August 20th, 2010
04:34 PM ET
10 years ago

White House: Graham entitled to his own opinion

The White House responded Friday to comments made by Rev. Franklin Graham.

The White House responded Friday to comments made by Rev. Franklin Graham.

Editor's note: Watch "John King, USA" Friday at 7 p.m. ET for a fact check of Chief National Correspondent John King's interview with Franklin Graham.

Washington (CNN)
– The White House pushed back Friday against comments made by Rev. Franklin Graham, one day after the evangelical leader said that President Obama was born a Muslim because of his father's religious beliefs.

Graham, son of famed presidential religious adviser Billy Graham, said Thursday on "CNN's John King, USA," that while he believes Obama is now a Christian, the president was born a Muslim because the "seed of Islam" is passed through the father.

On Friday, White House spokesman Bill Burton said that while Graham is entitled to his own opinion, the president is Christian.

"[T]he president is a committed Christian," Burton told reporters. "I think that the American people know that, and Franklin Graham is certainly entitled to his opinion."

A poll released Thursday, conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, found that nearly one in five Americans believe Obama is a Muslim, up from around one in 10 Americans who last year said they believed he was Muslim.

It's a statistic that has forced the White House to defend the president's faith, a significant distraction from the administration's political and policy goals.

Burton said Friday he isn't sure why the numbers have increased.

"I can't say why people necessarily changed their mind in this poll, I can't say why folks even answer the question when pollsters call," Burton said.

Asked by CNN Chief National Correspondent John King on Thursday if he had any doubts about Obama's Christian faith, Graham, who has made controversial comments about Islam in the past, said the president's background is fueling the false perception that he is a Muslim.

"I think the president's problem is that he was born a Muslim, his father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother. He was born a Muslim, his father gave him an Islamic name," Graham said on CNN's "John King, USA."

"Now it's obvious that the president has renounced the prophet Mohammed and he has renounced Islam and he has accepted Jesus Christ. That is what he says he has done, I cannot say that he hasn't. So I just have to believe that the president is what he has said," Graham continued.

Earlier this year, the Army rescinded its invitation to Graham for the National Day of Prayer at the Pentagon over controversial remarks he made about Islam.

"True Islam cannot be practiced in this country," he told CNN last December. "You can't beat your wife. You cannot murder your children if you think they've committed adultery or something like that, which they do practice in these other countries."

Graham later tried to temper his remarks by saying that he had Muslim friends. However, Graham has a history of comments that bothered the Pentagon. Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Graham called Islam a "very evil and wicked religion."

In April, President Obama prayed with the Rev. Billy Graham and his son Franklin at Graham's mountaintop home in North Carolina. Billy Graham, a major figure in the American evangelical movement, has advised presidents dating back to Harry Truman.

Filed under: Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (202 Responses)
  1. Jack

    Right wingers = religious nutbags who are synically selling idiots to that they can protect their favorable tax treatment.

    America wake up!!

    August 20, 2010 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    "I think the president's problem is that he was born a Muslim, his father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother. He was born a Muslim, his father gave him an Islamic name,"

    ...and the seed of stupid is planted by yet another religious nutjob. If you don't recognize what Graham said as code hidden by a blatantly backhanded, superficial attempt to look like he's supporting Obama, then I don't know what to tell you. He just gave all the imbeciles out there the "seed" they will use to justify running around claiming "once a muslim, always a muslim" and other complete idiocy. After all, "if he needed to be converted, he just lied about it." I'm pretty sure I'm right on this one: we've already seen one or two morons post today that Obama is still a muslim because he didn't change his name.

    August 20, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  3. GOP Scorched Earth Politics

    Enough already of all this ridiculous hype. Graham is a televangelist, not an astute historian or expert of world religion. Ok CNN this has been through the news cycle enough can move on to some other topic any day now. Obama on vacation, NYC Mosques...what's next on the wedge topic of the day?

    August 20, 2010 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  4. dee

    If that's so, then we're all black nature-worshipers, since the source of all life was in Africa when everyone had primitive religious beliefs. Really–I don't know where this guy went to college or what he thinks gets passed in semen...his biology beliefs show his primitivism. I just can't believe this–but it is, sadly, true–so I guess I better start worrying about those ancestors of mine who murdered, or killed themselves, even though at over 65 I've never had either urge!

    August 20, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  5. mightyfudge

    Let's go over the right's main talking points as we head in to election season:
    1. The president is a Socialist Muslim who can't prove he was born in America.
    2. Illegal Immigration is ruining the country
    3. Tax cuts for Rich people
    4. Ground Zero Mosque
    5. Gay Marriage

    Lots of IDEALS on display, but not one actual IDEA amongst the lot.

    August 20, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  6. Larry Moore

    So, my father was a pagan when i was born...does that mean i was born a pagan?? Since when did religious faith become a matter between man and man instead of a matter between man and God? Not everyone that prays to God will make it to heaven..i just question the hearts of the so called"Evangelist" Franklin Graham!

    August 20, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  7. Will

    Graham said he was a Christian. They are sensitive about this issue at the White House but Obama never makes any attempt to proclaim his faith. I think Michelle was into the black theology thing and took him along for the ride but whenever Obama has had a chance to talk about it like the National Day of Prayer he is a no show. He sure does not have any problem hamming it ip with the Muslims so I think that is where people are confused.

