Franklin Graham Defends Himself from Birtherism Charges by Engaging in… Birtherism

In an interview with Sarah Pulliam Bailey at Christianity Today, Franklin Graham defends himself from, among other things, his apparent admiration of Donald Trump’s birtherism on This Week.

Graham had told Christiane Amanpour, in reference to Trump, that “maybe the guy’s right” about Obama’s place of birth, a charge White House press secretary Jay Carney called “preposterous.”

Graham has long peddled in anti-Obama conspiracy theories, including the one about the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrating the government, and has called Islam an “evil and wicked religion.”

It only makes sense that the magazine Graham’s father founded would give him space to seem less. . . like a birther. But Graham does himself no favors. In the interview with Bailey, Graham insists that Trump might be right about other stuff, too, like the economy, and that he wasn’t necessarily referring to Trump’s birtherism. He insists that he was just answering Amanpour’s question and that “I’m not going out making speeches about where the President was born. I could care less.”

But then he does seem to care why Obama doesn’t just produce his birth certificate in a setting like a press conference. “I’m just saying, for me it looks like it’s a headache for the President,” Graham told Bailey, adding, “I’m just giving some advice to the President. Do yourself a favor. It’ll shut Donald Trump up.” (No, it won’t.) Graham continues, “I really don’t care where he was born. That’s not an issue. I’ve never made this an issue, never have.” When Bailey points out that Obama’s birthplace has, indeed, been established, and that even the Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land calls birtherism “flat nuts,” Graham offered up a word salad of a response that really must be quoted in full:

There are two issues. I do not believe for an instant that Obama is a Muslim. He has said he’s not a Muslim. I take him at his word. People say he’s not born in the United States. I take it on the word that they properly vetted him before they swore him into office. I’m sure somebody had to look at his credentials. I’m not saying the President is a Muslim, never said he’s a Muslim. He says he’s a Christian.

There is the issue of his birth. Under Shari’ah law, Islamic law, which is not legal in the United States, he was born a Muslim because his father is a Muslim. That’s why [Muammar al-Gaddafi] calls him “my son.” The President has renounced Islam. He says he believes in Jesus Christ. To the Muslim world that’s under Shari’ah law, which we’re not, they see him as a lost son. They see him as a wayward child. Shari’ah law is not legal in the United States. You cannot beat your wife. If you think your daughter has been immoral, you cannot kill her. Shari’ah law is the law of Islam and it is not recognized in this country.

Alrighty then. Bailey’s a good reporter, and I’m quite certain she must have transcribed that correctly. But wow, just wow — why couldn’t Graham just say, “Land’s right. Obama was born in the United States, and is a Christian” and be done with it? No. He’s got to throw in a little shari’ah, because, you know, no discussion of Obama’s religion would be complete without it. But as Hussein and many others have shown, years ago, Graham is just flat wrong about the business about Islamic law and Obama’s father. I’ll let Hussein’s 2008 post explain:

Although he [Obama] was born to a Muslim father, his father renounced his faith. To be a Muslim is not a legal status that is transmitted by birth, like Judaism is confirmed through the mother. A child can be raised as a Muslim, but still renounce the faith when she reaches the age of comprehension without penalty. To be a Muslim is a voluntary act that must be taken on with full knowledge of what is entailed. In this instance, Sen. Obama was not even raised as Muslim. He did not choose to leave the faith; he was never part of it. One can argue that his father was an apostate, but the son cannot be responsible for the acts of the father, that is “Muslim law as it universally understood.”

Despite his strenuous but not terribly successful efforts to “not care” about Obama’s birthplace or religion, Graham does make clear he thinks a U.S. president should be evangelical, and that Obama doesn’t fit the bill. To wit: “I would like to see one elected who is a true follower of Jesus Christ and not just by name,” and “The President’s support of gay and lesbian rights in this country—is that consistent with the teachings of the Word of God? . . . . If someone says they follow Jesus Christ, then why don’t they obey him?”

Graham then weighs in on the rest of the GOP field:

There are candidates out there other than who we have talked about who are very good people who I could support. Mike Huckabee is a great man. He is a preacher. No question this man is saved. I like Mike Huckabee a lot. You have Sarah Palin, who is a fine lady, who has great experience as governor, as a mayor, a very successful author, good family. Her husband is a man’s man. He is one tough guy. Her kids are nice. When they talk to you they look you in the eye. Sarah has some very good ideas that could help this nation. You do have Mitt Romney. I have been with Mitt Romney. I like the guy a lot. He’s a Mormon, but he is a smart business guy, a good man. Mormons have very strong families, and I appreciate that about him.

Then (again, in contravention of the entire discussion), Graham insists he’s “not going to get involved in the political process.” He can’t help it that he agrees to media interviews where he knows he’s going to be asked political questions, and he hasn’t prepared better answers than “he’s a Mormon, but . . .”

 

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email