Billy Graham is dead

Y’all remember Billy Graham, right?

On the account of James Warren in the Chicago Tribune, who has filed excellent stories down the years on Nixon’s tapes, in this 1972 Oval Office session between Nixon, Haldeman and Graham, the President raises a topic about which “we can’t talk about it publicly,” namely Jewish influence in Hollywood and the media.

Nixon cites Paul Keyes, a political conservative who was executive producer of the NBC hit, “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,” as telling him that “11 of the 12 writers are Jewish.”

“That right?” says Graham, prompting Nixon to claim that Life magazine, Newsweek, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and others, are “totally dominated by the Jews.”

Nixon says network TV anchors Howard K. Smith, David Brinkley and Walter Cronkite “front men who may not be of that persuasion,” but that their writers are “95 percent Jewish.”

“This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain,” the nation’s best-known preacher declares.

“You believe that?” Nixon says.

“Yes, sir,” Graham says.

“Oh, boy,” replies Nixon.

“So do I. I can’t ever say that but I believe it.”

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

Magnanimously Nixon concedes that this does not mean “that all the Jews are bad,” but that most are left-wing radicals who want “peace at any price except where support for Israel is concerned. The best Jews are actually the Israeli Jews.”

“That’s right,” agrees Graham, who later concurs with a Nixon assertion that a “powerful bloc” of Jews confronts Nixon in the media.

“And they’re the ones putting out the pornographic stuff,” Graham adds.

Later Graham says that “a lot of the Jews are great friends of mine. 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.”

After Graham’s departure Nixon says to Haldeman, “You know it was good we got this point about the Jews across.”

“It’s a shocking point,” Haldeman replies.

“Well,” says Nixon, “It’s also, the Jews are irreligious, atheistic, immoral bunch of bastards.”

Now look at how the cookie-cutter obituaries in the major news media are translating this:

The skinny preacher with the booming voice evangelized to nearly 215 million people over six decades and prayed with US presidents from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

Several presidents, including Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, relied closely on his spiritual counsel.

Let’s not mention what his ‘counsel’ was, mmm-kay? Might expose the dishonesty of the phrase “Judeo-Christian” that evangelicals love to tout.

But now he’s dead. Good. Wish it had happened a few decades earlier.


  1. Ragutis says

    Aw. Gee. Darn.

    If there’s a halfway decent human being in that family, my condolences to them on their loss.

    Unfortunately, now we’re stuck with his son, who, even compared to the worst of his father, is simply abominable and repugnant.. Any chance he’ll perhaps die of grief?

  2. chigau (違う) says

    Ragutis #1
    I doubt it. Franklin is probably happy that the old man is finally out of the way.

  3. says

    I remember looking in on one of his televised revival meetings as a youth and being shocked about how primitive it was. He spent much of his sermon talking about the reality of angels and how they intervene in human affairs, and were apparently flitting around as he spoke.

  4. Usernames! 🦑 says

    Several presidents…relied closely on his spiritual counsel.

    Not sure why an American President needs “spiritual counsel” (whatever that means) in order to do their job. Seems weird that Graham’s academic career was limited to a BA in Theology & and a BA(!) in Anthropology. No advanced degree with a thesis or dissertation?

    In other news, did you know Mike Pence’s misogynistic “I don’t dine alone with women” rule is known the “Billly Graham Rule“?

  5. jonmoles says

    richardelguru #3
    I’m sort of with you in that I thought he had already died. I guess he was trying to singlehandedly prove the adage that “only the good die young.”

  6. archangelospumoni says

    And STILL–none of these guys will tell me who’s gonna win the Kentucky Derby. C’MON GUYS!

  7. thirdmill says

    Harry Truman despised Billy Graham. At their first meeting, he concluded that Graham was a complete phony and gave orders that Graham was not to be invited back to the White House so long as Truman was president.

    Harry Truman was a fine judge of character.

  8. bryanfeir says

    My own interpretation is that Billy Graham was, at some level, a believer. He had principles. Some of those principles were pretty awful, and he was definitely willing to bend them, but he still had them.

    Franklin, on the other hand, is a modern ‘culture warrior’ type through and through. He has no principles at all, and will quite happily spin whatever lie he thinks will do him political benefit at this moment. He’s also more competent at it than Trump (not that that’s saying much).

    Franklin may actually be sorry his father is gone, if only because now he can’t use his father’s business empire to pass off his own screeds as something his father had actually knowingly supported.

    Regarding the ‘Billy Graham Rule’ Usernames mentioned, yes it is that. My understanding there is that Billy Graham treated it as a bit of political theatre, of not giving anybody the ability to make claims about him. A lot of the people like Pence, though, seem to treat it as some form of Holy Writ instead.

  9. specialffrog says

    And yet Graham’s rule didn’t prevent him from getting into trouble when being left alone with Richard Nixon.

