(RNS) March 1 -- Evangelist Billy Graham, in a tape-recorded conversation inPresident Richard Nixon's Oval Office, spoke of a "stranglehold" thatJews had on the American media, the Chicago Tribune has reported.
The discussion after a prayer breakfast in February 1972 wasincluded in recordings released Thursday (Feb. 28) by the NationalArchives.
A Statement by Evangelist Billy Graham March 2, 2002
Although I have no memory of the occasion, I deeply regret comments I apparently made in an Oval Office conversation with President Nixon and Mr. Haldeman some thirty years ago. They do not reflect my views, and I sincerely apologize for any offense caused by the remarks. Throughout my ministry I have sought to build bridges between Jews and Christians. I will continue to strongly support all future efforts to advance understanding and mutual respect between our communities.
"This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country's going downthe drain," said Graham, agreeing with comments made by Nixon about Jewsand how they were perceived to have influenced American life.
"You believe that?" Nixon asked after Graham used the word"stranglehold."
"Yes, sir," Graham replied.
"Oh boy," replied the then-president. "So do I. I can't ever saythat but I believe it."
"No, but if you get elected a second time, then we might be able todo something," Graham responded.
The popular evangelist later spoke of his Jewish friends in themedia who "swarm around me and are friendly to me." But he added, "Theydon't know how I really feel about what they're doing to this country."
Graham, concurring with a Nixon claim that the president is faced bya "powerful bloc" of Jews in the media, said: "And they're the onesputting out the pornographic stuff."
The 83-year-old evangelist, who has suffered various medicalailments, told the newspaper through spokesman Larry Ross that he didnot recall the conversation and, thus, could not respond.
Scholars learning of the conversation expressed surprise at thecomments, the Tribune reported.