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Anti-Semitism Of An American Icon


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It was one of those stories that forever change the way an important public figure is perceived. But if you rely for your news on any or even all of the New York dailies, you might have overlooked – or entirely missed – the disturbing revelation that the Rev. Billy Graham, while at the height of his fame and influence 30 years ago, uttered anti-Semitic slurs and stereotypes in the company of an all-too-pleased Richard Nixon.The story made a surprisingly small media splash in New York because the day after the latest batch of Nixon presidential tapes was made public last week, the city’s papers – the Times, the Post, the News and Newsday – all chose to carry short wire-service copy about an entirely different Nixon conversation, one in which the president is heard musing to Henry Kissinger on whether the U.S. might want to nuke North Vietnam.

Only after Graham, now 83 and in declining health, issued an apology (while at the same time claiming to “have no memory of the occasion”) did the local papers pick up on the story last weekend. Even then, though, the coverage was still muted and cursory.

It was the Chicago Tribune’s James Warren who first reported Graham’s shocking remarks, and the tone of Warren’s story made clear that he, at least, recognized a story with major historical implications. Graham, after all, has for decades been one of America’s most admired figures, a national icon, a man respected across the board for his seeming sincerity, rock-solid faith and openness to working with those whose beliefs differ from his own.

But a different side of Graham came to the fore during a 90-minute White House meeting he had with Nixon on Feb. 1, 1972. Graham was particularly exercised by what he saw as the “stranglehold” Jews maintained on the American media.

“This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain,” Graham intoned.

“You believe that?” asked Nixon.

“Yes, sir,” said Graham.

“Oh, boy,” Nixon responded. “So do I. I can’t ever say that but I believe it.”

“No,” Graham concurred, “but if you get elected a second time, then we might be able to do something about it.”

As Warren points out, the Graham-Nixon conversation was alluded to in the diaries of Nixon aide H.R. Haldeman, but it wasn’t until last week that the actual transcript, in all its damning detail, was released to the public.

Haldeman had written that Graham and Nixon voiced strong concern about Jewish control of the media, and that “Graham has the strong feeling that the Bible says there are Satanic Jews and there’s where our problem arises.” (That particular remark seems to have been excised from the tape, which contained a number of deletions.)

The subject of Jews and the media comes up on a tape when Graham mentions that he’d been invited to have lunch with Time magazine editors.

“You meet with all their editors, you better take your Jewish beanie,” Haldeman joked.

“Is that right?” Graham said, laughing. “I don’t know any of them now.”

Nixon then told Graham that he had heard from the executive producer of “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,” a popular television program at the time, that “11 of the 12 writers are Jewish.” Nixon also described Life, Newsweek, The New York Times and other leading news publications as being “totally dominated by the Jews.”

And Nixon added that while network news anchors Howard K. Smith, David Brinkley and Walter Cronkite were mere “front men who may not be of that persuasion,” their writers were “95 percent Jewish.”

“A lot of the Jews are great friends of mine,” said Graham a little later in the conversation. “They swarm around me and are friendly to me. Because they know I am friendly to Israel and so forth. They don’t know how I really feel about what they’re doing to this country.”

To which Nixon responded, “You must not let them know.”

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com 

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press.


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