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Quote of the Day: What Billy Graham Said About the Jews and Then Lied About It

billy graham 1951
Billy Graham, 1951

President Richard Nixon recorded Evangelical evangelist Billy Graham saying the following about Jews:

They’re [Jews] the ones putting out the pornographic stuff. The Jewish stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain.

I go and I keep friends with Mr. Rosenthal (A.M. Rosenthal) at The New York Times and people of that sort, you know. And all — I mean, not all the Jews, but a lot of the Jews are great friends of mine, they swarm around me and are friendly to me because they know that I’m friendly with Israel. But they don’t know how I really feel about what they are doing to this country. And I have no power, no way to handle them, but I would stand up if under proper circumstances.

Graham lied about the quote, saying:

Those are not my words. I have never talked publicly or privately about the Jewish people, including conversations with President Nixon, except in the most positive terms. (May 1994)

After the Nixon/Watergate tapes were revealed, Graham was forced to confront his antisemitism. In 2002, Graham stated:

I don’t ever recall having those feelings about any group, especially the Jews, and I certainly do not have them now. 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.

I, for one, tend to believe what people say the first time. Graham’s apology was a CYA moment. He knew that he would lose Evangelical support if his true feelings about Jews were known. Evangelicals love the Jews, even though their Bible says God plans to slaughter them during the Great Tribulation.

These quotes should put an end to post such as this one from Charisma, How Billy Graham Avoided Scandal His Entire Life. He didn’t, as this post makes abundantly clear.

Quotes from the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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27 Comments

  1. Avatar
    dale m

    We shouldn’t have to fear these people. They have, in reality, no real god to protect them, despite their belief. It’s only in our failure to prepare ourselves against their animosity that we fail ourselves. Take them at face value? I don’t see any real resistance to them. I see only words. And they have little circulation. We’re like the Jews in 1930s Germany. Wrong nation. Wrong place. Wrong time.

  2. Avatar
    Dave

    Billy Graham also said Jesus would return in his lifetime. Whoops. By the way Pat Robertson recently stated that the Holy Spirit will intervene January 6 and give Donald Trump the election win. I guess it won’t take long to give this one a whoops. By the way Kenneth Copeland claimed defeat of Covid 19 last spring. Whoops. Etc Etc

  3. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    I don’t think evangelicals really love Jewish people – evangelicals love Israel because of their eschatology, and evangelicals know they aren’t really supposed to mess with Jews because God promises to curse those who curse “his people”, but evangelicals think Jews are going to hell and that Christians are “grafted onto the vine” of those favored by God aka his chosen people. Or at least that’s what I picked up un evangelicalism so that may not be an overall representation.

  4. Avatar
    Troy

    Billy Graham was a product of his time and region. I’m a bit impressed that he was as decent as he was, though he and his family won’t be going on camel back through any needle eyes.
    His children in the ministry are deplorable though.
    Interesting, from the Bible the prophets would call out the king when the king was in the wrong. But Franklin can only sing the praises of Trump.

  5. Avatar
    amy b

    Ugh, Billy Graham was a mediocre preacher and a shill for the dominionists who used him to gain influence and power in this country. I was pretty pissed off at the lavish funeral he was given.

    Of course, it’s ok to be anti-Semitic if your preaching gives unequivocal legitimacy to the colonial settler state of Israel. I’ve always loved (/s) how he called the ancient Israelites “Israelis”. The man really wasn’t all that bright, and he might have been marginally more decent than his kids, but who raised them??

    ETA: “And I have no power, no way to handle them, but I would stand up if under proper circumstances.” What the heck does that mean? How would he have handled them, and under what circumstances? The only thing that needs “handling” is the Zionist lobby, and dog knows he had no objections to THEM.

  6. Avatar
    Joseph Cohen

    Naturally, the bias in you forces you to assume that Billy Graham lied. Judging from all the evidence we have from his actions and those who knew him, he was most probably not lying. Also, he was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease at the time, which can cause severe memory loss, and how is he going to remember a private conversation from over twenty years ago? Another thing you need to realize is that everyone is a sinner, which Billy Graham said hundreds upon hundreds of times when he preached. He once said that he didn’t like how the newspapers portrayed him to be a saint because he was a sinner.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      What biases? All I did was quote Graham’s words.

      It seems you are looking for an “excuse” to justify Graham’s behavior. Graham was still actively preaching when he said these words (both times). Seemed pretty sharp to me. Sure, he could have forgotten his words, but I suspect that this wasn’t the only time Graham expressed his opinions about “Jews. “ (Which was/is a common opinion among Evangelicals.)

