Editing Reverend Wright's Wrongs
Table of Contents:
Where's Reverend Wright?
In the current election cycle, Reverend Wright first arrived in the national spotlight on Fox News Channelâ€™s Hannity & Colmes back on March 1, 2007, when Sean Hannity broached the issue of Trinityâ€™s dedication to a "black value system." Rev. Wright scorned Hannity as a neophyte whoâ€™d never read the masterworks of "black liberation theology." But it took an entire year for Reverend Wrightâ€™s name to emerge on the broadcast networks.
There were other opportunities to broach the issue. Five days later, The New York Times reported that Obama disinvited Rev. Wright from offering a planned invocation at his campaign announcement on February 10, 2007 due to "the campaignâ€™s apparent fear of criticism over Mr. Wrightâ€™s teachings, which some say are overly Afrocentric to the point of excluding whites." ABCâ€™s Jake Tapper mentioned the controversy in passing on the February 11, 2007 World News Sunday: "His foreign-policy views are just one target for Obamaâ€™s critics, who have questions for the senator about any number of issues, including whether his church here on Chicagoâ€™s South Side, which expresses a message of black power, is too militant for mainstream America to accept."
On January 15, 2008, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote a column decrying how Trinityâ€™s magazine The Trumpet fulsomely praised Rev. Farrakhan. Obamaâ€™s campaign issued a statement from the candidate. "I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan," Obama said in the statement. "I assume that Trumpet magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decision with which I agree."
But the name of Jeremiah Wright didnâ€™t surface on the Big Three networks until CBS first broached it on February 28. In campaign terms, it was very late in the fast-forward primary process, after 36 states and the District of Columbia had held primaries or caucuses. John Edwards had suspended his campaign almost a month earlier. The first story with Wright sermon soundbites aired weeks later, on ABCâ€™s Good Morning America in mid-March, after another six contests. Before that, Obamaâ€™s church and minister were barely mentioned â€“ and usually as an Obama defense mechanism.
ABC's Jake Tapper offered Obamaâ€™s church-and-minister defense twice in November and December â€“ but never with a whisper of the name of Reverend Wright. On ABC's World News with Charles Gibson on November 16, Tapper offered a generic story on negative phone calls and e-mails, including suggestions Obama was a Muslim. Obama said: "There are a variety of nasty e-mails going out. This is similar to the e-mails thatâ€™s, e-mails that have been floating around that says I am, you know, Iâ€™m a Muslim plant whoâ€™s planning to take over America, you know? This would surprise my pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ." On November 19, Tapper repeated a version of that on Good Morning America. Tapper also replayed Obamaâ€™s "Muslim plant" joke on the December 5 Nightline.
When Dean Reynolds first broached the controversy on CBS, devoting about a minute to it on February 28 CBS Evening News, he brought up Farrakhan, the point of Cohenâ€™s column from six weeks earlier: "Obama has said the churchâ€™s former pastor and his spiritual mentor, Jeremiah Wright, is like an old uncle who sometimes will say things I donâ€™t agree with. Among Wrightâ€™s pronouncements, that racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run. A church-related publication saluted Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, a well known anti-Semite, who in turn has praised Obama's candidacy as recently as last Sunday."