03/05/2008 10:30 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

McCain Attacked Bush in 2000 Over Anti-Catholic Endorsement

Senator John McCain is still defending his acceptance of an endorsement from megachurch pastor John Hagee -- who has called the Catholic Church "the Great Whore," and accused it of inspiring Adolf Hitler to initiate the Holocaust.

But the presumptive Republican nominee's continued intransigence is revealing a new design flaw in the Straight Talk Express. Even as McCain refuses to distance himself from Hagee's anti-Catholic comments, it turns out that during the contentious 2000 GOP primary he had himself denounced then-Governor George W. Bush for cozying up to Catholic-bashers.

It was widely reported during the run-up to the 2000 contest in Michigan that the McCain campaign delivered a "Catholic Voter Alert" in the form of robo-calls to Catholic voters. Why? Because Bush refused to denounce the anti-Catholic views of Bob Jones University after receiving its tacit endorsement. In the alert, McCain criticized the Governor and lauded his own outspoken criticism of anti-Catholic bigotry. Here's the text of the McCain campaign's phone message:

"This is a Catholic Voter Alert. Governor George Bush has campaigned against Senator John McCain by seeking the support of Southern fundamentalists who have expressed anti-Catholic views. Several weeks ago, Governor Bush spoke at Bob Jones University in South Carolina. Bob Jones has made strong anti-Catholic statements, including calling the Pope the anti-Christ, the Catholic Church a satanic cult! John McCain, a pro-life senator, has strongly criticized this anti-Catholic bigotry, while Governor Bush has stayed silent while seeking the support of Bob Jones University. Because of this, one Catholic pro-life Congressman has switched his support from Bush to McCain, and many Michigan Catholics support John McCain for president."

My, how the tables have turned. Back in 2000, straight talking John McCain earned headlines by calling the religious right "agents of intolerance." But now he's "honored" to receive the endorsement of culture warriors like Pastor Hagee.

On Thursday, a coalition of several Catholic organizations, including Catholics United, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, will issue a statement calling on all candidates to reject Hagee's intolerant views.