Senator John McCain made efforts on Friday to do more than just distance himself from the anti-Catholic teachings of John Hagee by repudiating any comments made by the well known televangelist.
In an interview with the Associated Press the Republican presidential candidate said, "We've had a dignified campaign, and I repudiate any comments that are made, including Pastor Hagee's, if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics”.
McCain also brought up the fact that he sent his children to Catholic schools as proof of his acceptance of Catholics. "I sent two of my children to Catholic school. I categorically reject and repudiate any statement that was made that was anti-Catholic, both in intent and nature. I categorically reject it, and I repudiate it," McCain said.
He also tried to strike a conciliatory tone for his campaign by saying, "we can't have that in this campaign. We're trying to unite the country. We're uniting the country, not dividing it."
McCain started to take flak when televangelist John Hagee endorsed him on Feb. 27, but until Friday, his response was simply that he doesn't agree with everyone who endorses him. At the time of the endorsement, Senator McCain called Hagee “the staunchest leader of our Christian evangelical movement,” and praised his pro-Israel stance.
This embrace of Hagee’s backing provoked Bill Donahue of the Catholic League to point out the pastor’s anti-Catholic beliefs. “Indeed, for the past few decades, he has waged an unrelenting war against the Catholic Church, said Donahue. “For example, he likes calling it ‘The Great Whore,’ an ‘apostate church,’ the ‘anti-Christ,’ and a ‘false cult system’,” he pointed out.
The senator’s acceptance riled other Catholics besides Donahue, and according to McCain he had been hearing from Catholic supporters that they find Hagee’s teachings offensive.
Hagee's endorsement had been intended to bolster McCain's support among evangelical Christians, many of whom distrust McCain for some of his more moderate views and his willingness to work with Democrats.