Samaritan's Purse president Franklin Graham addressed questions about President Obama's birthplace and religious beliefs on ABC's This Week that aired on Sunday. White House spokesman Jay Carney chided Graham for his comments after Graham told host Christiane Amanpour that there were still unanswered questions.
"I would just say I think it's unfortunate that a religious leader would choose Easter Sunday to make preposterous charges," Carney said at the end of yesterday's press briefing.
Graham, who told Christianity Today that his ABC interview was taped a week before Easter, stood by his comments. "I respond[ed] to a question. I'm not going out making speeches about where the President was born. I could care less," he said. "I'll continue to answer reporters' questions."
Graham's comments on Obama come on the heels of other recent remarks. Last month, Graham told Newsmax that the Muslim Brotherhood is "very strong and active" in the United States.
"We have these people advising our military and State Department. We've brought in Muslims to tell us how to make policy toward Muslim countries. It's like a farmer asking a fox, 'How do I protect my hen house?'" Graham said.
Amanpour asked Graham if he was bothered by those who were raising questions about President Obama's birthplace or his religion. "Birthers" have questioned whether Obama was born in the U.S., a theory that has been debunked by many fact checkers.
"Well, the president, I know, has some issues to deal with here," Graham said. "He can solve this whole birth certificate issue pretty quickly. I don't—I was born in a hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, and I know that my records are there. You can probably even go and find out what room my mother was in when I was born. I don't know why he can't produce that. So, I'm not—I don't know, but it's an issue that looks like he could answer pretty quickly."
Graham's comments on Obama's birthplace sound similar to Michelle Bachmann's (R-Minn.) answer to a question in her interview with Christianity Today. She, too, said the issue would be easily resolved if the President would produce a birth certificate. A few days later, ABC's George Stephanopoulos showed Bachmann a copy of the birth certificate. "Well, then, that should settle it," Bachmann said.
Graham also addressed the question of whether Obama is a Christian.
"As it relates to Muslim: there are many people that do wonder where he really stands on that," Graham said. "Now, he has told me that he is a Christian. But the debate comes, what is a Christian? For him, going to church means he's a Christian. For me, the definition of a Christian is whether we have given our life to Christ and are following him in faith, and we have trusted him as our Lord and Savior."
Peter Wehner, who served in the Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush administrations, said Graham was putting words in Obama's mouth.
"The problem is that President Obama has never claimed that the definition of Christianity is church attendance," said Wehner, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. "What Franklin Graham said, then, is simply not accurate; Obama has been as explicit about his Christian faith as a public figure can be. And yet for Graham it isn't enough; like Obama's citizenship, this matter needs to be cloaked in mystery, even where none exists."
Richard Land, who was also a guest on This Week, said that those who believe Obama is a Muslim are "irrational" and "a little imbalanced." Land said Obama is "a very typical 21st-century mainline Protestant."
"I say the idea that he wasn't born in Hawaii, and the idea that he's a Muslim is just flat nuts," said Land, who is president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Graham has raised questions about Obama's father's religion.
"I do not believe for an instance that Obama is a Muslim," Graham said in his interview with CT. "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."
Graham also raised eyebrows during the ABC interview for his views of possible Republican candidates. Graham seemed hesitant to support Sarah Palin at this point, but he showed more confidence in a possible run by Donald Trump, saying that Trump could be his candidate of choice.
"Donald Trump, when I first saw that he was getting in, I thought, well, this has got to be a joke. But the more you listen to him, the more you say to yourself, 'You know? Maybe the guy's right,'" Graham said.
In his interview with CT, he said that he also likes Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney.
"We've got to have some new leadership, new Republicans, more Tea Party people," Graham said. "Maybe God is giving us what we deserve because we as a nation have turned our back on God."
Additional reporting by Sarah Pulliam Bailey.
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Christianity Today posted the full transcript of its interview with Franklin Graham.