(JTA) — Pastor John Hagee, the influential pro-Israel evangelical leader, blasted Republicans for trafficking in “thinly veiled racism” and a “contagious viral strain of anti-American, anti-Christian, and antisemitic politics.”
Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, has long been associated with the pro-Israel right and has praised and endorsed a series of Republican presidential candidates, including Donald Trump. He gave a benediction at the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem in 2018, and the following year, five Trump administration officials — including Vice President Mike Pence — spoke at CUFI’s annual conference.
But this year, Hagee distanced himself from Trump, delivering a prayer at the launch of Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign. And on Monday, the eve of the Republican primary in New Hampshire, he published an op-ed in the Christian Post containing implied jabs at Trump, whom he did not mention by name.
“Multiple would-be Republican standard bearers consistently appeal to the worst in their audience by trafficking in thinly veiled racism while cynically trampling on our Constitution,” he wrote. “Likewise, faith is not ornamental, and the Word of God is not a political prop.”
He continued, “It is far from unprecedented for people to be led astray by those promising an unrealistic view of a nostalgic past, but when this nostalgia is rooted in insult, racism and antisemitism, it is fundamentally un-American and most assuredly evil.”
Hagee has long aimed his rhetorical fire at Democrats, and the piece also criticizes that party at length, including President Joe Biden. “Socialists and authoritarians are on the precipice of taking over both of America’s political parties” Hagee wrote. He added, “I fundamentally disagree with most mainstream Democratic policies.”
But even when naming Biden, who Hagee said “failed to save his party from the perils of socialism,” Hagee took a veiled swipe at Trump and his baseless claims that the 2020 election was rigged: “President Biden was duly elected,” Hagee wrote.
Trump and his allies have championed the rioters who sought to overturn Biden’s 2021 election, and Trump has recently said immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of the country, language that resembles phrases in “Mein Kampf,” by Adolf Hitler. At a rally in December, Trump denied plagiarizing Hitler and said he had never read the book.
Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, is the last remaining serious challenger to Trump in the primary and has staked her campaign on a strong showing in New Hampshire. She has drawn support from establishment Jewish Republicans who want to see an alternative to Trump and favor her interventionist foreign policy and robust embrace of Israel. Haley spoke last year at CUFI’s annual Washington conference.
In his piece, Hagee singled out the GOP in his home state for condoning antisemitism by rejecting a ban on associating with Nazi sympathizers and Holocaust deniers. Referring to that rejection, Hagee wrote, “To add insult to injury, the vote on this resolution was taken in secret, effectively reserving the party’s right to collaborate with Nazis.”
CUFI is one of the biggest and most influential right-wing pro-Israel lobbies on the federal and state level. It has led efforts to pass state laws targeting the movement to boycott Israel, and on the federal level was one of the first groups to lobby for the successful effort to link funding Palestinian institutions to cutting off payments for families of terrorists.
In addition to leading CUFI, Hagee is the founder of Cornerstone Church and of Hagee Ministries, a charitable organization that directs millions of dollars to Israeli charities, including some in West Bank settlements.
Hagee endorsed the late Republican Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election but withdrew his endorsement when some of his past remarks drew scrutiny, including comments suggesting Adolf Hitler was fulfilling the words of the Bible, and a reference to the Catholic Church as “the great whore” — remarks for which he later apologized. He has also made anti-Muslim statements.
His statements havre continued to spark controversy. A contingent of dovish pro-Israel groups objected to his having a speaking role at the massive pro-Israel Washington rally in November, in part because of his incendiary rhetoric about LGBTQ people.