Substituting for host Bill O'Reilly on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, John Kasich said that Sen. John McCain made a "smart move" by seemingly embracing Rev. Jerry Falwell -- whom McCain had called an "agent of intolerance" six years earlier -- in advance of the 2008 presidential election.
On the April 3 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, substitute host John Kasich said that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) had made a "smart move" by seemingly embracing Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder and chairman of the Moral Majority Coalition -- whom McCain had called an "agent of intolerance" six years earlier -- in advance of the 2008 presidential election. Kasich added, "I think this is the maturing of John McCain," and later said that, unlike Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, Falwell is not "some sort of extremist."
In a speech in Virginia during the 2000 Republican primary race, McCain said: "Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or [Rev.] Al Sharpton on the left or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right." Yet in March 2006, Falwell announced that McCain would be the commencement speaker at Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, on May 13. Then, during the April 2 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press, host and NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert asked McCain: "Do you believe that Jerry Falwell is still an agent of intolerance?" McCain replied: "No, I don't. I think that Jerry Falwell can explain to you his views on this program when you have him on."
While discussing McCain's reversal with Democratic strategist Rev. Jacques DeGraff and Republican Party of Virginia chairman Kate Obenshain Griffin, Kasich said that it was "unfortunate ... to compare Louis Farrakhan to Jerry Falwell. That's where McCain got it wrong. ... Now, he wakes up on Monday, and he goes, 'Well, boy, was I out to lunch on that statement,' and he's admitting it, isn't he?" Later, Kasich added, "Because [Falwell] is a preacher or whatever, that doesn't make him some sort of extremist, and to compare him to Farrakhan, who you know is very extreme, I think that was unfortunate."
From the April 3 broadcast of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
KASICH: See, I think this is a maturing of John McCain. I mean, I'm younger than he is, and I don't -- but I'll tell you what it is. Nobody can run for president and just blurt out everything they think, OK? We do that when we're in the fifth grade. You can't do that when you're running for president, Jacques. I mean, you -- you've worked on presidential campaigns. What McCain said yesterday is, "Look, I've burned a lot of bridges in the past, and now, I'm not about burning them. I've got to figure out how to build some." Don't you think this shows that he's now coming to grips with wanting to be a real candidate for president and being able to be a president?
DeGRAFF: Well, then is he saying that -- there's a fundamental flaw in that logic. The flaw is this. If Jerry Falwell was on the outer fringes of American political landscape, is that -- is that building a bridge to someone who was outside of the pale, and now, you're doing that, does that mean you're now mature? Or does it mean that you've compromised your basic principles as to who you are or who you say you are?
KASICH: All right. Jacques -- I'm sorry. Kate, an unfortunate comparison -- to compare Louis Farrakhan to Jerry Falwell. That's where McCain got it wrong.
GRIFFIN: It certainly --
KASICH: Now, he wakes up on Monday and he goes, "Well, boy, was I out to lunch on that statement," and he's admitting it, isn't he?
GRIFFIN: Whoops. Well, that certainly was an unfortunate comparison.
DeGRAFF: What does John McCain believe?
KASICH: Well, I think John McCain believes it. Because the guy is a preacher or whatever that doesn't make him some sort of extremist --
KASICH: -- and to compare him to Farrakhan, who you know is very extreme, I think that was unfortunate.
KASICH: I think this move was a smart move, OK, bottom line.