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MSNBC Slanders John Hagee

1:14 PM, Sep 1, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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“Since I’ve known the pastor the last thirty years, every part of his life has been devoted to strengthening the Jewish people. Every fiber of his being is devoted to strengthening the Jewish people,” Scheinberg said, describing Hagee in an interview with me. “I feel he’s like a brother. And I’ve seen him probably more up close than most—his heart, and his soul, and his energy is devoted to strengthening the Jewish people and advocating for the state of Israel.”

Scheinberg blames politics for the smears. “I think, that type of nonsense is politically motivated, and it comes out of ignorance,” he said. “I do think it’s political mischief that’s bringing this up again.”

Referring directly to the passage that drew the harsh words from O’Donnell, Scheinberg showed sympathy for the ideas that Hagee was wrestling with at the time. “How could God be a part of such an evil? Hagee was taking a position that many rabbis have taken before him.”

Hagee is the founder of Christians United for Israel, the largest pro-Israel group in America with nearly three quarters of a million members. Additionally, John Hagee Ministries has given away over $50 million to Jewish and Israeli charities.

But for O’Donnell, casting Hagee as a Jew hater was only one element of the criticism—the pastor is allegedly anti-Catholic, too, according to the MSNBC host. From O’Donnell’s newscast:

He has said Catholicism is a false cult system—and that was just him warming up. That was just Hagee taking batting practice against Catholicism.

He has also said Catholicism is, quote, "a godless theology of hate."

O’Donnell does not reference his source material, and this particular quotation does not appear to be an indictment of the Catholic Church. It’s true that Hagee was previously known for not being too charitable to Catholics. But it’s also well known that Hagee has since been educated about Catholicism—and he now respects the faith.

Deal Hudson, president of the Catholic Advocate, explained to me that O’Donnell’s criticism is completely off the mark for this very reason.

“I talked for many, many hours with Pastor Hagee and have reviewed his work…I spent enough time with him,” Hudson said. “The man doesn’t have a hateful bone in his body, certainly not in respect to Catholics. He may not agree with Catholic theology in all respects, and I don’t agree with all of Hagee’s theology, but he is not anti-Catholic.”

The accusation of anti-Catholicism was most famously levied at Hagee after he became associated with 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain. The criticism of Hagee was used to hurt McCain politically with Catholic voters, much in the same way O’Donnell is suggesting that Perry’s associations with Hagee will hurt him now.

Yet, Hagee, to his great credit, learned from the criticism and reevaluated his beliefs. In part, these changes were brought about by conversations with Hudson and Bill Donahue.

“Well, I met with Pastor Hagee on a number of occasions,” Hudson said. “First, in the midst of the McCain campaign to discuss the press release of Bill Donahue of the Catholic League, asking for John McCain to reject the endorsement of Pastor Hagee.”

But Donahue and Hudson came to see a better side of Hagee and to retract the press release they issued that asked McCain to distance himself from Hagee. “[I] witnessed a powerful reconciliation between these powerful Christian leaders,” said Hudson. “While he thought he was relying on the facts [for his anti-Catholic sentiment], in fact, it was only half the story…and he got that right away.”

Since O’Donnell first made his comments about Hagee, Donahue has also come to the pastor’s defense.

“Let me set the record straight one more time: whatever issues I had with Pastor John Hagee were fully resolved once I received his May 12, 2008 letter expressing his ‘deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful,’” Donahue said in a statement. “Three days later, thanks to the intervention of Deal Hudson, Hagee came to my office seeking reconciliation. He succeeded. Christians understand the meaning of forgiveness. What we despise are attempts to keep people from reconciling. Moreover, Catholics get especially exercised when those who have never shown one iota of interest in condemning anti-Catholicism all of a sudden begin denouncing it.” 

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