This photo captured the highlight of Thursday night’s singing of “Happy Birthday” to the Rev. Billy Graham. Here, Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, sing along with a crowd of about 800 gathered at the Grove Park Inn. It was a star-studded night of well wishes for the world-famous evangelist.
Speeches by N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory, Greta Van Susteren and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin punctuated the ceremony mc’ed by Rev. Billy’s son, Franklin. Others in the crowd included Fox News media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Lauren Green of Fox News, country music star Ricky Skaggs, contemporary Christian singing star Michael W. Smith, TV star Kathie Lee Gifford and her husband Frank Gifford, longtime friend and colleague Cliff Barrows, several members of Graham’s extended family and many more.
Check out my Twitter feed @ashevegas if you want more detail. You can also search twitter on the hashtag I used, #avlgraham.
Franklin really screwed up his dad’s birthday party by inviting Palin, Trump, and Murdock. Gotta keep your eye on this guy.
Franklin is the problem. The way he exploits his aged father to promote his own partisan agenda is shameful. It borders on a scene from “Weekend at Bernie’s.”
Regardless of whether you agree with Cecil on the old man, you can see what the son is up to just by looking at him.
Franklin knows where the money is. He’s promoting Fox News and being feted by conservative heroes while ostensibly running a tax-exempt charity. Local media institutions remain cowed by their reverence of the elder Graham and don’t ask questions about the younger one.
Franklin already shipped Ruth Graham’s mortal remains off to his kitschy theme park in Charlotte, and sometimes I think that Billy has stuck around so long in order to delay that same fate.
You can read the introduction to the first edition of Cecil Bothwell’s book, “The Prince of War: Billy Graham’s Crusade for a Wholly Christian Empire,” at http://bothwellsblog.wordpress.com/2007/04/16/hello-world/
Here is how it ends:
Like many another political figure, Graham has sealed most of the personal documents connected to his life and work until after—in some cases many years after—his death. Nor did he consent to be interviewed for this work. But the published and unpublished documentary record speaks volumes. It reveals a Billy Graham who has been an unabashed nationalist, capitalist, militarist and advocate for American empire. The picture that emerges is decidedly not that of a disinterested man of the cloth. Rather, Graham often appears as a well connected covert political operative. To the extent that this seems surprising, it stems from the public’s willful naiveté concerning a self-professed holy man coupled with intentionally biased reporting from the major media at the behest of ideologues including, most prominently, William Randolph Hearst and Henry Luce.
Perhaps we should pay heed to what Graham has actually said instead of accepting his own and others’ later versions of the facts. This tale is told in Graham’s words and those of the biographers, historians, public figures and Presidents who knew him well.
You may be as surprised as I was at the picture that emerges in these pages. It is not the story of a man of peace.