Graham apologizes again for '72 remarks

First explanation's brevity angered Jewish groups

March 17, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

It seemed impossible, when H.R. Haldeman's White House diaries came out in 1994, that the Rev. Billy Graham could have joined with President Richard M. Nixon in discussing the "total Jewish domination of the media." Or that Graham could have said the nation's problem lies with "satanic Jews," as Haldeman recorded.

Graham's reputation as a healer and bridge-builder was so at odds with Haldeman's account that Jewish groups paid little attention, especially because he denied the remarks so strongly.

That was the end of the story, it seemed, until two weeks ago, when the tape of that 1972 conversation in the Oval Office was made public by the National Archives. Graham's voice is unmistakable on the tape, denigrating Jews in terms far stronger than the Haldeman accounts.

Graham quickly issued a four-sentence apology, but he did not acknowledge making the statements and said he had no memory of the conversation, which took place Feb. 1, 1972.

The brevity of the apology and Graham's refusal to discuss the matter further angered many of the Jewish groups that counted Graham as a friend among evangelical Christians. Some Jewish leaders suggested that Graham had hidden anti-Semitic views.

Yesterday, Graham's organization issued a longer apology, in which Graham acknowledged making the statements but repudiated them.

"I don't ever recall having those feelings about any group, especially the Jews, and I certainly do not have them now," he said. "My remarks did not reflect my love for the Jewish people. I humbly ask the Jewish community to reflect on my actions on behalf of Jews over the years that contradict my words in the Oval Office that day."

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