'Totally Bogus': Pastor Rick Warren Responds to Accusations That John McCain was Not in a 'Cone of Silence' at Faith Forum

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This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," August 18, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: We'll get right to our "Top Story" tonight.

On Saturday evening both Barack Obama and John McCain appeared on the same stage at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in California.


RICK WARREN, SADDLEBACK CHURCH: Because evil exists, and if so, should we ignore it, negotiate with it, contain it, or defeat it?



SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-ARIZ.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Defeat it. If I'm president of the United States, my friends -- if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get Usama bin Laden and bring him to justice.



SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Evil does exist. And I think we see evil all the time. We see evil in Darfur. It has to be confronted squarely, and one of the things that I strongly believe is that, you know, we are not going to -- as individuals be able to erase evil from the world. That is.


OBAMA: . God's task. But we can be soldiers in that process.


HANNITY: And Frank Luntz will be here in just a few minutes to analyze the candidates' answers. But joining us now -- first is the moderator himself, our good friend, Pastor Rick Warren, author of the mega- ega, mega, mega, mega -- and it came up quite a bit -- bestseller, "Purpose Driven Life," which, by the way, on a personal note is one of my favorite books.

And Pastor, it's always good to see you. You finally -- you did a terrific job, I thought. You -- we got a lot out of these guys.

So congratulations to you for a great night.

Let me first start with the controversy over Obama backers crying foul and the accusation, the undertone that has been out there all day, that, in fact, John McCain had heard the questions beforehand.

Watch Part 1 of Sean and Alan's interview

Watch Part 2 of Sean and Alan's interview

WARREN: Well, Sean, and Alan, it's good to be on the program, but it's a totally bogus issue. It's challenging the integrity of the Secret Service, challenging the integrity of -- my security staff, and challenging the integrity of John McCain of which both Barack and John agreed to the terms right up front.

There's no way he could have heard the questions. The fact is that John McCain did get there a little late, and the truth is, I actually got to tell Barack Obama about one of the questions in advance that I didn't get to tell John McCain about because he wasn't there.

I intended to tell both of them about my challenge to ask for a commitment regarding orphans, and because John hadn't arrived when we went on stage, he -- you know, he didn't get to hear that question, so actually, it was Barack who got a question answered in advance, and John McCain did not.

HANNITY: All right, let -- first of all, I want to applaud you. I -- wrote a book, "Deliver Us from Evil," because I believe evil does exist and I believe evil does need to be defeated. But I thought that question was - - and the answers and comparing and contrasting was particularly interesting to me, similarly on the issue of abortion, when life begins.

I loved how you reversed the question on, you know, who wouldn't you like on the Supreme Court? I thought that was pretty interesting. And the questions of moral failings.

How did you come up with the questions and what did you think of the answers?

WARREN: Well, I took about a month to come up with the questions. I re-revised them and revised them and was revising even the wording of them up to the last hour, and I was including a different specialist and I, of course, had taken a survey of people who get my newsletter and invited about 200,000 people to send me their questions.

The difference was, a lot of political pundits ask questions that other political pundits want to hear. I was asking heartland questions. And what I enjoyed most about is, is you could see both, not only the difference in political policy and philosophy, but you could see the different personalities.

I called Barack Obama the "thoughtful, consensus builder." He is -- he likes to nuance of things and think about the different implications. He's a constitutional attorney, and a lot of people, that appeals to them.

On the other hand, John McCain is the happy, you know, straightforward, warrior, the commander. And his answers were bam, bam, bam, and I think that appealed to some people, too, and it was really just a matter of personality.


Pastor, I spoke with you earlier today. You said -- and you're not saying publicly who you're voting for, but you know who you're voting for, correct?

WARREN: Yes. Oh yes, I -- if you don't know who you're voting for after that...


WARREN: ...that forum, then I would say I don't know what else information you need.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Hey, Pastor, it's Alan Colmes. It's good to have you on the show.

WARREN: Hi, Alan.