  10. busterggi says

    Bette Davis taught me that you should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good . . . Billy Graham is dead. Good.

  11. says

    My dad used to look remarkably like Billy Graham. Really, remarkably. People used to walk up to him all the time with googly-eyes and say worshipful christian stuff to him; it was funny for us kids but awkward for the professor. I remember one time that was particularly good – dad tried to head them off…
    Worshipper: “Reverend, we just wanted to tell you what an inspiration you are to us…”
    Dad: “I’m not who you think I am, I’m a history professor…”
    Worshipper: “Yes! You are!”
    Dad: (walking away) “I don’t think that went the way I expected it to.”
    We laughed at him in the car for days after that one and dad learned never to say “I’m a history professor” because we kids would chant worshipfully back at him, “Yes! You are!”

    I’m laughing my ass off again at the memory. So, Rev Graham, useless liar, at least was a source of some humor.

    What dad should have said is, “If I was Billy Graham I’d be here in a limo and my security guards would kick your teeth in for getting close to me. He wouldn’t stop to put you out if you were on fire.” But dad is a very kind man.

  12. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    I won’t celebrate his death, but don’t worry. I didn’t celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death, either. It’s something I don’t like to do in general. Plus, he would have had to die a whole lot earlier to avoid all the damage he’s caused. To my understanding, he hasn’t done much for a decade or so because of his bad health. The damage he dealt before that time lives on, unfortunately.

  13. Rich Woods says

    @Isilzha #16:

    I don’t know if he’ll be buried with scripture bound around his arm, but certainly during life something was very tightly wound and stuffed up his arse.

  14. says

    The old bigot may be dead but his repugnant spawn lives on providing religious cover for a succession of morally suspect presidents including the current Pussy-grabber-in-Chief.

  15. says

    jaymchue01 @ 22:

    Stay classy, atheists.

    Why? Graham was a world class bigot, a man who preached bigotry and hate, and the damage he alone did spread far, and is still being felt today. Two of his spawn are carrying on that bigotry and hate, by magnitudes of order. They don’t bother to couch their poison in sugar, like ol’ Dad did, and the only reason Graham did that was because of the times. He was a nasty, immoral ass, who spawned more nasty immoral asses, who go on to infect others by the thousands. What’s the point in muttering pointless piety about Graham, about digging around to find something nice to say? That does not help anyone. The truth might help people though.

  16. chigau (違う) says

    jaymchue01 #22
    Billy is in Heaven, sitting at the right hand of Jesus.
    You should be rejoicing.

  17. Erp says

    Those who aren’t familiar with the story might want to look up Charles Templeton (nothing to do with the Templeton Foundation). When Billy Graham was a rising young evangelist, Charles Templeton was his brother in arms and just as well known. However Templeton felt he needed a better religious foundation so went to Princeton Theological Seminary (and tried to persuade Billy to join him). Templeton ended up an agnostic; he also wrote about his time on the evangelical circuit.

    Boz Tchividjian, Graham’s grandson, seems relatively decent. He has been calling out evangelicals for ignoring the problem of abuse (particularly child abuse) within their own churches. He is also not a supporter of Trump.

  18. Mrdead Inmypocket says

    @25 jaymchue01

    Sure, Caine. Sure. Keep pretending that your self-righteous hate is all good and noble.

    Save your outrage, jay. Sure people are being a little irreverent, they have a right to be. But it’s all very tame. If these fine civilized people were anything near as crass as I am, they’d be spouting filth like “We should dig up the old bastard’s corpse and smack him in the dick repeatedly with the shovel for siring his lineage”.

    But these are decent folk, nobody here would utter anything hateful like that. Just count your blessings lad, that their good nature and rational sensibilities set a good example that keeps jerks like me in line. I find their mild irreverence a source of hope for humanity. So stop yer bellyaching.

  19. Porivil Sorrens says

    Why exactly should we respect the memory of dead bigots? I doubt his family is reading this blog, and if the fact that their relative was a bigot makes them sad, not gonna lose any sleep over that.

  20. vucodlak says

    @ jaymchue01, #22 and 25

    I’m not an atheist or a “skeptic.” I also don’t follow any of the Abrahamic religions. Not anymore. Billy Graham, his children, and his followers would see me burn forever for what I am and what I believe. I wouldn’t wish an eternity of torment on anyone. I don’t wish torture, of any duration, on anyone. But, because I’m queer and don’t love their God, they teach millions of people that I’m deserving of the worst fate they can dream up.

    I don’t rejoice in Graham’s passing. Rather I greet the news of his passing with a big ol’ shrug of indifference. I’m not going to pretend I think the world is poorer without him in it. Nor do I think it’s much better with him gone, because the damage is already done. The poison he spread will sicken our world for generations to come.

