Billy Graham did not go to Chick-fil-A (and he didn’t tell you to go there, either)

Steve Knight does not believe that recent statements allegedly from evangelist Billy Graham are really statements from Billy Graham:

Let me tell you about Billy Graham, just as he is, because based on what I experienced working for the man for six years, two statements issued under his name last week (and one earlier this year) significantly collide with the well-established values of this great humble faith leader.

… I sincerely fear that Billy has become a puppet for the political persuasions of Franklin Graham (and to a lesser extent, Anne Graham Lotz).

Hophni Phineas Graham

Knight is not alone in suspecting that the increasingly political statements coming out in Graham’s name actually reflect the views of his son. Pretty much everyone who is familiar with the man’s outlook, with his long track record, and with his ailing health, suspects the same thing.

“Billy Graham is 93 years old,” Knight points out. The iconic evangelist is also “in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease (among a host of other age-related ailments)” and has “been having fluid drained from his brain on a regular basis for over a decade.”

Knight continues:

When I worked for BGEA and Mr. Graham was still leading evangelistic crusades around the country, it was well-known that all of his sermons, articles, letters and books were ghostwritten — and had been for quite some time.

There’s also a track record in recent years of Franklin Graham redirecting his father (and mother) against their own wishes. …

The tragedy of what’s happening right now is that Billy Graham long ago made a personal commitment to avoid picking political sides, especially since being tricked by Richard Nixon in the 1970s in a case that led to a public apology in 2002 after tapes of their private Oval Office conversations were released. Up until this point, the Nixon debacle was arguably Billy’s only political misstep, but with each new anti-gay statement put out by BGEA his legacy is being tarnished.

I wrote about this back in May, when Billy Graham’s likeness and signature were used in full-page ads endorsing North Carolina’s anti-gay Amendment One referendum. That ad was uncharacteristic of the elder Graham, but it reeked of the familiar stink of his political-hack son. Jan Edmiston and Alvin McEwen both shared my suspicions. As did many others.

Knight notes that at the time of the Amendment One ad, Billy Graham’s official biographer, William Martin, disagreed with that suspicion, saying, “Franklin has been more outspoken about it, but it sounds as if this is Mr. Graham expressing his own will.” Knight disagrees. So do I. So do many, many evangelicals who have closely followed Billy Graham for decades — so many of us, in fact, that Martin was asked to weigh in.

Franklin has also been asked to weigh in. Reporter Mark Oppenheimer of The New York Times asked Franklin if his father would speak publicly to confirm his support for these recent statements released in his name.

“That ain’t gonna happen,” Franklin Graham said. “I can promise you that.”

Gee, why not?

I can’t prove that Knight and I and a great many others are right about this. All we can do is suspect and speculate. But Knight’s suspicion and speculation about Franklin’s manipulation of his ailing father rings true:

My concern is that here’s how things like this continue to work: Franklin Graham (or Franklin and his sister Anne Graham Lotz) have an agenda (in all three of these cases, “traditional marriage”), they get a BGEA copywriter to draft the text, then a BGEA graphic designer does the layout (in the case of the ad), Franklin approves the copy and/or design, then Franklin drives out to Little Piney Cove (Billy’s cabin home outside of Asheville, N.C.) and holds the piece of paper in front of Billy and asks, “Daddy, can we publish this?” And Billy nods (or whatever he’s capable of doing at this point in his life), and Franklin goes back and publishes this stuff with his good father’s name all over it.

Billy Graham and/or Franklin Graham had the opportunity to put all such speculation to rest last Wednesday.

On July 26, a statement was released in support of Chick-fil-A’s stance against marriage equality. Franklin Graham says his father wrote that statement. I’d bet a week’s worth of waffle fries that Franklin wrote it and attached his dad’s name to it in just the manner Knight describes above.

Here’s how that statement ended:

I plan to ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ and show my support by visiting Chick-fil-A next Wednesday.

The key word there is “visiting.” The statement doesn’t say Graham will be “sending an assistant to pick me up some Chick-fil-A next Wednesday.” It doesn’t simply suggest that he will be “eating” Chick-fil-A next Wednesday. It says visiting.

That’s specific and deliberate and necessary to accomplish Franklin’s goal in forging this statement under his father’s name. He was exploiting his father’s moral authority — a resource Franklin does not possess when speaking in his own name — in order to help create the political spectacle of long lines at Chick-fil-A locations. The statement wasn’t about what Billy Graham himself planned to actually, physically do. The statement was about what Franklin Graham wanted his followers to actually, physically do.

So what happened when Billy Graham showed up at his local Chick-fil-A last Wednesday? Did the crowds of evangelical chicken-eaters step aside to allow this 93-year-old, revered reverend to pass to the front of the line?

Well, no.

“Billy Graham” said he would “visit” Chick-fil-A last Wednesday. But Billy Graham did not do that.

When you’re 93 years old and “in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease (among a host of other age-related ailments)” you’re no more capable of visiting a fast-food restaurant a dozen miles away than you are of penning a partisan screed directing your son’s followers to do so.

The pro-Chick-fil-A statement from “Billy Graham” got a lot of press attention before last Wednesday. The evangelist’s no-show was a non-story.

At the conclusion of his Times report, Oppenheimer relays an email message from top-dollar Christian PR guru, A. Larry Ross, who confirms that someone else had visited Chick-fil-A and brought back a lunch for the elderly evangelist. Right. Sure.

Another person who refused interview requests was the Rev. Billy Graham, who lent his name to a July 26 statement praising “the Cathy family’s public support for God’s definition of marriage.” Mr. Graham said he would join Mr. Huckabee’s planned day of support: “As the son of a dairy farmer who milked many a cow, I plan to ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ and show my support by visiting Chick-fil-A” on Aug. 1.

But it turns out that the 93-year-old minister did not write his own statement.

“Considering Mr. Graham’s age and limited mobility, his statement was more an expression of sentiment and solidarity with the Cathy family and their cause than actually a commitment to go to a Chick-fil-A himself,” a spokesman, A. Larry Ross, said on Monday.

