Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., this afternoon rejected the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee after a sermon was publicized in which Hagen suggested Adolph Hitler and the Holocaust were caused by God so as to bring about the creation of the state of Israel.
A source close to McCain told ABC News the Arizona senator thinks these sentiments are crazy, and that back in February when the campaign accepted Hagee's endorsement, no one on the campaign, and certainly not McCain, had any idea that Hagee believed these types of things.
“Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them," McCain said in a statement. "I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee's endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well."
Hagee had quoted the book of Jeremiah saying, "Behold I will bring them the Jewish people again unto their land that I gave unto their fathers. Behold I will send for many fishers and after will I send for many hunters. And they the hunters shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and from out of the holes of the rocks."
Hagee suggested that Hitler as a hunter, and as a result of the Holocaust, Jews had been brought back to the land God gave unto their fathers.
McCain tried to make sure voters did not see his Hagee issue in the same light as the controversy involving Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, and his controversial former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
"I have said I do not believe Senator Obama shares Reverend Wright's extreme views," McCain said. "But let me also be clear, Reverend Hagee was not and is not my pastor or spiritual advisor, and I did not attend his church for twenty years. I have denounced statements he made immediately upon learning of them, as I do again today."
Immediately upon receiving Hagee's endorsement in February in San Antonio, McCain was asked if he shared Hagee's "End of Days" views of Armageddon. McCain said he was not aware of them. And as days past, McCain found himself increasingly under fire for other Hagee views, particularly about Catholics. As months progressed, McCain tried to distance himself from Hagee's comments, then he condemned them, then he said Hagee had not been properly vetted.
Hagee issued a statement this afternoon saying that ever since he endorsed McCain, "people seeking to attack Senator McCain have combed my records for statements they can use for political gain. They have had no qualms about grossly misrepresenting my position on issues most near and dear to my heart if it serves their political ambitions. I am tired of these baseless attacks and fear that they have become a distraction in what should be a national debate about important issues."
Hagee then suggested that rather than McCain having rejected his endorsement, he had taken it back. "I have therefore decided to withdraw my endorsement of Senator McCain for President effective today, and to remove myself from any active role in the 2008 campaign," Hagee said. "I hope that the Senator McCain will accept this withdrawal so that he may focus on the issues that are most important to America and the world."
A fuller excerpt of the sermon is as follows:
HAGEE: "Again he said unto me “Prophesy unto these bones, and say unto them, ‘O you dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!' And he spoke to them and they stood and they became an exceeding great army - meaning they physically came to life.
"Now how is God going to bring them back to the land? The answer is fishers and hunters. The answer is given in Jeremiah 16, verse 15 and following.
"God says in Jeremiah 16 - 'Behold I will bring them the Jewish people again unto their land that I gave unto their fathers' - that would be Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - 'behold I will send for many fishers and after will I send for many hunters. And they the hunters shall hunt them' - that will be the Jews - 'from every mountain and from every hill and from out of the holes of the rocks.'
"If that doesn't describe what Hitler did in the Holocaust, you can't see that.
"So think about this - I will send fishers and I will send hunters. A fisher is someone who entices you with a bait. How many of you know who Theodore Herzl was? How many of you don't have a clue who he was? Whooo. Sweet God! Theodore Herzl is the father of Zionism. He was a Jew that at the turn of the 19th century said, 'This land is our land, God wants us to live there.' So he went to the Jews of Europe and said, 'I want you to come and join me in the land of Israel.'
"So few went, Herzl went into depression. Those who came founded Israel; those who did not went through the hell of the Holocaust.
"Then God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone who comes with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. And the Bible says - Jeremiah righty? - 'They shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and out of the holes of the rocks,' meaning: there's no place to hide. And that will be offensive to some people. Well, dear heart, be offended: I didn't write it. Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth.
"How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said, 'my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.' Today Israel is back in the land and they are at Ezekiel 37 and 8. They are physically alive but they're not spiritually alive. Now how is God going to cause the Jewish people to come spiritually alive and say, 'the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He is God'?"