MSNBC Slanders John Hagee
1:14 PM, Sep 1, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
On his nightly television show recently, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell said that Texas governor Rick Perry is not suitable to be president of the United States because of his connection to one man — Pastor John Hagee of San Antonio, Texas.
Pastor John Hagee
“Because Rick Perry has invited Hagee to his prayer event, the idiotic governor of Texas now owns that Hagee quote,” O’Donnell said in reference to a sermon Hagee delivered more than a decade ago in which he explored the connection between the evils of the Holocaust and the notion that God is loving and omnipotent. “Rick Perry owns the idea that Hitler’s killing 6 million Jews was God’s idea,” O’Donnell continued.
The implication of O’Donnell’s words was clear: Hagee is an anti-Semite, a Jew hater—and Perry is guilty by association.
But for those who know Hagee, and for those who are themselves acutely aware of the evils of anti-Semitism, O’Donnell’s charge is simply not true.
“He surely is not an anti-Semite, from what I can tell,” Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel told me in a phone interview. “He loves the Jewish state and the Jewish people. From what I learned during those meetings [with Hagee], he is not an anti-Semite.”
“I have not heard him [say anything anti-Semitic]. Nobody has ever told me that,” Wiesel said.
In order to levy the serious accusation of anti-Semitism onto another person, Wiesel said, the burden of proof is high and lies with the accuser. “To charge or to accuse someone of anti-Semitism is a very serious charge. Anti-Semitism today means that somebody hates the Jewish people—for all the reasons that people in the past have hated the Jewish people. Someone should not accuse someone else of anti-Semitism unless he has exceptional research that shows that this man or woman is an anti-Semite.”
On O’Donnell’s MSNBC show, the host’s proof for Hagee’s alleged anti-Semitism was this lone passage, which Hagee delivered more than ten years ago:
Hagee himself has previously explained the sermon that he delivered in 1999. “[C]entral to my faith is a belief in an omnipotent, sovereign God,” Hagee wrote in a letter addressed to Anti-Defamation League national director Abe Foxman. “In a sermon in 1999, I grappled with the vexing question of why a loving God would allow the evil of the Holocaust to occur. I know how sensitive the issue of the Holocaust is and should be to the Jewish community and I regret if my Jewish friends felt any pain as a result.”
Foxman accepted Hagee’s apology and explanation. “Thank you for your letter clarifying your views on Jews and the Holocaust,” Foxman responded. “We are grateful that you have devoted your life to combating anti-Semitism and supporting the State of Israel. We wholeheartedly support your efforts to eradicate anti-Semitism, including its historic antecedents in the Christian community. We especially appreciate your extraordinary efforts to rally so many in the Christian community to stand with Israel.”
Even Wiesel, who has written numerous books about his own experience in the Holocaust, has wondered how an omnipotent and loving God could allow for the murder of 6 million Jews. “But I don’t understand how God was silent,” Wiesel says, acknowledging that it’s a serious theological question.
Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg, the orthodox Jewish rabbi in Hagee’s hometown of San Antonio, Texas, finds the notion “ludicrous” that one might consider the pastor an anti-Semite. “That’s old hat—they’re throwing that up at the pastor?” Scheinberg said when asked to respond to O’Donnell’s comments. “That’s ludicrous. I’ve seen his tears at Yad Vashem [Israel’s Holocaust memorial museum].”