    I grew up surrounded by people who loved Graham. I know what he stood for under his inspiring rhetoric, and I know what it did to people who wouldn’t or couldn’t fall in line. It’s not a fluke that his children are venomous, hateful people. The apples really didn’t fall far from the tree; just far enough that some of the shine rubbed off.

    Death comes to all of us. Today it came for Billy Graham, a bigot beloved by millions.

    *shrugs, puts on “Wake of the Christian Knights” by Inkubus Sukkubus*

  21. jaymchue01 says

    Just imagine if someone like Graham had reacted these ways to Christopher Hitchens dying. You’d all be absolutely apoplectic about it and you know it. So not only are you self-righteous in your reaction and delusional in your justifications for it, but you’re nothing more than a bunch of hypocrites. Not that I’m surprised. I absolutely knew this is what I would find here today. Thanks for being completely predictable. Neo-atheism is nothing more than a mind disorder and a blight upon the earth.

  22. Ragutis says

    If these fine civilized people were anything near as crass as I am, they’d be spouting filth like “We should dig up the old bastard’s corpse and smack him in the dick repeatedly with the shovel for siring his lineage”.

    But these are decent folk, nobody here would utter anything hateful like that.

    Absolutely. Would never say such a thing. But I did laugh heartily reading it.

  23. says


    Enjoy your idiotic echo chamber of hate.

    Sounds like the majority of fundy churches in the US of A. Coloured? =Hate. Queer? =Hate. Atheist? =Hate. Muslim? =Hate. etc.. Atheists here only hate bigoted fuckstains, religious or not. Why are you defending bigoted fuckstains?

  24. chigau (違う) says

    jaymchue01 #34
    “Disemvowel” away, PZ! Enjoy your idiotic echo chamber of hate.
    Wow. That’s a Blast From The Past.
    When was the last time PZ disemvowel-ed someone?

  25. Porivil Sorrens says

    See, that would require that I be sad that Hitchens died.

    I, for one, wasn’t.

    Hitchens was a bigoted neo-con by the time he died and I don’t miss his presence one bit.

  26. robro says

    When I was a young and impressionable idiot, Graham’s oratory had an influence on me. I even went to college thinking I was “called” to the ministry. Of course, I wasn’t. I grew up quickly once I got there and dropped that bad idea, although there were a couple of emotionally wrenching years as I made the break. Later I learned about some of the more unsavory aspects of his…point of view. His legacy has not held up so well, though I suspect most believers don’t believe it.

    Has David Grain been resurrected? It’s been about three biblical days right.

  27. vucodlak says

    @ jaymchue01, #33

    The first book I read when I was considering leaving religion behind altogether was Hitchens’ God is not Great. I thought it was great, and exactly what I needed to read then.

    That said, Hitchens was a misogynistic, racist shithead for whom I had little more respect than I had for Graham. I did not mourn Hitchens when he died, and I don’t give a fuck what someone like Graham thought of the people I do consider heroes. Mainly because I already know- he thinks they deserve to burn, because they didn’t bow to his hateful God. That’s one of the main reasons I left Christianity.

  28. says

    jay @ 33:

    Just imagine if someone like Graham had reacted these ways to Christopher Hitchens dying.

    FFS, they did. Been hiding under your rock? And I just hate to break it to you, jay, but a majority of people here didn’t have much good to say about Hitchens, either. His politics and warmongering were horrendous, as was his love of authoritarians. Yes, he was witty, and he was grand in a debate, but he also had a whole bunch of highly flawed views which were not approved or thought highly of in the atheist camps.

    You seem to have a thing about hero worship, and not speaking ill of the dead. To that I say fuck that noise. Hero worship blinds one to the truth, and prevents thinking, quite obvious in your case. There’s little point pretending a poisonous bigot who made millions of peoples lives so much worse was a good person. The truth is better.

  29. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Ladies and Gentlemen, Raise your glasses.

    I give you the Rev. Billy Graham–a man who could have been great, except that he really wasn’t very good.

  30. KG says

    Just imagine if someone like Graham had reacted these ways to Christopher Hitchens dying. You’d all be absolutely apoplectic about it and you know it. – jaymchue01@33

    Stone me, were you always that stupid, or did you have to work at it? Why the fuck would I care what a scumbag like Graham said about anyone, let alone about another scumbag like Hitchens?

  31. KG says

    PZ doesn’t quote the most disgusting information about Graham in the linked article:

    Back in April, 1989, a Graham memo to Nixon was made public. It took the form of a secret letter from Graham, dated April 15, 1969, drafted after Graham met in Bangkok with missionaries from Vietnam. These men of God said that if the peace talks in Paris were to fail, Nixon should step up the war and bomb the dikes. Such an act, Graham wrote excitedly, “could overnight destroy the economy of North Vietnam”.

    Graham lent his imprimatur to this recommendation. Thus the preacher was advocating a policy to the US Commander in Chief that on Nixon’s own estimate would have killed a million people.