COLMES: The first issue that Sean brought up and [NBC's] Andrea Mitchell who said the Obama people felt that he didn't do quite as well as they might have wanted and so they have been privately saying that McCain may not have been in "a cone of silence," as you put it, quoting get smart.

What do you think about what Andrea Mitchell said?

WARREN: Well, in the first place, I don't know that you can attribute to the Obama campaign. I don't know. I do know that somebody was systematically calling around telling people McCain -- in fact, one of the questions I was asked on an interview today was, "I heard that McCain was watching a monitor in his green room," which was in a total different building than the building the forum was held in, watching on a monitor.

Well, that was absolutely impossible because two days before we even set that up, Chuck Taylor, one of my staff members, went in there, totally disconnected it from the source, so if they had turned on that monitor, if anybody had have turned it on, all they would have gotten was static.

COLMES: Did you know that McCain was not there yet? And would you have phrased it differently had you known?

WARREN: Oh yes. Like I said it was just a joke, it was just silly, to say the "cone of silence." What we're -- we knew that the moment he came, the Secret Service was with him the entire time, and then they put him immediately in the other building, so I wasn't even sure that he hadn't arrived by the time we were moving on stage.

I knew probably 10 minutes before the time that he wasn't there yet, but by the time we got on the stage, I assumed he was there.

COLMES: Who do you think did better?

WARREN: Oh I think they both did outstanding, and I think they both really showed -- they're both men who love America, I think they're both very smart men. I think they both have different visions, and what I wanted to do is show that you can have a civil debate without demonizing and destroying each other.

These guys went an entire hour each explaining their positions, their world view, their vision for America without ever attacking the other person, which I thought, that's a good thing.

COLMES: You said on Sunday morning, don't look just at the issues, look at character. Part of what you're delivering.


COLMES: ...words on -- on Sunday morning.


COLMES: And you stead it to 3,000 people at your congregation. You said look at the candidate and say -- does he live with integrity, service, and humility? Does he share generosity or not?

Do you think one more than the other came off that way?

WARREN: I wouldn't say that. I would say that everybody's going to have to make their decision on -- and I was encouraging my people to use that as a grid.

Too many people today are -- politicians are emphasizing image rather than character, and yet it is character that counts -- by the way, character isn't made in a crisis, it's revealed in a crisis, so when you get a 9/11 or you get a Katrina, or you get a war or a you get a disaster, that's where character is actually revealed.

But it's not built there, it's built in this day-to-day everyday experiences of life.

COLMES: We're going to pick it up.

WARREN: And the most important thing.

COLMES: Yes, go ahead.

WARREN: The most important thing that a president has to do often is what happens in the things that we don't plan, that we don't know about that are going to happen in the next four years.

COLMES: We'll pick it up there with Pastor Rick Warren in just a moment.



WARREN: At what point is a baby entitled to human rights?

MCCAIN: At the moment of conception.

OBAMA: I think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.


COLMES: That was one of the more controversial answers given by Senator Obama, at the faith forum over the weekend.

Continuing now with reaction, Pastor Rick Warren, and he's coming under fire for saying "above my pay grade." How do you interpret that, Pastor Warren?

WARREN: Well, you know, Alan, there's no more divisive issue in America than abortion, and as a pastor, I have to deal with it from every single angle. Those who have considered it, those who've had it, those who don't want to have one, and on and on and on.

Everybody knows I'm pro-life. I felt that each of the candidates were trying to promote exactly -- make a case for what they believed in. Obama is, sure, pro-choice and McCain is pro-life.

COLMES: And "above my pay grade," he's coming under fire for that as if to say -- I interpreted -- to me, you know, that's really between a person and God, that's really higher than any of us.


Well, you know what? He is right in the fact that it isn't his decision, it's God's decision. If you believe Psalm 139, where -- as a pastor I do -- it says I formed you in your mother's womb and I planned all your days before you were born, so obviously, to me, that was -- an answer that I wasn't comfortable with, but I thought that he shared his view and people know where he stands.