Franklin Graham, Mr. Graham’s son, said in an interview that the statement had emerged from his conversation with his father last week. “He said: ‘I want to support the Cathy family. What they are doing is right,’ ” the younger Mr. Graham said. He took his father’s sentiment to a group of advisers who prepared a statement, he said.

Franklin Graham would not name the other contributors to the statement and said his father would not speak publicly: “That ain’t gonna happen. I can promise you that.” His father does not hear well, he added, and he suffers from other pains of age.

Billy Graham has been avowedly apolitical, and bipartisan, for decades. But the symbolism of this fight apparently proved irresistible, whether to him or his handlers.

As it turned out, Mr. Graham ate in.

On Aug. 1, an e-mail from Mr. Ross arrived in early afternoon: “This is just to confirm that evangelist Billy Graham just enjoyed a Chick-fil-A sandwich, waffle fries, sweet tea and a chocolate shake for lunch at home today,” Mr. Ross wrote.

I hope Billy enjoyed the shake, if they even gave it to him. I doubt Franklin even bothered telling him why he was drinking it.

Will Billy Graham ever confirm that any of this was his idea or that he even agrees with what is being said and done in his name?

“Ain’t gonna happen. I can promise you that.”

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Hexep

    Reminds me of The Good Earth, when all of Wang Lung’s children are scheming behind his back.  Growing old ain’t no fun, that much is clear.

  • Robyrt

    Yeah, you’re probably right on this one. I have too much respect for Billy Graham to believe a lot of these recent statements. Even in the 90s reading Decision magazine, you could detect a whiff of the mercenary and the tribal in the reports about Franklin’s stadium outings.

  • Rowen

    At least Brian Herbert had the decency to wait until his father was dead before trying to co-opt and cash in on his father’s name . . .

  • Hth

    Here in the Liberal Culture of Death, we like to wait until someone has, you know, stopped breathing before we start exploiting the fact that they’re not around to keep us from stealing the silverware anymore.  Franklin’s probably right, it’s much more Lifeful and Family Valuesian to enjoy wrecking your father’s legacy while he’s still around to share it with.

  • TheDarkArtist

    My father-in-law’s father (grandfather-in-law? Is that a thing?) is, coincidentally, 94 years old. He has dementia and not Parkinson’s, but he was a wealthy person and in extremely good heath and always had been.

    If Billy Graham is anything like my GFiL, then Franklin Graham should be disgusted with himself and ashamed of putting anything out in his father’s name. And, hey, maybe Graham the Elder is all there up top and just has physical issues, I don’t know him or his medical history.
    But, purely anecdotally, I’m going to say that Billy Graham didn’t care or understand that he was eating Chik-fil-A. If he’s anything like my GFiL, he probably didn’t even remember it 20 minutes later. And since what Fred says is true about Mr Graham’s stance on taking political sides, I’m guessing that I’m correct in my assumptions here.

    And that makes this whole situation really, really fucked up. It’s like putting an adorable little baby in a onesie that says “God Hates —-.” Just wrong on so many levels.

  • Deird

    He has dementia and not Parkinson’s, but he was a wealthy person and in extremely good heath and always had been.

    If Billy Graham is in the later stages of Parkinson’s, he almost certainly has dementia symptoms as well.

    Gotta say, as someone whose grandfather had Parkinson’s, the idea of someone with late-stage Parkinson’s keeping up with current events and releasing a statement full of extremely complex words* makes me raise eyebrows…

    * Not because people with Parkinson’s can’t comprehend complex words, but because speaking and writing both become a huge chore, and so they tend to simplify their words as much as possible. They also speak less; my once-articulate grandfather was reduced to maybe a sentence every half an hour.

  • Original Lee

     Agree with you 100%.  My dad had Lewy Body dementia, which is sort of like Parkinson’s plus Alzheimer’s.  Towards the end, he was rarely verbal, and even then spoke in a barely articulated whisper that only my mom could sometimes understand.  At the very end, he couldn’t even swallow, let alone talk.

  • MaryKaye

    This is just very sad.  The way that the age-related diseases can steal a person’s capabilities years before they actually die is tragic, and very hard to deal with–we want the old to be wise for us, we want all that hard-earned wisdom to be available, and then suddenly it is not.  I remember this from my grandmother’s last years, when she was also manipulated by con artists.

  • JonathanPelikan

    One of the most frightening things I could ever imagine is one’s mind going before one’s body, from accident, illness, etc. When I get my will written up I’m going to make my position on what happens when I’m not -me- anymore quite clearly worded. If the legs or the arms or any physical bit is gone, fight tooth and nail to save me; if I can’t -think- then. Well, you know.

  • Mr. Heartland

    “I plan to ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ and show my support by visiting Chick-fil-A next Wednesday.”

    Surely the simple fact of being 93 years old is proof enough of having never eaten at a fast-food chicken joint. 

    (There have actually been people who asked me if I was malnourished simply because my gut is not visible through my shirt.  For real.  But I guess that’s neither here nor there.) 

  • hoaxdetector

    My wife and I recently visited personally and
    privately with Dr. Billy  Graham, no handlers present. He was weak physically and no longer has that booming voice, but he was in full
    possession of his mental faculties, engaged, articulate, his sense of humor
    intact, and well up on current events.    It is so amusing to see Fred Clark, Steve Knight, and others write so knowingly about Billy Graham’s health and state of mind, based sandpiles of conjecture. 

  • Nequam

    hoax:  So you’re basically saying that Dr. Graham may well be genuinely adopting the hateful and mendacious views of his son instead of being misrepresented by him?

    Gosh, that makes me feel ever so much better.

  • JonathanPelikan

    I sure hope you’re lying, because if you’re not, that means old Billy is a legitimate, real piece of shit now, fully living down to the definition of social conservatism in the modern world, and actively tossing his support to injustice.

  • Allen Goforth

    So none can disagree with you self proclaimed fountains of all wisdom huh? 

  • JonathanPelikan

    When it’s mid 2012 and  the issue is whether gay people deserve their human rights, all of them, then the answer is ‘no, you can’t’.

