McCain Courts Secret Radical Religious Conservative Group For Support In Presidential Bid

poor-mccain.jpgLast month, hard-line conservative Pastor John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel, announced his support for Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) candidacy for president. Despite Hagee’s numerous bigoted remarks — including his claim that the Catholic church is “the Great Whore” and a “false cult system” — McCain said that he was “very honored” by the endorsement.

McCain is continuing his tradition of courting the bigoted right-wing fringe. This afternoon, McCain addressed the Council for National Policy (CNP) in New Orleans in a “make-or-break pitch” for support from the secretive, ultra-conservative group that describes itself as a “self-selected, conservative counterweight” against “liberal domination of the American agenda.” McCain advisor Charlie Black said McCain “was anxious to appear” in front of the group.

CNP was founded in 1981 by Rev. Tim LaHaye, “an early Christian conservative organizer and the best-selling author of the ‘Left Behind’ novels about an apocalyptic Second Coming,” and fellow Christian conservative Paul Weyrich. Like Hagee, the group and its members have at times expressed and encouraged radical and intolerant views:

— LeHaye once said that Catholicism is a “false religion” and called popes “antichrists.

— Weyrich has claimed that CNP is a group of “radicals working to overturn the present power structure in this country.

— A speaker received a standing ovation at one CNP meeting when he suggested that AIDS was a sign from God that homosexuality was an “abomination.”

Because the group is shrouded in secrecy, its official roster is unknown. However, in 1998, the Institute for First Amendment Studies obtained a CNP member list, which contained many right-wing Christian leaders who have a history of extremist remarks, including Pat Robertson, James Dobson and the late Jerry Falwell.

McCain is no stranger to pandering to the extreme religious right when it suits his political needs. In a 2000 speech, he referred to Falwell and Robertson as “agents of intolerance.” Yet he repudiated that remark in 2006 and later delivered a commencement address at Falwell’s Liberty University.

UPDATE: McCain has now “repudiate[d]” Hagee’s past remarks about Catholics but still seemingly accepts his endorsement.