Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The scandal that won't die

By Carl

You wonder how much more of
this story will pop up in the general, should Obama finally secure his victory:

For any spiritually minded, up-wardly mobile African-American living in Chicago in the mid-1980s, the Trinity United Church of Christ was—and still is—the place to be. That's what drew Oprah Winfrey, a recent Chicago transplant, to the church in 1984. She was eager to bond with the movers and shakers in her new hometown's black community. But she also admired Trinity United's ambitious outreach work with the poor, and she took pride in upholding her Southern grandmother's legacy of involvement with traditional African-American houses of worship. Winfrey was a member of Trinity United from 1984 to 1986, and she continued to attend off and on into the early to the mid-1990s. But then she stopped. A major reason—but by no means the only reason—was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

According to two sources, Winfrey was never comfortable with the tone of Wright's more incendiary sermons, which she knew had the power to damage her standing as America's favorite daytime talk-show host. "Oprah is a businesswoman, first and foremost," said one longtime friend, who requested anonymity when discussing Winfrey's personal sentiments. "She's always been aware that her audience is very mainstream, and doing anything to offend them just wouldn't be smart. She's been around black churches all her life, so Reverend Wright's anger-filled message didn't surprise her. But it just wasn't what she was looking for in a church." Oprah's decision to distance herself came as a surprise to Wright, who told Christianity Today in 2002 that when he would "run into her socially … she would say, 'Here's my pastor!' " (Winfrey declined to comment. A Harpo Productions spokesperson would not confirm her reasons for leaving the church.)

Now, Oprah's reasons might indeed have nothing to do with Wright, this is true.

But doesn't this put a pin in the story of Obama's "Oh, I never heard him say anything untoward!" lame dismissal?

See, this is what I don't understand: I've attended services at any number of black churches, for any number of different occasions: weddings, funerals, Sunday service, major holidays like Easter and even one or two standard services.

I've heard some of the fire and brimstone speechifying. And I've even heard some parts that made me, a typical white person, cling tightly to my religion and guns, frustrating me and making me feel a bit bitter for being white.

And I'm not a regular attendee of a large black congregation, so how in the world did Obama miss some of Wright's more... colorful... sermons?

Did he maybe sleep through them? Not likely. It's hard to sleep in a black church. Pastors usually don't drone on.

Now, it's likely true that Obama, who came to the church as an agnostic/lapsed Baptist (parental religion), found a different kind of fulfillment from it than Oprah did. A guidance, if you will.

I don't know. Maybe he never attended service. Maybe his indoctrination into the religion happened over late night poker games in the rectory. Hey, it could happen!

But I find it hard to believe that a black politician from Chicago's South Side had never heard Wright sermonize or speak words of hate about America.

The GOP is waiting to spring this issue in the fall, that much seems certain, and the way Obama has shifted his story -- "well, I would have quit the church if Rev. Wright hadn't retired by the time I came to that decision" -- is just ripe for a swiftboating by the same people who broadcast over and over John Kerry's "I voted for the war before I voted against it."

And frankly, I don't want to have to sit through that film again.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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  • "But doesn't this put a pin in the story of Obama's "Oh, I never heard him say anything untoward!" lame dismissal?"

    No. The article's about Oprah. How dense are you, really?

    By Blogger Fargus..., at 1:20 PM  

  • You may have a point here, but it's not much of one. I also don't want to sit through the film of the Republicans dredging up all the dirt they have on the Clintons all over again. I think the more important question is whether either candidate can withstand these inevitable attacks. I believe both of them can and have already shown that they can.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 3:53 PM  

  • I'd like to put a pin in the notion than any of this is anything more than a cheap cynical distraction from the discussion of his obvious suitability to be president.

    Personally I think anyone who believes in fairy tales of mystical spirits and sacrificed half resurrected gods is a fool, and I've never heard a sermon that didn't make me want to slap the sermonator down at the very least, but we're interviewing someone for an executive job and not as a philosopher king or preacher President. Let's pay attention to the president's job description for once. I don't care if he sits at the right hand of Vishnu if he can steer this country away from the chaos Jeez boy Bush and his Higher Father has brought us to.

    So what if Wright said angry things about America - so did Washington and Jefferson among many others. So have I. Billy Graham the Jew hater preached to most of the Presidents I remember, along with Pat Robertson who stole a fortune from the poor and the civil rights hating Jerry Fallwell. Why this and why now?

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 4:20 PM  

  • The Republicans will find some way to swiftboat Obama regardless. But Obama will fight back.

    And, what, the Republicans wouldn't have any ammunition against Hillary?

    Honestly, though, Obama has put this issue to rest. The speech in Philadelphia, his press conference firmly distancing himself from Wright and his offensive views.

    Let's move on.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 10:30 AM  

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