  • Lunch Meat

    Pics or it didn’t happen.

    Seriously, who are you that you happen to have this special personal relationship with Dr. Graham, and why should we believe you?

  • Anton_Mates

    Uh-huh.  Thanks for giving us the hard facts, anonymous person and anonymous person’s wife!

  • Hexep

    If you are, in fact, a hoax detector, is there any particular reason why you never stop beeping?

  • Geds

     My observation is that the man who uses “Test everything; hold fast to
    what is good” as his slogan, may have been less than thorough in testing
    the facts before he wrote this column.

    “You can’t believe everything you read on the internet.”  — Abraham Lincoln

    “Abraham Lincoln is totally full of shit.”  — Genghis Khan

    “Billy Graham is totally in charge of his faculties.”  — some guy

  • Geds

     Wait, are you the same HoaxDetector that pops up in the first three Google search results for the term?

    Because if so, I’m totally going to believe the word of someone who does internet radio shows about Death Panels and Obama being an illegal alien.  Unless, of course, that hoaxdetector and his wife personally visited with Obama last year and he showed them his Deathlotron 5000, which he can only operate by using his Kenyan birth certificate to activate.

  • FearlessSon

    Unless, of course, that hoaxdetector and his wife personally visited with Obama last year and he showed them his Deathlotron 5000, which he can only operate by using his Kenyan birth certificate to activate. 

    President Obama should totally be allowed to ride around in a giant robot called the Deathlotron 5000.  

    It might not be practical, and maybe even a little silly, but it would be awesome.

    All that military R&D money has to go somewhere, right?  

  • Dan Audy

    That is hilariously awful.  I kept expecting Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary.

  • Steven Appelget

    We try.

  • Keulan

    That game sounds ridiculously awesome. I’d love to play it, but it was only released in Japan, which is really odd considering how insanely American it is.

  • FearlessSon

    Yes, as they say, “Only Japan could come up with a game filled with this much hot-blooded American patriotism.”  

    The entire thing is voice acted in English by American VAs, but written by Japanese.  Hence why some of these lines seem so awkward.  The VAs make it up with copious amounts of delicious raw ham.  It is like, what if they took overblown stereotypes about American boisterousness and weaponized them.

    Such a pity it was never actually released in the U.S.


  • Geds

     President Obama should totally be allowed to ride around in a giant robot called the Deathlotron 5000.

    I’d vote for him if he did that.  Of course, I was planning on voting for him, anyway, since the other option with a possibility of winning is Romney.  But I’d vote for him enthusiastically, which is not something I can say right now.

    Of course, I’m currently sitting thirty miles outside Chicago (it’s dark out, but I’m almost out of gas, I lack cigarettes, and I’m not wearing sunglasses), so it’s not like my vote will amount to anything.

  • The_L1985

     That still says nothing about whether or not Billy actually approved of what Franklin was saying in his name.  Without a public statement directly from Billy Graham, it’s all too probable that Frank is making it up.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Anyone can lie on the internet, and Rightwing christians have lying down to an art. Got any actual proof?

  • Hummingwolf

    So if Billy Graham is well up on current events, he is aware of the things that many people are speculating about him and his son Franklin?  He is aware that people are accusing his son of things which–you say–are not true? And Billy Graham refuses to speak on camera in order to clear his son’s name?

    If all that you say is true, Mr. or Ms. Random Commenter, then why on Earth does Billy Graham hate Franklin Graham so very much?

  • Steve Knight

     So, in the course of your private conversation, did Billy tell you how he felt about homosexuals? And if so, what exactly did he say? Thanks.

  • Steve Knight

    “hoaxdetector,” your argument that Mr. Graham is in great health is completely undermined by A. Larry Ross and Franklin Graham who used Mr. Graham’s poor health as excuses in their responses to the NYTimes questions. Which is it? You can’t have it both ways.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    I recently met with Superman, Batman, and Santa Claus, and they all said hoaxdetector is missing some evidence.

  • Formerconservative

    Oh yeah, well the Doctor (his 4th incarnation to be exact) picked me up in his TARDIS and we went and visited Billy Graham in 1953 and Billy Graham told me that he had no problem with gay people.  

  • Amused

     Funny how people like Hexep, Former Conservative, Anton-Mates, Rhubarbarian82, Lunch Meat, JonathanPelikan,
    believe without question everything they read on the Internet if it
    fits their preferred narrative, but mock anything that doesn’t fit their
    preferred narrative.

  • Formerconservative

    I’d respond to that, but I’m busy sending information about my bank account to a Nigerian prince.

  • Lunch Meat

    Funny how “Amused” knows everything about me by reading one snarky comment I posted anonymously on the Internet. You must be psychic!

  • histrogeek

     Inaccurate Internet telepathy is one of the great social afflictions of our day.

  • Morilore

    Oh, I see. We are supposed to treat the claims of a public figure writing in the Huffington Post under his own name on the same level as the claims of “hoaxdetector,” anonymous internet poster in the comments section of a religion blog.   Glad we cleared that up.

  • JarredH

     You mean their preferred narrative that Billy Graham is an old man whose reputation is being used rather than the narrative that says that Billy Graham has decided to abandon decades of intentional political neutrality to become yet another purveyor of prejudice and hatred?

    Also, you might note that Fred also said up front that he can’t know for sure what’s really going on, you know, since Franklin has made it clear that his father will not (be allowed to?) speak publicly and directly for himself and therefore is admittedly speculating.

  • Chris Doggett

    believe without question everything they read on the Internet if it fits their preferred narrative, but mock anything that doesn’t fit their preferred narrative.

    Billy Graham is in his 90’s. This is an objective fact, easily verified.
    He is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. This too is an objective fact, easily verified.
    He has a history of being a-political since Nixon. Once again, a matter of record, easily tested.
    Remarks were recently printed under his name that were political. I doubt you dispute this, but again, it’s empirically verifiable.
    Perhaps because these remarks were out of character, a request was made that Mr. Graham publicly comment; that request was emphatically refused by gatekeepers. I do not “believe without question” this claim, but can instead quickly and easily confirm it’s truth. 
    Mr. Graham’s son does have a history of political remarks like those attributed recently to his father. Franklin was also the person who refused the request for a public comment from the elder Graham. 

