Nikki Haley kicked off her 2024 campaign with a prayer from an extremist pastor
If you're campaigning as a "moderate" Republican, inviting John Hagee to give an invocation is the worst way to do it
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This morning, at the official launch of Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign, the former Republican governor of South Carolina invited preacher John Hagee to deliver the opening invocation. It was a clear and unsurprising indication that Haley intends to embrace Christian Nationalism during her campaign despite suggestions she would be a more moderate Republican who could win over independent voters.
The invocation itself wasn’t newsworthy. Hagee urged Heaven to give Haley “wisdom that is supernatural,” whatever that means, but the speech was mostly forgettable.
It was Hagee’s presence, however, that deserves scrutiny.
When Haley took the stage, she thanked Hagee by saying, “I still say I want to be you when I grow up,” suggesting he was a man worth admiring.
If Hagee represents the sort of person Haley looks up to, she’s giving away just how extreme her politics would be in office.
Hagee, who runs the non-denominational Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, has a long history of controversial preaching. Like when he claimed Hitler was a “hunter” sent by God to usher in the state of Israel. And when he said Hitler was a “half-breed Jew.” And when he called the Catholic Church the “Great Whore.”
And yet Nikki Haley decided he was the best option to launch her campaign.
There are plenty of other problematic things Hagee has never apologized for, though. Like when he lied about the Bible being banned in school in order to argue it needs to be brought back. He also claims the Biden administration is “godless” and “Socialist,” proving yet again how those words have lost all meaning in conservative circles. They’re just insults to be tossed at ideological enemies with no attention paid to their definitions.
Speaking of political enemies, Hagee thinks all of them should be shipped to North Korea since they’re traitors:
He believes the Ten Commandments ought to be treated as law. If they were, he says, it would eliminate the need to teach “Critical Race Theory” and “transgender sex.” (Neither of which is actually taught in schools.) He also thinks adopting the Ten Commandments would eliminate racism, LGBTQ people, crime, and abortion.
Hagee is someone who ignored the seriousness of COVID, then caught COVID, then was hospitalized for COVID, then credited his recovery to a vaccine whose “name is Jesus Christ.” He later admitted to a news network that he got his shots, though he didn’t say that to his congregation because he doesn’t care about their health. In fact, before vaccines were available, he held in-person, maskless services where no one socially distanced.
He thinks women “are only meant to be mothers and bear children.”
He says atheists should leave the country if we don’t like Christmas, that we won’t be missed, that America’s supposed embrace of Secular Humanism has turned the country into a “Pagan society,” and that atheism has “never healed a disease.”
He says people who claim to follow Jesus while being pro-choice or accepting of LGBTQ people are “counterfeit Christians.”
And when his son preaches, Hagee just sits on stage on a goddamn throne like he’s a king.
He’s not merely extreme. He’s just plain weird. But this is the man Nikki Haley wants to be like when she grows up.
If she’s trying to present herself as a non-crazy Republican who can win over independent voters, she screwed up in the dumbest way on Day 1 by inviting one of the country’s most insane Christian preachers to deliver a prayer on stage.
It’s only going to get worse from here. I doubt Haley has any plans to issue an apology for Hagee’s appearance on a day she wants to generate as much positive press as possible.