accessible simply by Googling Hagee's name, the John McCain campaign courted Hagee's endorsement, and ultimately accepted it in a highly publicized ceremony three months ago.
Now, thanks to the work of the tenacious researcher Bruce Wilson, (see Bruce's video here) the website Talk2Action, and a massive push by the liberal blogosphere, the McCain campaign has been forced to cut ties with its most influential Christian right supporter. But McCain's reversal on Hagee's endorsement does not in any way signal that Hagee will suddenly recede from politics, or that the pastor's influence in Washington will wane. In fact, Hagee still maintains a close relationship with one of McCain's key political allies, a turncoat senator who is likely to become his secretary of defense if he is elected president: Joseph Lieberman.
During a banquet at CUFI's 2007 convention, I watched with astonishment as Lieberman strode to the stage, then compared Hagee to Moses (watch Lieberman's remarks at 5:30 of my video) "I want to take to opportunity to describe Pastor Hagee in the terms the Torah used to describe Moses," Lieberman declared. "He is an Ish Elohim. A man of God. And those words really do fit him. And I have something else," the senator continued. "Like Moses, he's become the leader of a mighty multitude. Even greater than the multitude that Moses led from Egypt to the Promised Land."
Was Lieberman aware at the time of Hagee's statements about Jews and the Holocaust? I don't know. But with McCain's tacit acknowledgment of Hagee's anti-Semitism, Lieberman must now decide: is Hagee a man of God, or just a mamzer?
Update: A friend just sent me Lieberman's defense of Hagee during a 5/13/08 Fox News segment:
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, look, I think that the DNC is obviously doing this because they set Pastor Hagee as some kind of response to Reverend Wright for Senator Obama. But I don't think that's fair in the basic way that everybody's already said which is that John McCain never went to Pastor Hagee's church. He accepted his endorsement. He represents a lot of people in this country, particularly Christians who care about the state of Israel. He founded a group called Christians United for Israel.
And statements that were brought out that he had made about the Catholic Church were a total surprise to me. I know to Senator McCain they were obviously reprehensible. And I give Pastor Hagee a lot of credit for just plain apologizing. And I must say there's a difference because Reverend Wright never did apologize. He just restated the objectionable and reprehensible things he had said.
Correction: I misidentified Kara Silverman as Alison Silverman and incorrectly stated that she was the former assistant communications director for AIPAC. She was an intern for AIPAC.