COLMES: You have come under fire from a number of people, as you know -- you don't need me to tell you that -- over the last 24 hours. One of them Barry Lynn, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who says, "The campaign is starting to feel like a Sunday School bible drill. I don't see what good it will do for the American people to hear, again, their candidates spout pious platitudes about their favorite bible verses."

How do you respond to that?

WARREN: You know there were -- yes, thanks, Alan. There were two groups that were criticizing me before the forum.

One was the secularists, too worried that I was going to develop a religious test for the presidency, which I'm totally opposed to. -- As I pointed out, I believe in separation of church and state. I just don't believe in separation of faith and politics, because faith is just a world view and everybody's got a world view.

And then there were the others who were worried that I would wimp out on some of the moral questions. And they both didn't know me.

HANNITY: Hey, Pastor, by the way, I thought you did a great job. Who cares what Barry Lynn says? I don't care anything about Barry Lynn and a lot of our audience here doesn't. I know my conservative audience.

Let me play a quick lightning round with you, if you don't mind.


HANNITY: And let me ask you.

WARREN: No, go ahead.

HANNITY: Who would the justices be on the Supreme Court that you wouldn't pick?

WARREN: Me, personally?

HANNITY: Yes, sir.

WARREN: Well, you know I'm a conservative. The question at the forum was not about me. I could have done the forum myself and told you my answers to all of those questions, but...


WARREN: ...I would have picked a strict constitutionalist. I don't happen to believe that the...


WARREN: . that the constitution is a living document. I think it sets you up for all kinds of problems that it's unchanging truth and we judge ourselves by it.

HANNITY: And you believe life begins at conception?

WARREN: Of course, I do.

HANNITY: And how would you define rich, which was one of my favorite questions?

WARREN: Well, I actually happen agree on McCain as first part of his answer, when he said, rich is -- you know, somebody's got a house and a home and health and things like that, I would say, having traveled around the world, everybody in America is rich.

HANNITY: And the toughest decision Rick Warren ever made in his life?

WARREN: Oh wow. Well, I don't know about that myself...

HANNITY: By the way, these question.

WARREN: I have to think about it.

HANNITY: These questions don't get any easier.

WARREN: Oh they don't.


A lot of the questions -- I would say one of the tough decisions was whether I should do this forum or not. It wasn't the toughest but it was a tough one because I knew no matter what I did, people weren't going to like it.

HANNITY: But -- and you know.

WARREN: And you know, I have -- I have to tell you this. One of the things I really wanted to do is I wanted -- every bone in my body wanted to do a follow-up question to every one of these things. And I wanted to say in -- on both men, yeah, but, yeah, but, yeah, but, on both of the answers but I decided to go broad rather than deep.

HANNITY: I hope my boss is listening because that's how I feel every night here.

Let me ask you this. One thing that I thought was going to come up and didn't come up was Reverend Jeremiah Wright. And I'd love your thoughts on him considering it's been such a big issue on the campaign, and Barack Obama was -- sat in the pew for 20 years when he -- and said he supports black liberation theology.

WARREN: Yes. Yes. Well, there are two different issues. One is -- Reverend Wright evidently led Barack Obama to Christ and that forgives a multitude of sins that oftentimes God uses imperfect people -- he certainly uses me, and I'm very imperfect -- to lead people in Christ. And not everybody agrees with all my positions, even though I've led them to Christ.

They wouldn't agree with my -- some of them aren't conservatives like I am, but on the other hand, I couldn't sit in a church where American was downgraded the way it was in the clips that I heard.

Black liberation theology is a -- is an even more extreme version of liberation theology which started in Latin American and has been totally discredited. It was basically Marxism in Christian

I just came back from 30 days in Latin America, and all of the different countries and it's pretty much over down there.

HANNITY: All right, Pastor Rick Warren, thanks very much for being with us, we appreciate your time, and 35 million [copies sold], "The Purpose Driven Life," congratulations, and thanks for being on board.

WARREN: Thank you.

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