    So on the one hand, we have facts, evidence, and a very plausible explanation for the out-of-character, atypical remarks and subsequent refusal to discuss further.

    On the other hand, we have an anonymous internet commentator who claims a private visit with Dr. Graham with no one else present, where this commentator claims (sans any medical background, proper evaluation, or even repeated visits) that Dr. Graham is healthy, fit, and in full possession of his mental capacities. 

    And now another drive-by-commentator is interpreting this as “believing without question everything they read on the internet” if we believe in facts and behavior, but “mocking anything that doesn’t fit our preferred narrative” if we do not uncritically embrace the words of an anonymous person claiming private visits and medical evaluations. 

    Say hello to the Red Queen for me. 

  • Turcano


    And now another drive-by-commentator, who is totally not the same person, honest, is interpreting this…

    Fixed that for you.

  • Allen Goforth

    Graham recently did an interview with 
    Greta van susteren. He seemed to be in pretty good control of his thoughts etc.  Too bad you didn’t take the time to Google something like that. Of course that might have interfered  with your convictions huh.

  • BringTheNoise

     Two years is a long time when you’re in your 90s and suffering from Parkinson’s.

  • Chris Doggett

    @facebook-1073340374:disqus  you are either a troll, lazy, or both.

    The next time you accuse someone of not taking “the time to Google something like that”, you might consider posting a link to the search results from Google

    Or hey, how about alink to the actual interview itself

    Why couldn’t you manage such a simple task? Well, you might just be too lazy to cut and paste URLs, but I’m guessing it’s because you’re a disingenuous troll.

    You see, the Greta Van Susteren interview was from December 2010. That is not “recently”, that is over a year and a half ago, and it’s before any of these controversial statements appeared in print. 

    Or maybe you didn’t want to post those links because if people followed them, they’d notice that Mr. Graham appeared to have difficulty answering the very first question asked! Maybe you didn’t want people reading the transcript of the interview because they’d notice that there were very few actual questions asked, most of the answers given were reminiscences of past events, and subjects relating to evangelism and/or theology were only touched on twice, and very briefly.

  • Hexep

    In a less-dismissive vein, it falls to this mysterious Hoaxdetector to prove to us that he visited one Billy Graham.  Until then – until he has supported his hypothesis with genuine data – his conclusions are uninteresting and unfinished.

  • Hth

     Funny how people in general believe things they read if they make a damn bit of sense, but mock anything that doesn’t make a damn bit of sense.

    (Look, none of us know what’s going on.  But “My extremely ill father told me these things in private that are very convenient for me but seem quite out of character for him, and I would prove that to you except that, no, I absolutely will not, now or ever” does not match people’s general “preferred narrative” in re: sounding remotely convincing.)

  • Emcee, cubed

     See, no. Actually what we do is look at available evidence and facts, and make logical conclusions. Yes, there is a possibility that those conclusions are incorrect, which Fred actually acknowledges.

    I can’t prove that Knight and I and a great many others are right about this. All we can do is suspect and speculate.

    But here’s the thing. Graham the Elder, by all accounts, is not an unintelligent person. So I have to wonder, if in fact he is still in full control of his faculties, why he wouldn’t realize that putting out statements that so obvious dovetail with his [much-less-respected] son’s views, and are so different from anything he got involved with in the previous five or six decades, would lead to people wondering who was in control. He would then take steps to nullify that speculation by, say, making a video statement. Or doing a live interview. Or a taped interview. Or something to let his admirers know that he was changing the direction of his life and ministry at age 93.

    Since he won’t do that (which also hasn’t come from Graham himself, but from the aforementioned less-respected son), that has to be factored in as well. When he would be able to disprove such claims with relative ease (for someone “in full possession of his mental faculties, articulate, his sense of humor intact, and well up on current events”), people have to wonder why he hasn’t done so.

  • Emcee, cubed

    And now another drive-by-commentator

    I think you are making a pretty big assumption with that “another” there…

  • histrogeek

    Even though I am sure Fred, Steve Knight, and the others would definitely prefer that Billy didn’t make those statements, I’d say the scheming-son narrative still fits better than Rev. Graham had some deep-seeded need in his advanced age to dive in the culture wars he spent his healthy years avoiding. So Fred’s hope, speculative and apologetic though it is, makes more sense than the story Franklin and company are pushing.
    Not since Cotton Mather has a preacher’s son spend so much effort to trash his family’s reputation for his personal gain.

  • Ross

     There is, I suppose, another possibility.

    Maybe the elder Graham *did* make those statements, not out of a sincere belief that the threat of civil rights for gay people justifies his doing an about-face on his behavior for the past four decades, but as a way to, as his departing gesture, fall on his sword to bail out the evangelical tribe.

    I mean, I think anyone who still thinks that the homophobes are actually going to win this one in the long term is just as  deluded as the folks with the “Stop interracial marriage NOW” signs were fifty years ago.

    So maybe his real plan is to *take the fall for it*. Come out both barrels blazing against marriage equality, and then *die*. So that when marriage equality becomes fact, whether they like it or not, the tribe, instead of having to deal with having proven themselves irrelevant, can do an about-face and blame their missteps on the older generation, now departed.

  • histrogeek

     That is another possibility, but usually when public figures decide to throw themselves on the barricades, they make a big public announcement. Which makes sense, if you’re going to go out in a blaze of glory, you should make a big stink about it. If Rev. Billy wanted to follow that path, he’d do something more obvious like give an interview or at least write something that says, “In the past I tried to stay above the political fray, but now with threat of [moral collapse, dogs and cats living together, people actually marrying the people they love, etc.] I can’t remain silent on this vital issue.” And so on.
    The fact that whoever is writing his statements doesn’t even bother to point out the discrepancy is another suspicious point. It implies they are talking to the tribe who assume BG is on their side anyway. So what seems an odd change in direction to other people, doesn’t really matter. (Same way that every stray deist sentiment of America’s Founders really means America is supposed to be a theocracy governed by 19th and 20th Century reactionary theology.) He’s part of the tribe, ergo he believes what the tribe believes.

