CBS and ABC on Thursday and Friday offered respectful tributes honoring "America's pastor," Billy Graham. The networks, which are often hostile or dismissive of religion, all featured segments on the minister's 95th birthday and played clips of what has been announced as his final sermon. (However, NBC's Today allowed a mere 24 seconds to the topic.) World News correspondent Dan Harris observed, "Throughout his life, it's been the Gospel that has sustained him."
The journalist oddly related, "...In private, he's a surprisingly humble man, married to the same woman, Ruth, for more than 60 years." But Harris also included ample footage of Graham's final sermon, featuring the pastor leading his worldwide audience in a prayer: "I invite you to come into my heart and my life. I want to trust and follow you as my Lord and savior, in Jesus's name, amen." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
CBS This Morning also offered a full report on Graham, but focused more on the celebrity angle of his birthday. Reporter Chip Reid noted that Donald Trump and Kathie Lee Gifford attended a party for him. Reid narrated, "Reverend Graham rose to prominence as a great orator...In 1957, over 100,000 people filled Yankee Stadium to hear him speak."
The journalist added, "After almost a century, his message to the world remains unchanged, no matter how it reaches his audiences."
Over on NBC's Today, the four hour morning show only allowed a scant 24 seconds to Graham and his final message. Yet, the same program devoted five minutes to a goat and his handler, a promotion of the new show Jobs That Bite. Nightly News on Thursday ignored Graham.
A transcript of the November 7 World News segment is below:
DIANE SAWYER: And tonight, there is a kind of pilgrimage under way, politicians, moguls, true believers, all flocking to North Carolina to honor a towering figure in American faith, the man known as America's pastor, the Reverend Billy Graham. He turns 95 today. And so, he gave his followers a kind of birthday gift. Here's ABC's Dan Harris.
BILLY GRAHAM: "No man cometh to the Father but by me."
DAN HARRIS: The preacher seems a little slower these days, but his final message to America, still clear as a bell.
GRAHAM: Our country is in great need of a spiritual awakening. There have been times that I've wept as I've gone from city to city I've seen how far people wandered from God.
HARRIS: This final sermon was shot over the past year in Billy Graham's mountaintop home in North Carolina. Here he is, in his favorite chair, with is dog by his side. This son of dairy farmers ministered to every president since Truman and brought the Gospel directly into America's living room. But, in private, he's a surprisingly humble man, married to the same woman, Ruth, for more than 60 years. She died in 2007. The Grahams spoke with Diane in 1992
RUTH GRAHAM: you know what his favorite meal is? A can of Vienna sausages, a can of cold tomatoes and a can of baked beans. All cold, dumped on a plate. His favorite meal. A man like that, you know has to be –
SAWYER: What a gourmet.
HARRIS: Throughout his life, it's been the Gospel that has sustained him.
SAWYER: Is there one passage in the scripture or one part of a hymn that never fails to make you feel great?
GRAHAM: What a friend we have in Jesus. That was Eisenhower's favorite hymn. It's my favorite hymn.
HARRIS: And today on this video, what may be Billy Graham's final public prayer.
GRAHAM: I invite you to come into my heart and my life. I want to trust and follow you as my lord and savior, in Jesus's name, Amen.
HARRIS: He is very direct in this final message, arguing that America is in spiritual peril, but that there is hope in the form of the Gospel. It's remarkable. Here's a man who has seen so many change over the course of his very public ministry, but his core message has not changed one bit.
SAWYER: And his family, is it calling it the final sermon?
HARRIS: Yes. They are, Diane. The final sermon.