      Do you have any actual evidence that proves your assertion that it was Parkinson’s that caused Graham not to remember what he said? I already know the answer is no.

      Further, “judging from all the evidence.” What evidence? At best, you have the words of people who have a vested interest in protecting Graham’s “legacy.” How much can any of us know about anyone? Unless you think Graham was some sort of demigod, we should assume he was a normal, frail human being like the rest of us. After all, you admitted Graham was a sinner, right?

      For the record, I am not a sinner. Sin is a religious construct used by religions to cause guilt and fear.

      • Avatar
        Joseph Cohen

        I never justified Billy’s anti-Semitic comments, I fully acknowledge that his comments were vile but I also fully accept that he was genuinely repentant after the tapes were released. I don’t view Billy as a demigod but a fallible human like the rest of us, but what I have a huge problem with is how you’re trying to paint him out as a liar and fraud, which is false. Once again, I will repeat: Billy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1989 (five years before the anti-Semitic claims came out) and this causes memory loss. Billy’s Parkinson’s was so bad that in 2006 (four years after the tapes came out), he struggled to remember Psalm 23, one of the most memorable passages of the Bible. How is he going to remember a private conversation that he had over twenty years ago? You suspect this isn’t the only time Billy expressed anti-Semitic views? Please provide evidence instead of assumptions. Also, actions speak louder than words. Billy’s love of the Jews was proven through his numerous attempts to build bridges between them and the Christians.

        I love how you just dismissed the people I used to defend Billy as people wanting to protect his legacy, once again showing your bias and desperate need to jump to conclusions. The people I used were people who knew him personally and had enormous respect for him. Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, who wrote The Preacher and the Presidents, asked Billy about the conversation and they said that his shame was obvious, and he also confessed to his sycophancy, and many people had lapses in character when around President Nixon, who was noted not only for his anti-Semitism but his strong presence and authority in a room, and it’s not easy to disagree with the President. Rabbi A. James Rudin had a private conversation with Billy after his 2002 New York City crusade and said that he expressed deep personal remorse and asked him to convey his sincere apologies to the entire Jewish community. I suppose that everyone who is friends with Billy Graham is just lying for him, then I suppose the same is for Johnny Depp’s friends with the trial of him and Amber Heard.

        Billy even went to meet with the Jewish leaders and told them that if he could crawl to them for forgiveness then he would, and he’d hardly lie about it as they’d immediately call him out. You used Christopher Hitchens, who never knew Billy personally and would’ve wanted to just play up to his fans by picking on a famous religious person, or maybe get more money and attention by lying about his “secret” anti-Semitism because that’s what journalists are known to do, and because Hitchens didn’t believe in Hell there was nothing that could stop him. And for the record, everyone is a sinner, we all do bad things, whether you call them “sins” as we Christians do or not, we all do bad things, and it’s a good thing that God provided a way out through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.

          • Avatar
            Joseph Cohen

            We sinned, we deserved Hell, but God loved us enough to send Christ to graciously live a perfect life in our place and then take our punishment because He loved us that much. Christ’s death fulfills the required penalty for sin.

          • Avatar
            Astreja

            Joseph, you’ve probably gotten the customary Bruce Almighty boot out the door already and will not be able to respond to this, but here’s something that you need to think about.

            No one in the entirety of space-time “deserves” hell. No. Fucking. Exceptions. Infinite punishment for the crimes of a finite lifetime is infinitely unjust, and any god that would do such a thing is a being of infinite evil.

            Why do you worship an evil god, Joseph? What kind of phony, emotionally manipulative “love” is it when your god supposedly lets billions of people suffer in Hell when it could simply forgive them without any sacrifice at all?

            You may be comfortable living with an irreparably broken moral compass. I am not. I reject the Passover long weekend “sacrifice” of Jesus unconditionally, because I do not consent to anyone dying in my stead. Good day sirrah. (slams door in Joseph’s face)

          • Avatar
            Joseph Cohen

            Is this another child that I’m having to deal with? Probably because of the overly childish attitude.

            Rest of comment deleted.

      • Avatar
        Joseph Cohen

        For the last time, I did not justify his behavior. I agree that his comments in President Nixon’s office were awful, but I accept that he was genuinely repentant based on his profuse public apologies, his actions towards the Jews throughout his ministry and the testimonies of those who knew him. I protect his image because you are trying to tarnish it with false claims, which I have debunked.

