Obama's Pastor Lashes Out at the New York Times
by Matt Stoller, Thu Mar 22, 2007 at 09:52:25 AM EDT
On March 6, New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Patrick Healy published this article discussing how Barack Obama had disinvited his pastor from his campaign announcement. This letter from Jeremiah A. Wright, Obama's pastor is rather remarkable.
As I was just starting to say a moment ago, Jodi, out of two hours of conversation I spent approximately five to seven minutes on Barack's taking advice from one of his trusted campaign people and deeming it unwise to make me the media spotlight on the day of his announcing his candidacy for the Presidency and what do you print? You and your editor proceeded to present to the general public a snippet, a printed "sound byte" and a titillating and tantalizing article about his disinviting me to the Invocation on the day of his announcing his candidacy.
I have never been exposed to that kind of duplicitous behavior before, and I want to write you publicly to let you know that I do not approve of it and will not be party to any further smearing of the name, the reputation, the integrity or the character of perhaps this nation's first (and maybe even only) honest candidate offering himself for public service as the person to occupy the Oval Office.
Your editor is a sensationalist. For you to even mention that makes me doubt your credibility, and I am looking forward to see how you are going to butcher what else I had to say concerning Senator Obama's "Spiritual Biography." Our Conference Minister, the Reverend Jane Fisler Hoffman, a white woman who belongs to a Black church that Hannity of "Hannity and Colmes" is trying to trash, set the record straight for you in terms of who I am and in terms of who we are as the church to which Barack has belonged for over twenty years.
The president of our denomination, the Reverend John Thomas, has offered to try to help you clarify in your confused head what Trinity Church is even though you spent the entire weekend with us setting me up to interview me for what turned out to be a smear of the Senator; and yet The New York Times continues to roll on making the truth what it wants to be the truth. I do not remember reading in your article that Barack had apologized for listening to that bad information and bad advice. Did I miss it? Or did your editor cut it out? Either way, you do not have to worry about hearing anything else from me for you to edit or "spin" because you are more interested in journalism than in truth.
Forgive me for having a momentary lapse. I forgot that The New York Times was leading the bandwagon in trumpeting why it is we should have gone into an illegal war. The New York Times became George Bush and the Republican Party's national "blog." The New York Times played a role in the outing of Valerie Plame. I do not know why I thought The New York Times had actually repented and was going to exhibit a different kind of behavior.
Maybe it was my faith in the Jewish Holy Day of Roshashana. Maybe it was my being caught up in the euphoria of the Season of Lent; but whatever it is or was, I was sadly mistaken. There is no repentance on the part of The New York Times. There is no integrity when it comes to The Times. You should do well with that paper, Jodi. You looked me straight in my face and told me a lie!
The larger context here is twofold. There's a lot of anger among black leaders in this country over Barack Obama because he isn't showing enough deference to their place in the political system. At the same time, this leadership is struggling to remain relevant in the face of a serious disconnect between younger African-Americans and an older generation. It's partially a class issue, with upwardly mobile blacks, poorer disempowered blacks, and a new class of wealthy blacks detached from the Civil Rights era leadership. If these groups are responsive to Obama's message, it means that the older leadership is losing its base.
Infrastructure-wise, there is very little national support either media or otherwise in place for African-American progressives, and so backbiting and rumors are common. There are plenty of incentives for people to spread rumors about Obama dissing his pastor; that's exactly the kind of frame that Obama opponents are using against him, that he's young, arrogant, and unwise.
Normally I'd say that there is something to the rumor that Obama rubbed his pastor the wrong way, but this letter is incredibly passionate about the New York Times. It is not a non-denial denial, it is an aggressive statement that the NYT made up this story. The sensationalism of the New York Times and political journalism has been so pronounced for so long that the newspaper no longer has the credibility to do reporting like this and get away with it. If the NYT cared about credibility the editors would ask Jodi Kantor and Patrick Healy to put their audio of the two hour interview with Obama's pastor online so people could see for themselves what he said.
Barring that, I'd say that the New York Times took yet another hit today.