Internationally respected evangelist Franklin Graham, the son of the great preacher Billy Graham, jumped into the political fray Tuesday by denouncing “outrageous” attempts by the political left to blame Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for the Tucson rampage that left six dead and 14 wounded.
“This is a time for mourning and prayer for the victims and their families,” Graham reminded those who appear to be trying to exploit the shooting spree for political gain.
That Graham would come to Palin’s defense suggests the backlash to liberal attempts to lay the murderous rampage at the feet of conservatives may be expanding.
“I have been shocked at the reports from those suggesting that former Governor Sarah Palin has some level of responsibility for the horrific shooting in Arizona,” Graham said in the statement posted Tuesday on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) website.
“I got to know Governor Palin when she served as governor of Alaska,” stated the younger Graham, who is BGEA’s president and CEO.
“She was extremely helpful to Samaritan’s Purse in providing relief to remote villages throughout the state. Most recently, she and members of her family traveled with me to Haiti where we visited cholera clinics, temporary shelter communities, and participated in an Operation Christmas Child distribution.”
Samaritan’s Purse is the ministry organization Graham founded that conducts various international relief operations.
Graham went on to praise Palin as “a kind and compassionate, God-fearing woman who believes with all her heart that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
Graham’s statement strongly suggested that he views political attacks based on the tragedy to be highly inappropriate.
“Whether you agree with her politics or not, it is outrageous to suggest that her political opinions encourage violence toward anyone,” Graham declared.
Prominent Democrats, including former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, and columnist Paul Krugman of The New York Times have been leading the charge to blame Palin and grass-roots conservatives for the massacre.
Several pundits associated with progressive politics, however, have denounced left-wing attempts to pin the cold-blooded murders on heated conservative rhetoric.
Those mainstream commentators include: Jonathan Chait of The New Republic, James Fallows of The Atlantic, Howard Kurtz of the Daily Beast, and Juan Williams of Fox News. They point out that there is no evidence the 22-year-old suspect was motivated by politics.
The Christian broadcasting group CBN
reported Tuesday in a separate statement that Graham issued, urging Americans to be "measured and cautious before they place blame."
Speculation continues as the investigation continues into what touched off the shootings at a Tucson-area Safeway supermarket that critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The FBI has turned up evidence indicating the suspect have fixated on the Democratic congresswoman as early as 2007, long before the rise of Palin and the tea party movement to national prominence.
According to CBN, Graham warned in the second statement that rushing to blame anyone for the shooting before the full story is known might actually contribute to an atmosphere of angry intolerance.
"Hasty accusations have already been made before much information is known and an investigation has occurred,” he stated. “I believe this is counterproductive and could in itself incite hatred.
“This is not a time for political opportunism," he added. "Just because we disagree with someone from another political party does not mean we wish them harm."
CBN also reported that Graham is alarmed by the acceptance of “murder, violence, and rape as entertainment” in U.S. culture, as reflected in television, movies, and videogames.
Graham advised the nation to do “serious soul searching.” Otherwise, he warned, America "could see the destruction of the foundation upon which this nation was built if we are not careful."
Graham's father, the Rev. Billy Graham, is now 92. By some accounts, he has preached to more people in person than anyone else in history.
Billy Graham’s staff says the evangelist has led more than 2.5 million people worldwide to faith in Jesus Christ.
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