        • Avatar
          Bruce Gerencser

          Sigh, again.

          Your Parkinson’s explanation— for which you provide no evidence — to justify Graham’s lie is what I’m talking about. I’m sure he was repentant, but only after backed into a corner. His view on Jews was and still is quite common among Evangelicals.

          You haven’t debunked anything. You are a Graham fanboy. Every comment you have left on this site is in defense of Billy Graham. I quoted his words and then concluded that Graham lied. You disagree with me despite the evidence. Why? Graham’s image must be protected at all costs. I’ve seen similar behavior from John Piper’s acolytes, Jack Hyles’ followers, CT Townsend’s fanboys, and others. What common trait do they all have? They refuse to see what is right in front of them.

          I have no doubt Graham made amends for what he said. What his motivation was for doing so remains unknown. Graham had millions of dollars 💵 of reasons to clean up his mess.

          As an aside, we can look at Graham’s children and catch a glimpse of the man. This is true for all of us. Franklin and Anne have said all sorts of shit over the years, yet Billy never said a word. Both continued to work for the Graham kingdom. This speaks volumes to me.

          • Avatar
            Joseph Cohen

            Oh, you’re back again. I debunked everything that you said about Billy and I protect his image from people like you who spread false claims about him. You quote his words and then jumped to conclusions saying that he lied, and I provided evidence that his Parkinson’s disease that he received in 1989 affected his memory as shown in the case of him forgetting Psalm 23 and very likely caused him to forget a private conversation that he had over twenty years prior to that, and that combined with the testimonies of those who knew him saying that he was a genuine man and his positive actions towards building bridges between Jews and Christians. You cherry pick your so-called evidence. I disagree with you because you have nothing but assumptions. Billy was repentant not because he was backed into a corner but because he was genuinely sorry, and according to the three people I mentioned previously, he was truly sorry, and the Jewish leaders could certainly vouch for him. Billy admitted to his sycophancy and apologized profusely both publicly and privately. Exactly what have Franklin and Anne said that is so wrong? They haven’t said anything wrong as far as I’m concerned, and that means Billy had no reason to step in and put a stop to it.

          • Avatar
            Bruce Gerencser

            Sigh, again, and again. All you are doing is repeating yourself.

            You assume that because he forgot Psalm 23, he forgot what he said to Nixon. Again, you provide no evidence for your claim. You are using a Parkinson’s diagnosis as a CYA for Graham. As someone with increasing memory problems, I can tell you that there are good and bad days, days when my memory is sharp and days when it is not (especially my short-term memory). You are trying to use an anecdotal story to prove Graham had memory loss all along. This won’t fly on this site. His other behavior during this period of time (preaching, writing, managing an empire) suggests his memory wasn’t as bad as you allege.

            I am not going to get into it with you about Franklin and Anne. Their bigoted, homophobic words speak for themselves. Do a web search. The evidence you seek is there for all to see. Of course, I suspect, you agree with them.

            This is my last comment. I will give you one last comment too. Say your piece, Joseph, then it is time for you to move on.

            All praise be to Loki.

            Bruce

          • Avatar
            Joseph Cohen

            You’re incredibly ignorant you are. I have to keep repeating myself because of your incredible ignorance. I have read what Franklin and Anne said and nothing about them screams homophobia or anything like you suggest. Billy had Parkinson’s disease in 1989, one of the symptoms of that is memory loss, and he could very easily forget a private conversation that he had over twenty years ago, and he was not a liar or a fraud according to those closest to him, and he did suffer memory loss in his life, so with all these facts combined we can see that he was not lying like you falsely assumed. It’s very likely for Billy Graham, an honest man with memory loss brought on from Parkinson’s disease, to forget a private conversation that he had over twenty years ago. This stuff will fly on your website as it should because you promote the same old garbage.

          • Avatar
            Bruce Gerencser

            “You’re incredibly ignorant you are. I have to keep repeating myself because of your incredible ignorance.”

            Spoken like a true Fundamentalist who refuses to accept any challenges to his beliefs. I heard every word you said — three times. I reject your claims because they are based upon opinions, not facts. You claim that Graham lied due to having Parkinson’s. You have provided no empirical evidence for your claim. None, just assumptions and opinions. Everything in the story suggests Graham made antisemitic comments to Nixon, and when asked about it he lied. It was only when the recordings were made public that Graham apologized. We know he apologized, but we don’t know his motivation for doing so. You view him as some sort of demigod, I don’t. Using Occam’s razor, it is clear to me that Graham lied and only made things right after being called out on it. Could he have forgotten? Sure, but no evidence has been provided for this claim. All I hear are CYA excuses meant to protect the virgin reputation of Graham. When you have actual evidence for your claims, let me know. I’m confident no evidence will be forthcoming.

