The Rev. Wright Controversy: More Than Meets the Eye? | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

The Rev. Wright Controversy: More Than Meets the Eye?

"Dear Jodi: Thank you for engaging in one of the biggest misrepresentations of the truth I have ever seen in sixty-five years." This is how Rev. Jeremiah Wright begins a letter he sent to Jodi Kantor of the New York Times because of an article she wrote that was published on March 6, 2007.

In "Disinvitation by Obama Is Criticized," Kantor quotes Wright in an interview about Obama's decision to disinvite him from giving the invocation at the announcement of Obama's run for president:

"Fifteen minutes before Shabbos I get a call from Barack," Mr. Wright said in an interview on Monday, recalling that he was at an interfaith conference at the time. "One of his members had talked him into uninviting me," Mr. Wright said, referring to Mr. Obama's campaign advisers. ...

In Monday's interview, Mr. Wright expressed disappointment but no surprise that Mr. Obama might try to play down their connection.

"When his enemies find out that in 1984 I went to Tripoli" to visit Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, Mr. Wright recalled, "with Farrakhan, a lot of his Jewish support will dry up quicker than a snowball in hell." Mr. Wright added that his trip implied no endorsement of either Louis Farrakhan's views or Qaddafi's.

Mr. Wright said that in the phone conversation in which Mr. Obama disinvited him from a role in the announcement, Mr. Obama cited an article in Rolling Stone, "The Radical Roots of Barack Obama."

According to the pastor, Mr. Obama then told him, "You can get kind of rough in the sermons, so what we've decided is that it's best for you not to be out there in public."

After Kantor's article was published, Rev. Wright wrote a letter to her expressing his displeasure in what was said, and moreso on what was not said. The letter was published in Trinity UCC's newsletter on March 18, 2007, beginning at page 10. Here's a portion:

You sat and shared with me for two hours. You told me you were doing a "Spiritual Biography" of Senator Barack Obama. For two hours, I shared with you how I thought he was the most principled individual in public service that I have ever met.

For two hours, I talked with you about how idealistic he was. For two hours I shared with you what a genuine human being he was. I told you how incredible he was as a man who was an African American in public service, and as a man who refused to announce his candidacy for President until Carol Moseley Braun indicated one way or the other whether or not she was going to run.

I told you what a dreamer he was. I told you how idealistic he was. We talked about how refreshing it would be for someone who knew about Islam to be in the Oval Office. Your own question to me was, Didn't I think it would be incredible to have somebody in the Oval Office who not only knew about Muslims, but had living and breathing Muslims in his own family? I told you how important it would be to have a man who not only knew the difference between Shiites and Sunnis prior to 9/11/01 in the Oval Office, but also how important it would be to have a man who knew what Sufism was; a man who understood that there were different branches of Judaism; a man who knew the difference between Hasidic Jews, Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews and Reformed Jews; and a man who was a devout Christian, but who did not prejudge others because they believed something other than what he believed.

I talked about how rare it was to meet a man whose Christianity was not just "in word only." I talked about Barack being a person who lived his faith and did not argue his faith. I talked about Barack as a person who did not draw doctrinal lines in the sand nor consign other people to hell if they did not believe what he believed.

Out of a two-hour conversation with you about Barack's spiritual journey and my protesting to you that I had not shaped him nor formed him, that I had not mentored him or made him the man he was, even though I would love to take that credit, you did not print any of that. When I told you, using one of your own Jewish stories from the Hebrew Bible as to how God asked Moses, "What is that in your hand?," that Barack was like that when I met him. Barack had it "in his hand." Barack had in his grasp a uniqueness in terms of his spiritual development that one is hard put to find in the 21st century, and you did not print that.

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.

Although I have watched the video clips of Rev. Wright and do not agree with everything he says, I am curious about why this letter was never brought to the forefront after the controversy about Obama's association with Wright reached its peak this month. I've looked at other articles on the New York Times Web site that Ms. Kantor has written, and there is no mention of Rev. Wright's letter. It seems to me that this letter would tell Rev. Wright's side of the story more effectively, and there is no mention of this letter in the mainstream media as far as I know. Why is that? If I didn't read about this letter on a forum, I would have never known about it.

The question is: Why is Ms. Kantor being mum about this letter? Is it retaliation against Rev. Wright? If so, is the retaliation worth watching a presidential candidate, who did not write or send the letter, struggle to stay afloat?

Previous Comments

ID
117811
Comment

Obama now saying he would have left Wright's church if Wright had not retired. This article also includes some of the horrible things Wright has said.

Author
QB
Date
2008-03-28T08:27:54-06:00
ID
117812
Comment

From what I've seen, there's a lot of explaining about Wright's theology. I sure don't recognise most of it. Otherwise, the fact that the NYT is once again butchering the truth no matter the situation or political party to fit it's own personal agenda shouldn't be news.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2008-03-28T08:28:55-06:00
ID
117813
Comment

I remember a recent interview Obama did with someone I can't remember the name of right now, but Obama said that when he decided to run last year, he didn't deal with the issue of Rev. Wright at the time because Wright was about to retire, so he didn't think it would be a big deal. I guess it didn't matter either way because the controversy still kicked in after Wright retired.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-03-28T08:45:27-06:00
ID
117814
Comment

I'm just happy he mentioned Sufism. Sufism is a mystical branch of Islam that only believes in "love". Or rather, I've studied Rumi and that is his main take on finding God. He was a wonderful poet who taught tolerance for all and that there is nothing as important as "love" and all should worship it. Its celebrated by the tradition of Whirling Dervishes. When the Interfaith Council (can't remember the exact name) brought the Whirling Dervishes to Thalia Mara several years ago I attended. It was one of the most beautiful and diverse religious experiences I've had living in Mississippi. I think Rev. Wright emphasizing that a knowledge of ALL religions is fundamental to being a national leader in this time period is so RIGHT ON. And while the Sufist tradition can be considered a Sunni tradition, I also believe that not enough Christians understand the different factions of Islam and the different beliefs they profess. They lump them all into one major category of "terrrorists" and refuse to acknowledge both the good AND the bad in Islam and Christianity.

