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For a few weeks this winter, Billy Graham's critics and friends alike saw a radically unfamiliar face of the famous evangelist. The National Archives released a secretly taped White House conversation with Richard Nixon in which the two men deplored Jewish domination of the media.

Nixon's own comments were far more offensive than Graham's, but they called forth very little public reaction. Graham's words, on the other hand, surprised everyone because the evangelist's comments were completely out of character.

At one extreme of the opinion spectrum, pundits failed utterly to take Billy Graham's character and record into account. Writing for the Common Dreams News Center, Bill Davis speculated that if Graham expressed such thoughts to Richard Nixon in 1972, he was probably pulling the strings on George W. Bush's foreign policy today. "If Billy was telling Nixon that something had to be done about the Jews in the media, what must he be saying to his born again acolyte about Muslims in the Middle East and beyond?"

Such paranoia—absurd on its face—is doubly ridiculous in light of Billy Graham's own post-Watergate resolve to stay away from the corridors of power. Whereas he once sought contact with the nation's political élite, Graham vowed never to "make the mistake again of getting that close to someone in office" (as Charles Colson reported to Graham biographer William Martin). In 1991, Graham told an interviewer that he regretted "the politics part" of his relationship with Nixon, and Graham insiders report that ever since the deep disappointments of Watergate, the evangelist has made a point of limiting his discussion and counsel to spiritual topics and prayer. Indeed, in 1989, Graham said he no longer frequented the halls of ...

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Nixon's Ghost
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April 22, 2002

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