ROUND ROCK, TEXAS -– As criticism of John McCain mounts because of megachurch pastor John Hagee's endorsement of his candidacy, McCain is on the defensive.
"I think it's important to note that Pastor John Hagee who has supported and endorsed my candidacy supports what I stand for and believe in. When he endorses me, it does not mean that I embrace everything that he stands for and believes," McCain told reporters today after a town hall meeting.
Hagee is a quite a controversial figure, due in part to comments he's made in the past about Catholics, including suggesting in his book "Jerusalem Countdown" that Adolf Hitler was Catholic and that the Vatican turned a blind eye to the Holocaust because of his religion.
Catholic League President Bill Donohue said that McCain should reject Hagee's endorsement.
"Just this week, McCain repudiated the remarks of talk radio host Bill Cunningham," Donohue said in a written statement, referring to Tuesday's comments by Cunningham, who criticized Barack Obama and repeatedly used his middle name "Hussein" throughout the criticism.
"He should now repudiate Hagee's long record of bashing Catholicism. After all, George W. Bush apologized for speaking at Bob Jones University, and Hagee makes Jones look like a lightweight in the ring of bigotry."
McCain said he is "very proud" of Hagee's "spiritual leadership to thousands of people and I am proud of his commitment to the independence and the freedom of the state of Israel. That does not mean that I support or endorse or agree with some of the things that Pastor John Hagee might have said or positions that he may have taken on other issues. I don't have to agree with everyone who endorses my candidacy. They are supporting my candidacy. I am not endorsing some of their positions."