  • Jessica_R

    Okay, asking for a signal boost from the Slacktivites. It’s all too easy for me to give into being bitter and why bother so I did something. I’m trying to get the cost of a CFA combo meal sent to the genuinely in need and often in danger kids at The Ali Forney Center. Read about it, pass it on, and give if you can here,

  • Formerconservative

    Jessica, I just  shared it on the fb fan page for my blog.

  • Morilore

    I support this initiative.

  • MaryKaye

    I’m struck by something in this argument.

    There’s a group of commentators that cares about what Rev. Graham said mainly because of the effect on his reputation and good standing in their eyes.  They are not looking to him to help determine their views on marriage equality or religious freedom; they are instead wondering what his views are, and feeling concerned about whether he’s able to express them.

    There’s another group (well, one anyway) that gives me the impression of “Graham supports my position == win for my side” and “Graham does not support my position == loss for my side” and therefore argues that Graham really does support the position he is claimed to support.

    The two sides are, I think, arguing right past each other.  I am a Pagan; I personally don’t give Graham’s opinion on marriage equality any particular weight in developing my own opinion.  He’s a Christian that my Christian father has some good regard for, but that’s all, and there are a lot of people like that.  But I am upset by the idea that his views might be misrepresented, because that’s wrong no matter who it happens to, and brings back unpleasant memories of my own grandmother.

    People coming from a relatively more authoritarian position are more likely, I think, to see Graham as an authority whose views therefore can influence the views of many.  There’s some truth to this way of looking at things:  famous preachers really do have an influence.  But it’s a truth that many liberals, including me, dislike and tend to ignore when we can.

    Anyway.  Some meta-analysis, for what it’s worth.

  • Geds

    There’s a group of commentators that cares about what Rev. Graham said
    mainly because of the effect on his reputation and good standing in
    their eyes.  They are not looking to him to help determine their views
    on marriage equality or religious freedom; they are instead wondering
    what his views are, and feeling concerned about whether he’s able to
    express them.


    I, personally, don’t care what Graham has to say.  I didn’t like Chick-fil-A before this thing blew up.  I already had no intention of giving them my money.  Graham wouldn’t have gotten me to change my stance no matter what he said.

    I, personally, do not see Billy Graham as an authority on anything I do.  I do, however, see him as someone who built up a (not necessarily iron-clad) legacy as a non-partisan religious figure.  In a vacuum I would be baffled by this sudden change at the very end of his life when he doesn’t have to get involved.  I also, however, happen to know that Frankin Graham is a git who has been pissing all over the family name since he learned how to drop his diapers.

    So I put 2 and 2 together and get 4.  And then I get to mock driveby trolls.  It’s a win-win for me!

  • Ursula L

    Even if the younger Graham is behind these statements, I’m not sure that this exonerates the elder.

    Franklin Graham has been a public bigot for quite a while.  Post 9/11 he said some pretty awful things about Muslims and Islam, and the place for Muslims in US society.  Billy Graham still had a public career at that point. He did nothing to distance himself from his son’s public words and actions.  More important than merely distancing himself from his son’s public words and actions, he did nothing to tell his followers that his son’s bigotry was un-Christian, in order to keep them from being led down the road to bigotry.

    Rather, the son continued to work with and through the Billy Graham Evangelical Association.  Billy Graham didn’t decide that his son’s bigotry made him unfit to carry on the Billy Graham legacy.  Instead, knowing his son’s bigotry, he organized the institution responsible for his legacy in a way that put the son in charge of his legacy.  

    And, on a more basic human level, Billy Graham raised his son in a way that allowed the son to grow up to be a public bigot.  Now, parents don’t have complete control over what their children grow up to be.  But they do have a certain amount of influence.  

    If someone is actively a public bigot towards one group of people, it isn’t surprising when they turn out to actively be a public bigot towards a second group of people.   

    Billy Graham decided that Franklin Graham was the right person to be put in charge of his ministry and legacy.  

    And Franklin Graham was an awful enough public bigot at the time when Billy Graham was still having a public career and able to decide and control who was associated with the organizations he led that we can know, with reasonable certainty, that Billy Graham thought that putting this public bigot in charge of his legacy was an appropriate thing to do.  


    Billy Graham was also a public bigot himself.

    For example, he made a deliberate decision that he would never be alone with a woman other than his wife.  This was presented as an act of public morality.  As some sort of twisted virtue.   He thought he was making a point that he would not commit adultery or do anything that might allow speculation that he was committing adultery.

    But it also meant that women were shut out from any sort of authority within his organization.  

    If you are a leader of an organization, there are times when you need to have private meetings with this or that person within your organization.  If you refuse to meet privately with any given person, then they can’t have a role in your organization that requires the occasional private meeting, or even a role where a private meeting may be the most effective way to solve a problem.  

    It also shows that he didn’t consider women to be publicly  trustworthy – that a woman could work in a professional capacity without being suspect as temptresses and sluts.  That a woman can’t be alone with a man without suspicion of sexual contact.  


    Billy Graham was publicly bigoted against women.

    His son was publicly bigoted against Muslims.

    He put his son in charge of his legacy.

    So why is anyone surprised that a public bigot who puts another public bigot in charge of his legacy has bigoted public statements put out in his name?  

  • Dan Audy

    I don’t think it is fair to describe Graham’s policy as bigotry even if the impact was much the same.  Many men constantly consider whether being alone with a women puts them at risk for allegations of sexual impropriety or rumors of infidelity.  As a prominent figure of a movement consistently rocked by sex scandals I can completely understand why he would choose to publicly announce that he wouldn’t be alone with women.

    The fact his actions weren’t intended to harm women or deny them authority is not relevant to actual impact it had.  His policy was bad and harmful and put back the cause of equality within the evangelical movement, an movement that needs it more than most.  While normally I don’t consider motivation to be a particularly compelling justification for bad actions (intent is not magic after all), I think it is relevant in this case where you are ascribing motivation to later actions based on a proof of bad faith in his earlier actions that isn’t supported.

