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. zaitrancer

    I grew up in an evangelical home and thought I could take about any faith claim in stride (no matter how outlandish), but every so often a gem comes along so priceless that I must pause and marvel. What exactly is this "seed of Islam" and how on earth does this said seed pass from the father into the son – is there a Muslim gene or is it perhaps a magical force in the father that permeates the fetus? My mind almost simply stalls in incredulity at some of the public discourse that happens in this so-called modern day and age.

    August 20, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  2. Billy, NYC

    Can an American born Muslim be the President of United States one day? Absolutely YES! What is the problem? People change their religion in their life all the time. Now, the President is Christian. End of the question. Does it mean children of parents who are not Christains later change to Christian faith in their adult life will never a true Christian? Give me a break. Muslim children in America can choose the Christian faith too. This is the freedom of religions in USA. Embrace it while you can! GOP might change the constitutions to take away our freedom. Be afraid!

    August 20, 2010 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  3. Augsbee

    to Artie: didn't Obama wear a Muslim robe when he visited Kenya??

    August 20, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  4. sarah ma

    True, Franklin is entitled to his opinion, but he cannot hold a candle to his father. And you claim ALMOST one in five think Obama a muslim? Does that mean 1 and one-half out of ten? Which HALF are you counting, the brain half or the butt half? The damage the press is doing to our President and our country is obscene! Seems like that if this is all you writers have left, then Obama and the Democrats are doing a pretty good job, considering they have been spit on at regular intervals. The President's JOB is to stand up for our Constitution. Maybe if some of you stopped taking polls from people no one ever heard of, and printed something on a positive side, it would help us all. Maybe we could feel like Americans again and bury the hate. We have been reduced to slander and book burning. Way to go!

    August 20, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  5. Alex

    Franklin Graham's problem is that he thinks being born muslim is a problem.

    how many checks came in this week Franklin?

    August 20, 2010 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  6. Augsbee

    No Jim Waite, the Muslim believe that you are born Muslim as the Jews believe you are born Jewish if your mother is Jewish, that is what Graham is explaining. You have to understand these cultures go back 100's of years in their believes and you can't change them.

    August 20, 2010 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  7. felicia

    President Obama has only seen his father twice in his life that is hardly a comparison. How bout you fools stay out of the President's personal business.

    August 20, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  8. Lou

    In the campaign against Obama the republicans went on and on about Obama attending this church for twenty years and was thouroughly indoctrinated into the cult of Rev Wright. Now it's as if he never attended a Christian church. This is what republicans politics 24/7/365. I wonder if our economy would be doing better if everyone was rowing the boat? But getting back in power is Job1!

    August 20, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  9. Augsbee

    Hey Sniffit: don't be disrespectful to Muslims, they do believe the seed of Islam is passed through the father. You don't have to mock them!!!!!

    August 20, 2010 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  10. Diamond

    If the seed of Islam is passed through the father and the seed of Judaism through the mother, through who is the seed of Christianity passed? This is foolish ignorance. Faith is personal, not a DNA that can be inherited.

    Unfortunately Franklin Graham is not nearly as intelligent as his father. And I say this as a lifelong evangelical Christian and huge fan of Billy Graham's.

    As George W. Bush said, and I concur, Islam is a religion of peace. But it is wrong to distort another person's faith. Obama is not and has never been a muslim.

    August 20, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  11. FRED

    I see there are some idiots on here also..LMAO!!!! How the hell does Graham knows what obamas father religion was or if he even practiced being a muslim, did he even know the man, I dont think so, you guys really need to let this mosque thing go, would any of you be in such a damn uproar if they wanted to build a church/community center next to the oklahoma city federal building that was bombed?? Someone answer that!!

    August 20, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  12. Winnie in Maryland

    I wonder what it is in this country that gives us the right to try to destroy our president. For our country's sake, we should all support our leader instead of using our personal politics as an ax to try to chop him down. Just because our current leader's intelligence is superior to most of us, we should be proud of that, not threatened by it.

    August 20, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  13. Joe

    Who would have ever thought that that Billy Graham's son is a racist bigot? Just sad, but more sad that people will believe and follow this guy.