    August 20, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  8. joel

    I can't believe people still believe in religion considering all we know. If we are all made in gods image he must be a angry goofy looking moron with dandruff and hemorrhoids.

    August 20, 2010 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  9. Susan L.

    Oh, man... That old right wing saw about the seed of Islam. Barack Obama Sr., from what anyone can tell, was an agnostic at best. Probably an Atheist. His father signified nothing by giving him the name Barack Hussein Obama Jr. other than that he's Junior! This is incredibly stupid and pedantic and an argument that holds no water and bears no weight at all. Barack Hussein Obama Jr. is a Christian if he says he is. You all whack-jobs went on-and-on about Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Obama's association with him. Is Wright a Muslim now, too?

    I am SO glad I am 100% ATHEIST. You really religious people are nuts. All of you. Splitting hairs! The answer to the question of Obama's faith is the same as the answer to how many angel's can dance on the head of a pin.

    August 20, 2010 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  10. Publius13

    I thought the Rev. Graham Jr. was a preacher of sorts. I didn't know he was a Muslim theologian. Come to think of it, I don't really care. Mr. Graham Jr., give us a break and crawl back into your spider hole.

    August 20, 2010 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  11. rational canuck

    What is wrong with the minds of people who label children as being this or that??? I wonder if Franklin makes a habit of labelling Democratic children vs. Republican children etc....why do rational minded people throughout the United States and the rest of the world continue to tolerate the simple minded and their closed minded bronze age traditions that attempt to stultify reason...the idea that the "faith" in and of itself is virtuous, is at the heart of the problem. This is evidenced by the fact that a charleton like Franklin Graham is getting inch space on this site to continue pick pocketing the credulous whose simple minded nature keeps him obsurdly relevant.

    August 20, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  12. Fred Riek

    Like many Americans, including my sister, Grahm is not very bright. I am amazed daily how many people put their intellect on hold while they gobble up the nonsense that people who don't know much about anything but have a dogged detrmination to misinform people who are susceptible to believe whatever garbage their religious leaders or Republicans in general throw out to them. I wish we would add to the old "God bless America" plea with"and help its people become brighter and less susceptible to people spouting nonsense."

    August 20, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  13. vic

    I am proud of our president he isfollowing Christianity first lady and daughters are following Christianity what else we want


    August 20, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  14. Aaron

    President Obama really doesn't come across as being very religious regardless of the label. This, in my opinion, is a good thing. We had enough "Christians" running the country when W was holed up in the White House. Those "Christians" rarely acted like the Christians depicted as followers of Christ. Religion and politics are not a good mix. The politicians manipulate the not so smart religious fanactics for their own benefit.

    August 20, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  15. Joe

    Dear God, what an unbelievably STUPID thing to even think, let alone say out loud! I always thought the Grahams were self absorbed lunatic blowhards, now I'm convinced of it.

    August 20, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  16. roro

    Saying the "seed of Islam" is making it sound like religion is genetic, which is ridiculous. Obama is a Christian, and anyone who thinks he isn't probably also believes he's not a natural born citizen. This is all FEAR, people. FEAR – not to mention stupidity.

    August 20, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  17. Jim Waite

    Rev. Grahm apparently supports the idea that a person can be born a Christian or a Muslim. This is an idea he and his father have been preaching against for years.

    Lets put some logic back in theology!

    August 20, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  18. samdee

    Only in America can the populace think for themselves, 2 years ago Obama was a radical black christian with Rev Wright as a mentor now he is a muslim born to a runaway african father whose father or great grandfather was forced to practice islam ...please educate yourselves islam is not an African religion

    August 20, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  19. Tony

    I don't think the WH has to defend anything. And what in the hell is the "seed of Islam" anyway. Does that determine eye color or hair color? Religion is not something that is passed on through genes. How do these whack jobs come up with this stuff? Obama hasn't "renounced the prophet Mohammed", he just doesn't accept him or Islam as his chosen faith. He acknowledges, though, that Islam is a faith of choice for millions of people and respects their right to observe what they believe in.The religious zealots who really scare me are the delusional christians that ride the same wagon as Graham.

    August 20, 2010 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  20. Flagship, NC

    Well it appears that the Rev. Franklin Graham has sold his soul to the GOP.
    His spiritual presence has been permanently tainted.
    I hope he will try to do good with what he has left.

    August 20, 2010 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  21. Can't We All Just Get Along?

    Don't these folks understand that genealogy is passed through the parents, tracked through the mother but religion is somone's choice?

    It doesn't matter what you're "born." It's what you choose. Religion is a choice. It's an organizationally structured belief system.

    That's why I follow the sage teachings of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    August 20, 2010 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  22. Jan

    It's kooks like this that are driving people away from churches.

    August 20, 2010 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  23. NVa Native

    His father would never have assumed something as trashy as what Franklin is promoting. Arrogance is ugly.

    August 20, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  24. Bill

    Who cares what this pompous born with a holy silver spoon in his mouth thinks.

    August 20, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  25. Dano

    The "seed of Islam" is passed through the father? What exactly is the seed of Islam? Does that mean that any children sired by Jimmy Swaggert or Jim Baker come pre-programmed the "seed of infidelty and perversion"? Do Ted Haggard's children have the "seed of homosexuality and drug abuse"? Religious belief is not a gene passed down from father to son any more than one's choice of sports teams or under wear preference! OMG is this guy insane or what?

    August 20, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
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