  • Dave


    As a prominent figure of a movement consistently rocked by sex scandals I
    can completely understand why he would choose to publicly announce that
    he wouldn’t be alone with women.

    I would think, were that the concern, that he would also choose not to be alone with men. Or children. Or small groups. Or livestock.

    Scandal knows no boundaries.

  • Ursula L

    While normally I don’t consider motivation to be a particularly compelling justification for bad actions (intent is not magic after all), I think it is relevant in this case where you are ascribing motivation to later actions based on a proof of bad faith in his earlier actions that isn’t supported. 

    The point is, he was and is bigoted.  If his actions are effectively bigoted in every way, holding back the title of “bigot” pretty much means that nothing can be labeled as bigotry, the acts of a bigoted person acting on their bigotry.  

    And he acted on that bigotry in deciding to try to prove his sexual morality by never being alone with a woman other than his wife.  That choice did nothing to prove his sexual morality.  There are lots of other ways to act sexually, both moral and immoral.  

    His decision tells us nothing about what he thinks about the enthusiastic consent of his sexual partners, aside from the moment of consent at the time they made their marriage vows.  So he gets no points for public sexual morality.  It does show us exactly how bigoted he was and is against women, throwing away every quality a woman might have other than the fact that he considered her a sexual temptation. 

    The fact that he didn’t recognize his own bigotry doesn’t change that.  Being so immersed in bigotry that you don’t even see it doesn’t excuse you.  It makes you even worse.

    He was bigoted.  His son was bigoted.  He treated his own bigotry as good, and his son’s as either irrelevant or good.  And the organization that he created and passed on to his son has the exact same bigoted properties. 

  • Joshua

    Another other possibility is that his views really have taken a turn for the worse. I’ve known people to take a turn for the bleak near the end, sadly. One public case would be Isaac Asimov: his last published novel was bleak and despairing in a way that stands out among his generally light fiction.

    Either way, it’s very sad.

  • Ursula L

    Thinking more about it, Billy Graham’s public act of deliberately never being alone with a woman other than his wife in order to avoid any suggestion of sexual impropriety pretty much necessitates that heterosexual sexuality is seen as natural and pretty much universal, and that any other sort of sexuality is seen as unnatural and incredibly rare.

    Because if he genuinely wanted to ensure that his behavior could not be interpreted as having any opportunity for sexual contact with anyone other than his wife, then he can’t merely limit his unchaperoned contact with women other than his wife.  He’d have to be sure to never be alone and unchaperoned with any other person, man, woman or child.  

    Actually, since sexual acts aren’t necessarily limited to the participation of just two people, he’d have to ensure video and audio recordings of every moment of his life other than the times when he is alone with his wife.  

    And since sexual morality isn’t limited to limiting sexual activity to intercourse with your legal spouse, but requires informed and enthusiastic consent for every encounter, if he wants to be sure that no one can suspect him of sexual impropriety, then he needs to be monitored when alone with his wife, so that everyone knows that she’s enthusiastically consenting rather than him forcing something she doesn’t want.  

    Billy Graham, in deciding to never be alone with a woman other than his wife, also decided that he’d ignore the possibility of any sort of sexual behavior other than strict two-person heterosexuality.  

    If you consider same-sex sexual activity as natural and normal as opposite-sex sexual activity, then Billy Graham’s odd sort of public sexuality looses its meaning.  Never being alone with another woman doesn’t tell you much about whether he’s faithful.  It merely tells you that he’s not unfaithful in the context of interacting with one woman, but anything might happen when he’s alone with another man, or with a group of people.    

    One might even speculate that the very public expression of heterosexual fidelity was a cover, distracting from the fact that he allows himself the exact same sexual opportunity with men.  

    The idea that someone might think that him being alone with another man is no different than him being alone with another woman, in terms of sexual morality, undermines the choices he made to present himself publicly as being sexually moral.  


    Billy Graham spent a lot of time and energy making the public statement “I’m sexually moral!  I’m never even alone for a moment with any woman other than my wife!”

    And he got a lot of public affirmation for that.  “Yes! You are a good person! You are sexually moral! We know that you never give yourself the opportunity for sex with a woman other than your wife!”  

    And he looses that affirmation if people think “So what?  There are lots of perfectly normal and  natural ways in which you could have sex.  Both with your wife and with other people.  And those might be good or bad, depending on a lot of details you aren’t telling us.”  

    His great public act of sexual morality becomes something that is morally irrelevant. 

  • Keulan

    I’m not convinced that Billy Graham isn’t a bigot. There’s the Nixon tapes where he said some really anti-semitic things. Then there’s Ursula’s points about how he publicly interacted with women. Here’s an example of some bigoted things he said about atheists in response to a letter from a woman about her atheist friend. In light of the above, I wouldn’t be too surprised if he was also an anti-gay bigot.

  • Ross

     Whether or not Billy Graham is a bigot is actually tangential to the issue at hand: the real matter is whether he’s the sort of bigot who goes in for big public displays of bigotry. And what his public record shows is that he does not seem to be the sort of person who would make public displays of forthright bigotry.  He seems, in fact, like someone who tries very hard to keep his bigotry private.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Also? Billy Graham isn’t immune to the pleasures of hobnobbing with the elite. There’s a story of the Bush family actually calling up Billy Graham over the telephone to settle a debate over some aspect of religious doctrine.

    Whar are the chances Jane Average could call up dear ole Rev Billy for a chitchat about something the Bible says?

    The point is, that he’s wealthy enough and insulated enough that he’s probably out of touch with anything his average-person believers have to deal with.

  • Steven Appelget

    Some people seem pretty invested in declaring that Billy Graham is a bigot prima facie and then finding the evidence to support that claim.  Exploring the cause of that initial investment might be interesting, but I fear it would lead to loud cries of persecution and discrimination and silencing.

