Months Later, McCain Rejects Pastor Hagee (UPDATE: Hagee Returns The Favor)

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For months, John McCain has been taking flak for being endorsed by Rev. John Hagee, a controversial Texas pastor. But he has repeatedly resisted calls to reject the endorsement, saying he did not share Hagee’s more controversial views, and repudiated them. But he also argued that he did not have to agree with all the views of those who endorsed him.

That changed today. Here is the campaign statement, which is attributed to McCain:

Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them. I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee’s endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well. I have said I do not believe Senator Obama shares Reverend Wright’s extreme views. But let me also be clear, Reverend Hagee was not and is not my pastor or spiritual advisor, and I did not attend his church for twenty years. I have denounced statements he made immediately upon learning of them, as I do again today.

What remarks is McCain referring to? An audio file posted by the HuffingtonPost, in which Hagee argues that Adolf Hitler was used by God to encourage the Jewish people to return to the state of Israel.

UPDATE: Hagee has withdrawn his endorsement of McCain. Hagee’s statement after the jump:

Ever since I endorsed John McCain for president, people seeking to attack Senator McCain have combed my records for statements they can use for political gain. They have had no qualms about grossly misrepresenting my position on issues most near and dear to my heart if it serves their political ambitions.

I am tired of these baseless attacks and fear that they have become a distraction in what should be a national debate about important issues. I have therefore decided to withdraw my endorsement of Senator McCain for President effective today, and to remove myself from any active role in the 2008 campaign.

I hope that the Senator McCain will accept this withdrawal so that he may focus on the issues that are most important to America and the world.