Author
Lori G
Date
2008-03-28T08:48:11-06:00
ID
117815
Comment

Obama pastor cancels scheduled appearances Wright was scheduled to speak at three services Sunday at Houston's Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. But the Rev. Marcus Cosby, the church's pastor, said Wright decided to cancel the appearances amid safety concerns. "He canceled for largely personal reasons," Cosby said, adding that recent uproar has led to threats against Wright, his family and his church -- the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. The church, Cosby said, had planned to take extra security precautions for Wright's services this weekend, but said the decision to cancel the appearances was Wright's entirely. Cosby said his church had not received any threats directly ahead of Wright's scheduled appearances. Cosby said Wednesday that Wright's remarks have been largely taken out of context because the media has only aired "snippets of the sermons, without the beginning or the end." He also said he expects Wright to speak at his church in the future.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-03-28T08:53:55-06:00
ID
117816
Comment

Fresh off a vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Obama responded Wednesday to the Wright controversy at an event in Greensboro, North Carolina. "My former pastor said some objectionable things in the days I was not in church and I have condemned those outright," he said. "But I have to remind people that this is someone who was preaching three sermons a week for 30 years and ...[the videos] boiled it down into a half an hour sound clip or a half-minute sound clip, and just played it over and over and over again." Obama lashed out at the controversy's role in the presidential race. "Every time someone, somewhere says something stupid, everybody gets up in arms and we forget about the war in Iraq or we forget about the economy or we forget about the things that are going to make a difference in our children's lives," he said. "I don't want that kind of politics. I want a politics that gets stuff done." (emphasis mine)

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-03-28T08:56:50-06:00
ID
117817
Comment

I think Rev. Wright emphasizing that a knowledge of ALL religions is fundamental to being a national leader in this time period is so RIGHT ON. I think this is one of the hardest things for people to grasp. You don't have to agree with other religions to understand them and show kindness to those who practice them. Wasn't religious freedom one of the founding principles of this country?

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-03-28T09:04:09-06:00
ID
117818
Comment

I just wish Rev. Wright would do an interview in which he could address some of the more outlandish things he's said (i.e. the Govt. started the AIDS virus).

Author
bill_jackson
Date
2008-03-28T11:13:07-06:00
ID
117819
Comment

I wish that Haley Barbour would do an interview in which he could address some of the outlandish things done and said in the name of the politics by him and other southern strategists. I'm all for openness, but let's be sure we apply the same standard to all parties and races.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-03-28T11:25:02-06:00
ID
117820
Comment

I wish Haley would learn to correctly pronounce the name of the state of which he's governor. It's embarrassing.

Author
bill_jackson
Date
2008-03-28T11:29:40-06:00
ID
117821
Comment

A blogger who writes a daily synopsis of episodes of The View wrote about Obama's appearance today, which I also watched and recorded. Here's a summary of what he said about Rev. Wright (you know they were going to ask): Barbara asked Barack about Reverend Jeremiah Wright. When the Don Imus situation happened, Barack said that no one would remain on his staff who made comments like that about any race. Barack said that people need to understand that the reverend has retired and is no longer preaching. He added that the United Church of Christ itself is mostly white denomination, but he attends one of the few black churches. It is one of the most active churches in the community and Reverend Wright had a reputation as one of the best preachers. He never heard Reverend Wright say many of the things that have offended people, as he gave three sermons a week. He said that the statements were more offensive for their characterization of America than race. It doesn't excuse what he said, but he was someone caught in a time warp after having lived through the 1950s and 1960s. Barack stated, "Had the reverend not retired. Had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws, then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying at the church." Elisabeth said that his speech at the Democratic National Convention was captivating because it talked about one America, but that the person he chose as his spiritual adviser said these divisive statements. He said that you have only seen snippets of this man. He said to imagine that someone took the five stupidest thing you ever said and put it on a continuous loop. Elisabeth said that they sell it on DVDs at the church. He said that he doesn't buy all the DVDs or read all the bulletins. Barack said that his speech at the DNC was not to suggest that we don't have real divisions, but rather a speech of hope for the future. He said that people have some good and some bad about them. His goal has been to get people to understand each other who have very different opinions on things. Whoopi said that sounds like The View. Barack said that he talked to Reverend Wright since this has happened and he is saddened by what has happened. Barack feels badly that Reverend Wright has been characterized based on these isolated comments. He read an article recently that a white parishioner wrote about how Reverend Wright had counseled his African-American girlfriend (now wife) to marry him when she expressed doubts about marrying a white man. Barack said that these are things that you don't hear about.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-03-28T11:38:12-06:00

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