    Be that as it may, it seems to me potentially fruitful to consider the path of Billy Graham.  Coming out of a dreadfully racist and discriminatory society, he made specific efforts to ensure his crusades were not racially segregated.   Coming out of a church system where leaders routinely stole and embezzled funds to live lavish lives, he pushed for full financial transparency in his organizations.  Coming from a system where women could be routinely sexually used and discarded, he took steps to ensure he would not do that.

    Perfect?  Nope.  But at least he _tried_.  And he _tried_ on a stage larger than a blog comment thread.

  • Dan Audy

    I don’t follow his denomination or even his religion but  Billy Graham is one of the best models for a religious leader that right-wing Evangelicals have.  While he has failed on a lot of things I think the fact he makes the effort towards treating women as equals in a movement that has been systematically trying to undo The Quiet Revolution and push women into fewer positions of authority than they have historically held.  I feel that there is plenty worth criticizing him over without overreaching to tar him with the darkest brush possible.

  • malpollyon

    “Coming from a system where women could be routinely sexually used and discarded, he took steps to ensure he would not do that.”
    What? How is that connected? It’s not like sexual assault is something brought by the rape fairy at random intervals whenever a man is alone with a woman. What he took steps to ensure was that he never be *accused* of doing that.

  • Ross Thompson

    “Coming from a system where women could be routinely sexually used and discarded, he took steps to ensure he would not do that.”
    How is that connected? It’s not like sexual assault is something
    brought by the rape fairy at random intervals whenever a man is alone
    with a woman. What he took steps to ensure was that he never be
    *accused* of doing that.

    Unless, of course, he had reason to know that he was incapable of controlling himself when he was alone with a woman, and that he’d invariably force himself upon her.

    But that’s probably not the picture he wanted to paint, either.

  • Ursula L

    Unless, of course, he had reason to know that he was incapable of controlling himself when he was alone with a woman, and that he’d invariably force himself upon her. 

    And if that was the case, the right thing to do would be to lock himself up.  Limit his own behavior and opportunities.  

    Not structure his ministry in a way that limits the opportunities of women within the organization because he refused to work with women as equals. A woman who has done no harm shouldn’t find herself locked out of a job or promotion because the boss refuses to work with women.  

    And anyway, if he would sexually attack any woman he was alone with, that would include his wife.  Being married to him doesn’t mean that she consents to violent sexual attack every time they are alone. Even if he kept himself from raping other woman by shutting them out of his organization, he’d still be raping his wife. 

  • Ursula L

    Coming from a system where women could be routinely sexually used and discarded, he took steps to ensure he would not do that. 

    No, he didn’t.

    If he didn’t want to use and discard women, then the thing he needed to do is not use and discard women.

    Refusing to be alone with a woman has nothing at all to do with not using or abusing her.  

    Attacks and abuse can happen when other people are around.  (Consider situations of gang-rape.)  Attacks and abuse don’t have to happen just because no one else is around. 

    Billy Graham’s solution did nothing to protect any woman.  He never claimed that he was trying to protect women because he’d attack a woman if he was alone with her.  He didn’t care about women at all when deciding to shut them out of his organization by limiting the ways in which they could work in his organization.  

    He was very, very clear that what he was protecting was his reputation.  He didn’t want anyone to think he was having sex with a woman other than his wife.  

    And protecting his reputation meant limiting the opportunities of women in his organization.  Opportunities where a woman might feel called to the ministry, and he denied the possibility of her spiritual calling. And professional opportunities in any job or office which required working closely with him – the jobs with the highest status, and best pay. Ensuring that women suffered financially for the sake of his reputation.  

  • EdinburghEye

    Billy Graham probably was homophobic and misogynistic in that comfortable at-home way that sees no problem at all with thinking of women as wickedly sexual beings responsible for men having sexual thoughts, and LGBT people as sinners who’d lost their way but could be forgiven if they tried hard enough to be straight.

    There are a whole bunch of people like that, and forgive me for being ageist, but that’s pretty much what I expect from a committed Christian born around WWI.

    Thinking casually of any women and all LGBT people (and, despite his efforts to end segregation, my guess is most black people) as inferior to straight white men, is bigoted, but it’s not the same as the active ugly ill-will that leads to pouring millions into campaigns against gay marriage.

    You can even be the kind of Christian who believes gay marriage is profoundly wrong and also think that the millions that “Christians” are spending to prevent it could be better spent on worthier causes, like relieving poverty.

    Everything I have heard about Billy Graham suggests that he wasn’t the kind of Christian who got into being aggressively divisive over shibboleths like abortion and gay marriage. As for why he didn’t publicly condemn his son when he could have… well. I don’t think someone should necessarily be judged by not speaking out against his own son.

    Everything I ever heard about Billy Graham suggests I would have disliked him if we’d ever met. But it does seem likely that his son is taking advantage of his age and ill-health to misrepresent his views – and that really sucks.

  • Geds

     There are a whole bunch of people like that, and forgive me for being
    ageist, but that’s pretty much what I expect from a committed Christian
    born around WWI.

    I wouldn’t call that “ageist” so much as “the result of observation.”  My grandmother, for instance, is 91 years old.  My grandfather was a Teamster in Detroit and my grandma was a life-long Democrat who personally knew Jimmy Hoffa.

    She voted McCain in 2008.  Because Obama’s black.  She’ll tell you she doesn’t have anything against black people, but her entire reason for voting McCain was because Obama is black and that guy who was Mayor of Detroit at the time was black and also corrupt as hell, so all of those guys are corrupt.  And “those guys” specifically meant “black politicians.”

    The other day I was in the car with her and she was pointing out black people and talking about seeing a bunch of black people having a picnic in the park across the street from her condo.  It was casual racism with grandma.  Hooray!

    Now, that’s not to say that every single (white, for the purposes of argument) person in their 90s is, by definition, going to be bigoted.  But it is something that’s pretty common.  Although that largely depends on where the person is from and background and everything else.  It also depends on the type of bigotry.  I wouldn’t be shocked to find a 90 year-old homophobe, since that’s still very much a thing (duh).  I’d be slightly more surprised to find a 90 year-old racist, since we’re a good 50 years past the Civil Rights Movement.  I’d be, frankly, shocked to find out that Billy Graham or my grandmother can’t stand the fookin’ Irish, though.  That’s some old-school bigotry right there (at least here in America…).

