Billy Graham on Clinton scandal: ‘I forgave him’

Despite escalating scandals, President Bill Clinton’s job approval ratings are at an all-time high. As Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr continues to gather evidence in the sex-and-perjury “fornigate” scandal, Clinton has gained the support of one of the nation’s most respected men: the Rev. Billy Graham.

Interviewed by Katie Couric on NBC’s “Today” show March 5, Graham said he agreed that the President has a responsibility to provide moral leadership for the nation. But pressed to respond to allegations of sexual infidelity concerning Clinton, Graham said, “I forgive him … because I know the frailty of human nature and I know how hard it is – especially a strong, vigorous young man like he is … he has such a tremendous personality that I think the ladies just go wild over him.”

In a Wall Street Journal editorial the following day, William Bennett took Graham to task for offering what theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” Bennett wrote, “Mr. Graham, perhaps the nation’s most admired religious figure, apparently is willing to shrug off both adultery and lying without any public admission of apology on Mr. Clinton’s part.”

Gary Bauer, president of the Family Research Council, agreed with Bennett, and added that Clinton is “not a ‘raw youth,’ but a 50-year-old man with a daughter in college. As a married man and President of the United States, he should be expected to control his sexual impulses.”

Bauer added, “The Gospel’s message of forgiveness is unintelligible apart from the conviction of sin and guilt. Contrition, confession, repentance and amendment of life form the biblical pattern for remission, forgiveness and restoration. The American people seem prepared to forgive Clinton, but not apart from some convincing evidence of a humble and contrite confession of wrongdoing. To date, the President has neither confessed to misdeeds nor asked for anyone’s forgiveness.”

Bauer observed that during the Watergate era “Dr. Graham continued to defend Richard Nixon when it had become obvious to most of the country that he had betrayed his office. That loyalty was inappropriate then, and … I believe it is inappropriate now.”

A spokesman for Graham said the evangelist had no further comment on the matter.

– E.P. News

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