CLEVELAND -- The Rev. Billy Graham said he 'deeply regrets' making the remark in a sermon that AIDS may be God's judgment for people's sins.
'I remember saying it, and I immediately regretted it and almost went back and clarified the statement,' Graham said in a telephone interview with a (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reporter Friday.
The newspaper said Graham initiated the interview to retract his words.
His remarks on AIDS were made in a sermon in Columbus, Ohio two weeks agoduring the closing service of Graham's Columbus crusade in late September. A record-breaking crowd of 44,300 in Cooper Stadium heard Graham warn people about falling into disfavor with God because of their sins. He cited sins such as drunkenness and sexual immorality, among others.
'Is AIDS a judgment of God?' Graham asked. 'I could not say for sure, but I think so.'
Calling from his home in Montreat, North Carolina, Graham said in the telephone interview regarding his AIDS remark, 'I don't believe that and I don't know why I said it.' He said he never intended to make the statement and explained he was tired during the service and forgot to retract or clarify the remarks.
The newspaper reported Graham said, 'I do believe God stands in judgment of all sins ... but AIDS is a disease that affects people and is not part of that judgment. To say God has judged people with AIDS would be very wrong and very cruel. I would like to say that I am very sorry for what I said.'
Graham reportedly said he saw letters criticizing his remarks, published in the Plain Dealer after newspaper accounts of the comments, and he regretted the distress people felt over the matter.