  • Lori

    If, as seems likely, Franklin is using his aging father as a puppet for
    his own views that’s vile and Franklin should be ashamed of himself. He’s not the only one who should be ashamed either. There must be other people within the family or
    organization who know the truth about the situation and if they’re
    letting Franklin get away with what he appears to be doing then they
    should be ashamed of themselves too. There’s no acceptable excuse for using someone that way or allowing someone to be used that way. That said, this situation didn’t just came out of nowhere.

    As for why he didn’t publicly condemn his son when he could have…
    well. I don’t think someone should necessarily be judged by not speaking
    out against his own son.  

    I basically agree about this, but I also think that if Billy Graham cared about the credibility that he had built up during his decades of ministry he should not have left his organization in Franklin’s control. He and therefore created the situation where Franklin is his public spokesperson on religious issues. By the time he turned things over, Franklin’s asshatery was well established and Billy should have had a pretty good idea how the whole business would turn out. Not that Franklin would use him as a sock puppet, but that sooner or later he would totally trash Billy’s legacy, and Billy still put him in charge. That means that Billy either agrees with Franklin more than people want to believe or he felt that giving Franklin a boast was more important than protecting his legacy.

  • Vass

    I’m going to go ahead and say I hope he really made those comments. I hate people campaigning to prevent people like me from having civil rights, but I find the idea of someone using their elderly, sick parent as a puppet more upsetting. It makes me what else he does counter to his father’s wishes and interests. This does not speak to which is the more plausible explanation, just what I hope.

    (Also, @JonathanPelikan, can we not do the  “if I become demented or brain-injured, please kill me” thing? I know you think you’re only speaking for yourself, but actually that attitude is in a direct line with people discounting, neglecting, and outright murdering people with disabilities.)

  • JonathanPelikan

    My intent was not to speak flippantly about this sort of thing, nor was I speaking for anybody but myself and what’s going to go into my living will when it’s recorded. I apologize.

  • Isabel C.

    @Geds:disqus :  From what I heard, my grandfather couldn’t stand the fookin’ Italians back in The Day. (Mom said she once even had the classic “Well, what about Mr. So-and-so? He’s Italian, and you work with him and get along really well…” “Oh, he’s one of the good ones,” conversation.) So I’d be less surprised.

    In general, though, yeah.  Plus, there’s a thing where–at least for my living grandparents–there’s more anxiety about the costs of aging and the way the world’s changing, which makes them more likely to believe various bits of Fox News bullshit. Which is tough: on the one hand, I think trying to get people to stop believing that sort of thing is a good idea. On the other hand…they’re ninety, so…well, is the possibility of change and the capacity for harm worth the argument at this point? On the third hand, they still vote. I dunno. I think public figures are more responsible and accountable for their views, and for changing those views in accordance with the times and apologizing when prior views have hurt people.  In this case, though, a decade or so of Parkinson’s doesn’t (from my limited knowledge of the disease) really let you do that.
    So I don’t know. I know that Franklin Graham is a dick. That’s a certainty I can cling to. 

  • Steve Knight

    Fred, thanks for picking up this story and continuing this conversation. I think the New York Times story confirms what I stated in my article about how BGEA operates when it comes to these kinds of statements. Billy Graham may have very well told his son Franklin he wanted to “support Dan Cathy,” but it’s Franklin and his copywriters at BGEA who put the harsh culture war rhetoric in Billy’s mouth.

    And to “hoaxdetector,” your argument that Mr. Graham is in great health is completely undermined by A. Larry Ross and Franklin Graham who used Mr. Graham’s poor health as excuses in their responses to the NYTimes’ questions. Which is it? You can’t have it both ways.

  • Dma

    5000 whining atheists vs the Great Prophet

  • tanyam

    I know we Christians are loathe to air our dirty laundry like this, but I believe that a bold lie is being told, so I thank those who have bravely challenged Franklin Graham in what may one day be called, “Billygate.” As the Catholic church is busy teaching us, it does no good to hide our sins from the public. Putting words in your ailing father’s mouth is surely wrong.

    After Knight’s original posting, there were a bunch of helpful comments which included reminders about what B. Graham actually said and did when he was lucid. He refused to join Falwell’s Moral Majority, and refused to say condemning things about gay people even when he was asked directly. (Famously, “what would you do if your son was gay?) I would guess his views would be conservative, but he refused, time and again, to be drawn into these things. I don’t believe he would do so now. He would NOT take a position on a piece of legislation. He would NOT take a position on chicken.

    And over on John Shore’s page is this reminder:  “According to its 990 IRS form (the latest I could find online), in 2010 Samaritan’s Purse paid Graham Franklin $561,000. That same year the organization received $10 million in government grants.”

    If we’re not appalled, we ought to be. That is an astonishing sum of money for the head of a non-profit. We were rightly scandalized a few years ago when the salaries of those directing the Red Cross were brought to light. This is equally distressing.  Franklin is not an admirable figure, he puts me in mind of the many Christian leaders, especially in dynasties, who turn out to have very clay feet.

  • Eskimopie2200

    Steve Knight is Jay Bakkers buddy and wants to discredit the Graham.
    What a pityful gossipmongers.

  • BringTheNoise

     Grammar, spelling; an RTC cares not for these things…

  • PJ Evans

    Grammar, spelling; an RTC cares not for these things…

    Nor anything else, apparently, except demonstrating how narrow-minded they actually are.

  • Nanci

    Political neutrality, yes, as far as the Democrat/Republican thing…Soft on homosexuality? Not so much! The radio station founded by Billy Graham in Black Mountain, NC has Focus on the Family on the air twice a day, and has had for MANY years, certainly since the days when he was in FULL control of his faculties. Dr Graham has never compromised “conservative biblical values”, say what you will.

  • PJ Evans

     He should have compromised them when he realized that they were not Christian values.