Hagee Pro-Israel Conference to Bar Reporters

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

James Besser in Washington

Wednesday update: The public relations firm handling the CUFI conference offered this explanation for why the press will be excluded from most sessions at this year’s Washington summit:  “Christians United For Israel received complaints last year that the press was intrusive and that their presence inhibited free discussion.  CUFI wants to create a more intimate and open setting this year.” They also indicated two additional plenary sessions would be opened to the press.

Pastor John Hagee’s “Christians United for Israel (CUFI) will be in town next week for its big annual conference, but don’t look for extensive press coverage of the event here or elsewhere.

The reason: CUFI leaders, apparently irked by coverage of last year’s conference, have decided to make the entire conference off limits to the press, except for the big “Night to Honor Israel” event on Tuesday.

Last year, Hagee held a press conference during the three day event and was pressed by reporters on issues such as his controversial writings about the Holocaust; this year, according to CUFI, he will hold no media availabilities.

CUFI was also apparently embarrassed by the reporting of journalist Max Blumenthal, who took a video camera around the conference and asked delegates about things like their views on the Christian prophecies and their connection to their support for Israel. (see the Blumenthal video here)

While Hagee told reporters “our support for Israel has nothing to do with End Times prophecy,” some of Blumenthal’s respondents believed otherwise.

This year, apparently, CUFI won’t have to deal with such embarrassments. CUFI executive director David Brog confirmed that the press would be barred, and referred questions about why that policy was implemented to a public relations firm working for the organization.

Other than the exclusion of the press, the schedule of the CUFI conference looks like many other major pro-Israel conferences, although skewed to a hawkish perspective on the Mideast conflict, with a heavy emphasis on the Iranian threat and radical Islam.

Speakers at the Night to Honor Israel gala include Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who last year likened Hagee to Moses, and Israel’s United Nations ambassador Dan Gillerman. Rep. Eliot Engel will participate in a “Middle East briefing” earlier in the day.

Delegates will take to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, offering “the Biblical positions of our support of the nation of Israel.”

In the weeks before the CUFI conference, lawyers for the group reportedly demanded – successfully – that YouTube, the Internet video service, remove a number clips of Hagee sermons. Some of those clips, including the one in which he suggested Hitler was a “hunter” sent by God to move the Jewish people to Israel, have proven politically uncomfortable for the megachurch pastor and his organization.  See a JTA report on the controversy here.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.