Evangelist Billy Graham's comments about Jews that were recorded at the White House 30 years ago were not directed at all Jews but at a small media elite who controlled "the major outlets at that time," his son says.
"The issue has never been Jewish people," evangelist Franklin Graham told The Charlotte Observer on Tuesday. "His concern was liberalism in that time in the media. And it's changed."
The 1972 White House tapes, released last month, included the Southern Baptist evangelist expressing disdain for what he saw as Jewish domination of the media.
"This stranglehold has got to be broken or this country's going down the drain," Billy Graham said, agreeing with Nixon's own comments earlier in the conversation.
Several religious groups have criticized Billy Graham for not standing up to Nixon.
In an apology, Billy Graham, now 83 and in frail health, said he should have disagreed with Nixon's remarks about Jews. He asked the Jewish community "to reflect on my actions on behalf of Jews over the years that contradict my words in the Oval Office that day."
Franklin Graham, his father's chosen successor, said his father's comments were taken out of context. He said many other people have had private conversations they wouldn't want to be made public.
"Anytime you have a private conversation with anybody and it's taped and released, your confidence has been broken," he said.
At a later point in the taped conversation, when Nixon raises the subject of Jewish influence in Hollywood and the media, Billy Graham says, "A lot of Jews are great friends of mine."
"They swarm around me and are friendly to me. Because they know that I am friendly to Israel and so forth. But they don't know how I really feel about what they're doing to this country, and I have no power and no way to handle them," Graham says.
Nixon replies: "You must not let them know."
Franklin Graham was interviewed before addressing a prayer breakfast Wednesday in Charolotte.