Just days after coming to President Donald Trump’s defense in the wake of Charlottesville, Franklin Graham sent out a new Facebook post Thursday in which he appeared to distance himself from the embattled president’s continued attempts to say blame for the violence in Charlottesville should be shared by white supremacists and by those who showed up to protest their presence in the university town.
In the new post, the North Carolina-based evangelist didn’t mention Trump and he also didn’t single out the KKK or neo-Nazis by name. But he quoted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has emerged as a more forceful figure than the president in condemning the violence by white racists. Sessions early on called it domestic terrorism and quickly announced a federal civil rights investigation.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions is exactly right – ‘in no way can we accept and apologize for racism, bigotry, hatred, violence and those kind of things that too often arise in our country.’ One race is not superior over another. ... The venomous hatred we saw displayed in #Charlottesville should repulse all Americans.”
On Sunday, a day after a neo-Nazi sympathizer killed a protester with his car, Graham, who has been a strong supporter of Trump this year, took to Facebook to condemn those who were blaming the Republican president and his past rhetoric for the violence.
“Shame on the politicians who are trying to push blame on President Trump for what happened in #Charlottesville, VA. That’s absurd,” he wrote. Instead, Graham said, those looking to cast blame should look to the Democrats – Virginia’s governor, and Charlottesville’s mayor and city council – who failed to “see that a powder keg was about to explode.”
In the Sunday post, Graham questioned the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, “a memorial that had been in place since 1924, regardless of the possible repercussions.”
And though Graham denounced bigotry and racism on Sunday, he added “be it black, white or any other” – a statement that appeared to suggest moral equivalency between the protesters and the white supremacists.
Graham was also widely criticized after the Sunday Facebook post for mostly blaming Satan for what happened in Charlottesville. “Satan is behind it all,” he wrote. “He wants division, he wants unrest, he wants violence and hatred.”
But in his Thursday post, Graham sounded like his father Billy Graham, the Charlotte-born evangelist who got death threats in the 1950s for speaking out against racism and refusing to preach at segregated events.
“God created mankind in His image and He loves us. The Bible tells us that, ‘He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth,’ and ‘God does not show partiality.’ ... (Charlottesville) should take us to our knees in prayer for hearts to be changed.”
In the Thursday post, Graham did not echo Trump’s recent support of “beautiful” Confederate monuments or the president’s insistence that Confederate generals like Lee and Stonewall Jackson are akin to Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who were Virginia slave-owners but also towering figures in American history whose influences are still felt today.