After a report on Newsmax.com indicated Sen. John McCain had rebuffed an offer to meet with the Rev. Billy Graham, the McCain campaign sought to clarify the matter.
Christian Ferry, McCain’s deputy campaign manager, tells Newsmax the campaign has been in the process of setting up a meeting between McCain and Graham.
Ferry said a misunderstanding of McCain’s intentions apparently arose because on June 3, 2008, the campaign sent what Ferry said was a routine letter declining an offer by Brian Jacobs, a Fort Worth, Texas, minister to broker a meeting between McCain and the evangelist.
Newsmax noted in its report that Jacobs had identified himself as a consultant to the Graham organization who had arranged a similar meeting between Graham and George W. Bush during the 2000 election.
In the June 3 McCain campaign letter, Amber Johnson, director of scheduling for the McCain campaign, wrote to Jacobs, “Thank you for your kind letter offering to set up a personal meeting between Senator McCain and Dr. Billy Graham.
"Senator McCain appreciates your invitation and the valuable opportunity it represents [italics added by McCain campaign]. Unfortunately, I must pass along our regrets and do not foresee an opportunity to add this event to the calendar.”
Ferry said that despite the suggestion that the McCain letter makes regarding no interest in such a meeting, the McCain campaign in fact had already been working with Graham’s son, Franklin Graham, to set up such a meeting.
Doug Wead, a former presidential adviser to President George H.W. Bush, authored the Newsmax report "McCain Declines to Meet With Billy Graham." Wead says he and Jacobs stand by their original account.
Wead said Jacobs had also been in contact with senior members of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, including persons close to Franklin Graham, and was told they had heard nothing from the McCain campaign about a possible meeting.
On Monday, Larry Ross, a spokesman for Graham, issued a statement to the press confirming that Billy Graham was unaware of any communication between the McCain campaign and his office or his son's.
"It would be highly unusual and out of character for Mr. Graham to initiate such a meeting, and there has been no contact between the McCain campaign and his office. In fact, Mr. Graham has not met or been in contact with any candidates during the current primary process.
"If he had, it has been his personal policy through the years to avoid partisanship by meeting with representatives from both parties to address spiritual concerns," Ross stated.
Graham's spokesman also noted that Jacobs' offer for a meeting was made independent of Graham, as the initial Newsmax report made clear.
"Upon further inquiry I understand that two people unaffiliated with either Billy or Franklin Graham apparently independently, without any knowledge by the [Billy Graham Evangelistic Association], tried to broker a meeting between Mr. McCain and the evangelist. Apparently it was their indirect and unofficial involvement that was declined."
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