Page last updated at 09:13 GMT, Friday, 23 May 2008 10:13 UK

McCain drops backer over sermon

Senator John McCain (right) with Rev John Hagee (27/02/08)
Senator McCain had actively courted Rev Hagee's endorsement

US presidential hopeful John McCain has rejected the backing of a Church leader who said Hitler was carrying out "God's will" in chasing the Jews from Europe.

It comes after the comments by evangelical preacher Rev John Hagee, which were made in the 1990s, re-emerged on a US news website.

In a sermon, Rev Hagee said the Nazi leader was carrying out a divine plan to gather Jews into the Holy Land.

The Republican candidate described the comments as "crazy and unacceptable".

Senator McCain had been criticised for seeking the endorsement of the controversial minister.

Rev Hagee has also described the Roman Catholic Church as "the great whore" and a "false cult system", as well as suggesting that Hurricane Katrina was God's retribution for homosexual sin.

But while Senator McCain condemned those comments, he had not rejected Rev Hagee's endorsement until Thursday, when an audio recording of the preacher saying that God sent Hitler to help Jews reach the promised land was published on the Huffington Post website.

Pastor problems

The BBC's correspondent in Washington, James Coomarasamy, says that the senator had actively courted the pastor's support, in order to improve his standing within the evangelical community.

After the rejection of his endorsement, Rev Hagee withdrew it anyway, saying he had been misrepresented and did not want to figure in the presidential campaign.

The front-runner for the Democratic nomination for the presidency, Barack Obama, has also had problems with a pastor.

He denounced the claim by the Rev Jeremiah Wright, who officiated at his wedding and baptised his daughters, that the 9/11 attacks were an example of "America's chickens coming home to roost".

Senator McCain is releasing his medical records on Friday in an attempt to allay concern over his health and stamina.

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