Obama pal Eric Whitaker: No, I didn't bribe Rev. Wright not to preach in 2008

I figured Jake Tapper was our only hope of big media taking an interest in a story about a giant bribe allegedly being made on behalf of a now-sitting president to his uber-controversial former pastor. And sure enough, he has:

In a new book by conservative author Ed Klein, The Amateur, Rev. Jeremiah Wright says “after the media went ballistic on me, I received an email offering me money not to preach at all until the November presidential election.”

The friend is not named in the book, but on his media tour, Klein has said the individual about whom Wright made the allegation is Eric Whitaker, a close Obama friend since graduate school and from Chicago, and Associate Dean and Executive Vice President of the University of Chicago Medical Center.

In an email to ABC News responding to Wright’s charge, Whitaker wrote: “I have received your message asking whether I’d offered any sort of a bribe during the 2008 campaign. The answer is no. Thank you for giving me the chance to respond.” He didn’t respond to a follow-up question.

Rev. Wright did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

You don’t have to take Klein’s word that Wright identified Whitaker as the friend of O who offered him money. He played the audio of their conversation about this two weeks ago on “Hannity.” Watch both clips below in full if you have time, but if not, there are two key bits. The first comes in the first video at 6:10 and runs to 6:50. At first, Wright doesn’t name Whitaker as the source of the alleged bribe but when Klein offers his name, Wright confirms that it was him. In the second clip, start at the beginning and go to 1:12 to hear Wright explain how “Eric” allegedly sent the offer not to Wright himself but to someone in his inner circle with instructions that it be passed along to “Rev.”

Only two possibilities here. One: Klein’s perpetrating some sort of grand fraud, replete with doctored audio. If he was going to do that, though, wouldn’t he have doctored it to make the offer come from Obama himself so that he had a truly sensational phony scoop on his hands? And why hasn’t Wright come forward, fuming with indignation over a conversation that never happened? Two: Whitaker’s either lying about not having made a bribe or he’s using some sort of Clintonian semantic parsing so that he can respond “truthfully” to questions about it now. E.g., maybe he’ll say he didn’t offer Wright a bribe, he offered him a gift. Or, because he allegedly sent the offer to one of Wright’s associates instead of to Wright himself, technically he never offered him anything. The only way to settle this, obviously, is for the media to put pressure on Wright to speak up and either confirm Klein’s audio or challenge its authenticity. The fact that he hasn’t spoken up in Whitaker’s defense so far even though major righty media figures like Hannity are covering this is telling, but not determinative. Why the silence? And why isn’t the media demanding clarification?

One question for Klein too, though. Tapper writes that, at ABC’s request, Klein’s publisher provided tapes of his chat with Wright — but they didn’t include the part where the two talked about Whitaker. Why not? He’s got a major scoop here and suddenly a prominent reporter is interested in publicizing it. Why not lay to rest any doubts about what was said by letting Tapper hear the full audio?

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