    August 20, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  14. BenFranklin

    In that case we are all pagans, because our ancestors are pagans. And monkeys. Some of us have evolved beyond the monkey, but our names aren't Franklin Graham.

    August 20, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  15. dawn

    Okay geniuses : According to muslims, if a child is born to a non muslim mother but the dad is a muslim, then the child is by DEFAULT considered to be a muslim. It is indeed passed down through the father If the father is a muslim, then according to muslims, all children sired by him are muslims.

    Franklin Graham was dead on correct.

    August 20, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  16. AZ DEM

    If people truly believe he is a Muslim in all honesty SO WHAT IF HE WAS?!?! Are we a nation that allows "freedom" ,I use this term loosely, of religion for everyone except elected officials? Does a person HAVE to be Christian to occupy the office of president? I personally think that its absurd to expect Obama to be as religiously devout as our former president was. This is yet again another ploy from the right to continue to discredit the president, and I'm ok with that., because If this is how they intend to regain control of Congress and eventually the presidency by atacking the president on virtually ANYTHING and offering no alternative positions other than NO to whatever Democrats want then I wish them all the luck. Because IF they do suceed everyone who voted for them will only have themselves to blame for all of the ASS-backwards policies they will push through.

    August 20, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  17. liz

    This goes to show that systematic programming of lies into people's head is very effective. Fox News has done a great job at creating fear and implanting lies in people's heads in order to destroy an hope of real communication.

    August 20, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  18. this is crazy talk

    Unbelievable...Who is this guy, Graham, to decide who was born a Christian and who wasn't? This level of discussion is becoming very irresponsible at least and very scary at worst, especially when it regards national issues.
    It is honestly getting scary....what advances a society are elegant, magnanimous, grandiose ideas and discussions and most importantly, human decency.
    There is nothing decent about Graham's comments regarding the Presidents religion at birth.

    August 20, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  19. Tina, NC

    Since when is one's religious beliefs passed down by genetics? No one is born into a religion. It is something you are taught or are drawn too as an adult.

    If a "seed" is required to pass down a particular faith there would be no Christians since Christ didn't have children.

    August 20, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  20. Ken in NC

    The rest of the world is all wrapped up in some form of a relegious war and now Americans are allowing themselves to be sucked into those wars. People, our nation was founded of the basis of everyone having the freedom to practice their religion.

    Please don't do this people.

    August 20, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  21. g

    all religions come from the middle east what does that tell you. all of them have one purpose make money

    August 20, 2010 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  22. james

    Mr. Franklin Graham, when you point a finger at President Obama you are pointing three more on the same hand back at yourself. "Judge not lest ye be judged" – You need to read and study your Bible Mr. Franklin Graham.

    August 20, 2010 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Oh America! We call ourselves a Christian Nation. Over 90% of the population professes to be Christian (YET 11am ON SUNDAY MORNING IS THE MOST SEGREGATED HOUR IN AMERICA). According to Grahm, and by inference, the Christian seed has been passed down from our fathers. If this is true, then why does America lead the world in illegal drug consumption, abortions (killing unborn babies), murder, incarceration, racisim/institutionalized discremination, implants, plastic surgery, personal debt, etc. etc. etc. Get the picture? And a few dunces are flapping their tongues about President Obama's faith (of which they no nothing)? PA-LEEEEZE!

    August 20, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  24. 4merRepubCT

    Apparently the "seed of hubris" passed from father to son in the Graham family. What arrogance to assume that he knows all. As a 'man of God', he should know better.

    Obama took the oath of office with his hand on his family's bible – in front of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Anyone that saw the inauguration should know that.

    August 20, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  25. InTruth23

    This is a completely insane comment. There is no such thing as a seed of Islam. You are taught to be a muslim, or christian, or jew, so forth. As an adult , or even a child, you make your choice. President Obama has indicated that he is a Christian. That is his choice. His father was a muslim. That was his choice. All Franklin Graham is doing is stirring fear and bigotry in an attempt to hurt Obama. His father, who I respect, ought to slap him.......

    August 20, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
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