This morning the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, an organization that has said Vladimir Putin is “more right” (as in, correct) on LGBTQ issues than former president Barack Obama, confirmed to NBC News the eponymous minister is dead. He was 99.
Graham, a Southern Baptist regarded as a founding father of prime-time televangelism, helmed the Billy Graham Crusades from 1947 to 2005, traveling to nearly 200 countries to preach Biblical values in televised events named after the brutal massacre of 3 million people in Christ’s name.
Graham was regarded by many as a tempering and inclusive voice, and served as a spiritual advisor to a number of sitting presidents. During the course of his 60-year career, TV networks made exceptions to their policies against airing religions programming for Graham, a man who integrated his religious services in the ‘50s and avoided publicly aligning himself with the more controversial political stances of the religious right—but who nonetheless told Nixon that while he befriended Jews, “they don’t know how I really feel about they’re doing to this country.” In the same 1973 conversation, tapes of which were released in the early 2000s, Graham quotes a Biblical verse on the “synagogue of Satan” in reference to the Jewish faith.
Over the course of his career, which included urging numerous presidents towards military action and launching a veritable media empire, Graham came to be worth a reported $25 million. The preacher, who was widely referred to as “America’s Pastor” and frequently appeared on Gallup’s list of most-admired Americans, believed the “appointed destiny of real womanhood” was found in the roles of wife, mother, and homemaker. In a 1972 advice column, when a woman wrote that she “loved another girl,” Graham recommended repentance and conversion through Christ, warning that we “traffic in homosexuality at the peril of our spiritual welfare.”
Such anti-LGBTQ stances, while muted somewhat by Graham’s canny public persona, were rejuvenated by his more openly hateful son Franklin, who used Graham’s fame and fortune as a springboard for this own embrace of hard-right politics. In 2012, a full-page ad in The Washington Post featured a large portrait of Billy Graham and urged voters to get out for “biblical values”:
The legacy we leave behind for our children, grandchildren, and this great nation is crucial. As I approach my 94th birthday, [which was Nov. 7] I realize this election could be my last. I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Vote for biblical values this Nov. 6 and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.
Another legacy of Graham’s, the Mike Pence-endorsed “Billy Graham rule,” forbids young men of religious persuasions from spending time with women to whom they are not married, ostensibly to “flee... youthful lusts” women inherently inspire. (Graham reportedly deigned to break it for a lunch meeting with Hillary Clinton.) His wife and sole female dining partner died in 2007; he is survived by five children, including the vehemently anti-Islam Trump confidant Franklin Graham, who helms the foundation named for his father and regularly raises funds for “persecuted Christians.”