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. Augsbee

    to Future expat: true-in the USA we are not born with a religion but in other countries you are born with a religion. Muslims are born Muslim, you must respect that.

    August 20, 2010 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  2. Peggy - TX

    What we are seeing, are the GOPs last desperate attempts to hang on to power by using a false religious leader to fool the gullible that sincerely what to serve God; but in doing so they highlight just how perverse they can be? I used to think of the GOP were conservative minded folks who were not all that bad, just wanted to preserve the status quo as for many of them it was in their interest to do so. But now I see them for the corrupt, EVIL, scumbags they truly are and could never, NEVER trust that Party, the Party that gave us Bush, to pick the leader of our Country as they are bad for every American regardless of income; even the very wealthy did not fair well under Bush.

    August 20, 2010 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  3. nuser

    Why did the administration feel they had to comment on such nonsense.
    They and Obama must learn to ignore certain statements. Please get on with the important stuff and keep your mouths shut !

    August 20, 2010 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  4. Hill

    Wow. This whole deal has some people upset. Never thought it mattered to the fans of "there is no God".

    August 20, 2010 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  5. nini

    President is a Christian with a whole lot of empty and sympathy for Islam and Muslims.

    Now if he had the same kind of empty and sympathy for his own faith; Christianity we wouldn't be having this conversation.

    President seem to be ready to cut Muslims like X–MAS bomber some slack or try to say it is an isolated issue but he right away jumps on the Police, "Police acted Supidly". If you add all these up it is not ignorance that make people question our president it is his actions.

    August 20, 2010 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  6. mensarino

    One of the problems of an open society is that even ridiculous opinions uttered by public figures somehow constitute newsworthiness.A prime example of this is Graham's noxious opinons about the so-called 'seed' argument.

    August 20, 2010 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    @ Augsbee

    Please reread my comment. I do believe you have completely misconstrued it (perhaps purposefully?). Nothing I said could be even remotely taken as making fun of muslims unless you consider "religious nutjob" to refer in some way to all religions causing nutjobbery (which, to some extent, was indeed intended).

    August 20, 2010 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  8. Gary

    Just another opinion by someone trying to get in the spotlight.

    August 20, 2010 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  9. ralph

    Communists have no religion – except Communism.

    August 20, 2010 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  10. Jim

    Obama's campaign website in 2008 stated that he is not and never has been a "practicing" muslim. What's that tell you.

    August 20, 2010 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  11. vette gal

    Just goes to show you that all the uneducated, stupid people are beginning to believe the talking points. There's an old saying that the republicans believe in....if you say it often enough, people will believe it! Unfortunately, that's so true.

    This is like saying someone who was born Jewish couldn't be a Catholic or any other religion. DUH!

    August 20, 2010 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  12. Robbie

    Don't you republicans have anything better to do?

    August 20, 2010 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  13. Ted

    Billy Graham is probably rolling over in his grave because his 'seed' is making this proclamation. Franklin Graham was a druggie drop out wasnh't he?

    Just another racist, bigotted, igorant Repukelican questioning Obama's religion, birth place and IQ.

    Franklin – STFU

    August 20, 2010 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  14. GOP Scorched Earth Politics

    Seed of Islam? His dad was. His mom wasn't. That doesn't mean he was raised Muslim you neanderthal knuckle-head.

    August 20, 2010 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  15. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    And Graham is just another nutbag.... passed through the "seed"? The the hell does that mean? This idiot thinks "religion" is genetic?


    August 20, 2010 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  16. Anthony Ravenell

    I put my faith in GOD since main has failed me everytime!

    August 20, 2010 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  17. DB

    Why is Burton acting like Franklin Graham did not say the President was a Christian? Franklin Graham said the President " has accepted Jesus Christ", meaning he is a Christian. So, Franklin Graham agrees that the President is a Christian and Burton comes out and says that the president "is a committed Christian" like it was some kind of push back statement. The bottom line is they both say he is Christian 9that means they agree). How he got there is irrelevant–he is a Christian. How can there be a controversy over the fact that they agree? This whole "news" item is much to do about nothing. Why is CNN even wasting the space except they have mistaken it for a controversy (and being the tabloid they are, they can resisit anything that even hints at controversy).?

    August 20, 2010 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  18. Baby Boomer

    Wow. The ignorance and lack of tolerance is amazing. I think people got tired of being called racist for their thoughts and actions against the President so they took the hatred in another direction. If we can no longer get away with the nastly code words and phrases for his being African American, let's attack his religion.

    I am so sad about all of this. How on earth could I have ever believed that the people in the United States had made real progress over the past 50 years. Clearly we have not...

    August 20, 2010 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  19. faboge

    Right wingnuts, shouldnt there be an Obama birth certificate demonstration youre missing today? I know there's a militia training somewhere, why dont you nuts go there and let normal Americans discuss this?

    August 20, 2010 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  20. KJ

    Why is what Junior important? He is an example of how America is letting the lunatics on the far right getting all the headlines. By the way, there are also lunatics on the far left. I have an idea, let's boycott all media until they return to unbiased and objective journalism that is really relevant! Graham spouting off lunacy and updates on Palin's tweets are not news of importance.

    August 20, 2010 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  21. itsme

    It's sad that he doesn't realize the negative effect that statements like this have on Christianity.

    August 20, 2010 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  22. WIlly Brown

    Come on out Barry. We know who you are even when the media tried correcting you in a softball interview saying you are a Christian vice Muslim. Be proud or step down BHO.

    August 20, 2010 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  23. BeverlyNC

    If what Franklin Graham said were true...then he must not be the son of Billly Graham. He was not born a Christian. He was a hellraiser who drank, took drugs, and did everything he could to embarrass his family. He was not given any seed – unless you are talking about sowing wild oats.
    He has always been a failure and caused a huge rift in his family over wanting to take over his father's ministry and money. His sisters, mainly one, is also a minister and is far more credible than Franklin.
    He is NOT head of Billy Graham Ministries but has his own group, Samaritan's Purse" which does mission work abroad.
    My grandfather was a friend of Billy Graham. They both had dairy farms and stayed in touch all my grandfather's life. I used to sing in the Billy Graham choir every time he came home to Charlotte to hold a crusade.
    Billy Graham was always a man of faith but he was not arrogant enough, like Franlkin. to presume or make judgments about the faith of others.
    Franklin Graham is just another greedy evangelist who is doubly angry because he cannot live up to the legacy of his father.
    President Obama did not ask for Franklin Graham to come to Washington for a meeting of ministers because of a controversial stand he had taken on some issue he should have never spoken on.
    This is just payback from Franklin who thought he would get to be a Presidential advisor like his father. When President Obama rejected his narrow-minded judgments of others, Franklin is now once again trrying to make himself important by lying about the President.
    If Billy Graham were still able, he would totally reject the stupidiity and poor judgment of his son.
    Shame on Franklin for tarnishing the great legacy and moral authority his father had with the entire nation and with many Presidents of different faiths.
    All Franklin Graham has done is prove further he is NOTHING like his father and therefore did NOT get any so-called "religious seed" from his great father.
    What a non-Christian bigoted statement from a sad failure who wanted to replace his father and never came close.

    August 20, 2010 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  24. Sally

    Who cares? The President is doing his job daily despite criticism, lies, and attempts to distract from the laziness of Republicans. If he were a Muslim, so what? This is America. Eventually we will have a Muslim President...unless the right continues to whip up racial fear the likes of which we last saw with the KKK. And they expect to win seats? Ha.

    August 20, 2010 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  25. Dustin "America Loving Liberal"

    Why does it matter if he is a Christian, Muslim or Jewish?

    August 20, 2010 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
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