            All Praise be to Loki.

            Bruce

      • Avatar
        Joseph Cohen

        “He did not spin it. He did not try to justify it. He said repeatedly he had done wrong, and he was sorry.”
        — Grant Wacker, historian and author of America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation

        “That conversation was indeed vile, and since it was disclosed in 2002, Graham has apologized repeatedly for his part in it. When we asked Graham about the conversation, his shame was obvious, and he confessed to the other fault at work that day — his sycophancy, the courtier’s habit of trying to win favor with the king by embracing even his most odious ideas.”
        — Nancy Gibbs (historian) and Michael Duffy, authors of The Preacher and the Presidents

        “There’s not an anti-Semitic bone in his body.”
        — Lewis Drummond, Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth at Samford University

        Another biographer, William Martin of Rice University, suggested that Mr. Graham was thinking only of liberal Jews with whom he disagreed politically.

        • Avatar
          Bruce Gerencser

          You seem to think I don’t know the “bent” of these authors, especially Lewis Drummond.

          I accept that Graham felt “sorry” and apologized. I have never said otherwise. My objection is to your claim that his lie was due to Parkinson’s. You have provided no evidence for this claim. None. Just assertion and speculation, all in an attempt to avoid the obvious — Graham lied. And that’s no big deal. We ALL lie.

          Graham makes no mention of having Parkinson’s in 2002, and the best I can ascertain, he did not apologize for lying in 1994.

          I am of the opinion that people say what they mean. Graham didn’t make a mistake. His words reflected what he actually believed at the time. Good on him for abandoning his anti-Semitic views. Too bad he died believing they would all be slaughtered in the Tribulation (a little-known secret Evangelicals don’t mention when waving the flag of Israel and blowing the Shofar).

          Graham was a man of his times; an Evangelical man with awful beliefs and questionable techniques. Instead of seeing the man for what he is, the Joseph Cohens of the world are hell-bent on “protecting” Graham’s legacy. To that I say, what legacy? Does Cohen really want to have that discussion? I fear discussions about Graham are much like discussions about Mother Teresa. Once a person is deified, it is almost impossible to see them as they are. (Trump supporters or people who deny MLK’s gross immorality are examples of this.)

          • Avatar
            Joseph Cohen

            And don’t delete my comments like you did earlier, childishly calling them masturbatory.

            Comment deleted.

      • Avatar
        Troy

        I rather doubt Billy Graham was lying when he said he didn’t remember his anti-Semitic remarks. It doesn’t even really need a Parkinson excuse, it is just memory is not that perfect. On several vacations I’ve made dash cam videos of our conversations in the car. Go back and listen to them and I don’t remember making that exact conversation.

  7. Avatar
    Brocken

    https://www.ajc.org/news/ajc-questions-papal-decree-to-canonize-polish-cardinal-hlond This is my probably comparing apples and oranges, or my not being able to really think of a good way of saying it, but here goes. I’m sure that Billy Graham made many hidden, behind closed doors Anti-Semitic statements. That is pretty bad behavior. What may be more dangerous is someone blatantly out in the open making Anti-Semitic statements especially some clergyperson in a high position of authority. One such character was Cardinal August Hlond of Poland. The Cardinal argued for boycotting Jewish businesses in Poland in 1936. After world war two ended there was still some dislike by the Polish Gentiles of the remaining Jewish population that had escaped being murdered by the German occupiers of Poland after the Germans had conquered Poland in 1939. After the Soviet Union had pushed the German Military out of Poland and the Soviet Union set up a puppet state in Poland, some of the Polish Gentiles resented their new overlords. If they could not strike back at their Soviet overlords and their Polish collaborators, they could always take their bitterness out on their Jewish neighbors. It did not help matters that some Poles still at that time believed the ritual murder myth that the Jews would kill Gentile Children and use their blood to perform Jewish religious rituals.https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/the-kielce-pogrom-a-blood-libel-massacre-of-holocaust-survivors After the Kielce pogrom of 1946 this Cardinal August Hlond blamed the massacre on the Jewish victims all being communists.

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Bruce Gerencser