As I noted earlier, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright has more than one high-profile member in his congregation. Besides presidential hopeful Barack Obama, Wright also preaches his message to Oprah Winfrey, one of the most successful and beloved media personalities in America. She has an active on-line community at Oprah.com, and her forums have had almost 300 posts from members in the past 24 hours after the revelations of race-baiting and hatred at Trinity United Church. Most talk about their concern over the content of Wright’s sermons:
I have to agree with Dick Morris [who appeared on Fox’s O’Reilly Factor last night]. We both intensely dislike Hillary and Bill. But, it needs to be said that Rev. Wright strikes me as a very dangerous, divisive, and anti-American racist. …
This is extremely troubling. Rev. Wright is one of the worst I’ve seen anywhere in America. He is truly dangerous. .. .. .. Obama’s failure to distance himself from this very dangerous anti-American will become more damaging in the next few days. …
I was upset as well. It’s beyond inflammatory and much worse than anything Geraldine Ferrarro said, yet I don’t hear a peep out of Obama. What is pastor said is beyond disgusting. To blame the US for what happened on 9/11. And I am NO fan of the Clintons, but those things he said about Hillary and Bill…and did you “see” the tapes or just hear them? This would certainly explain Michelle Obama’s anger.
Let’s wait and see if the mainstream media steps up to the plate. They took great glee in attacking Mitt Romney and his LDS faith, let’s see if they go after Obama. …
Obama should not be held responsible for what Rev. Wright says from the pulpit. However, being a member of a church that is racist is not much different than being a white person who belongs to a country club that doesn’t admit Blacks. …
The threads also pointed to an allegation made by Wright that the US created the HIV virus, presumably for deliberate infection of certain populations. In a speech made at Howard University in January 2006, he offered the following conspiracy theories:
Mr. Wright thundered on: “America is still the No. 1 killer in the world. . . . We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns, and the training of professional killers . . . We bombed Cambodia, Iraq and Nicaragua, killing women and children while trying to get public opinion turned against Castro and Ghadhafi . . . We put [Nelson] Mandela in prison and supported apartheid the whole 27 years he was there. We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.”
His voice rising, Mr. Wright said, “We supported Zionism shamelessly while ignoring the Palestinians and branding anybody who spoke out against it as being anti-Semitic. . . . We care nothing about human life if the end justifies the means. . . .”
Concluding, Mr. Wright said: “We started the AIDS virus . . . We are only able to maintain our level of living by making sure that Third World people live in grinding poverty. . . .”
It isn’t so much the anger that Wright manifests that will be off-putting to mainstream Americans of all creeds and colors, but the conspiracy-theory lunacy that he spews. Almost all Americans gave up on supremacy theories decades ago; most of those who espoused them are dead. No one has argued in the mainstream in any way, shape, or form for that kind of nonsense since the Dixiecrat movement died out in the 1960s. An ill-worded valediction for Strom Thurmond six years ago drew so much condemnation that it forced Trent Lott out of his leadership position in the Senate, although to be fair, former Klan member Robert Byrd remains in the Senate — as a Democrat.
Most Americans would find the notion that we are crypto-supremacists insulting and offensive. And yet two of the most popular people in the US choose to attend the church of a minister who apparently makes that a recurring theme of his ministry. In Obama’s case, he has given over $22,000 to support Wright and his message in 2006 alone.
Given the intense media interest in Mormon underwear and LDS doctrine in the fall of 2007, one might expect a little more scrutiny of the much more political and racially-charged message coming from the pulpit of the Trinity United Church. It looks like that may have already begun, and the reputations of both Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey rest on how quickly and adeptly they can distance themselves from the debacle.
Update: Barack Obama tried pushing back, but this seems rather weak:
Q: I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but it’s all over the wire today (from an ABC News story), a statement that your pastor (the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago’s South Side) made in a sermon in 2003 that instead of singing “God Bless America,” black people should sing a song essentially saying “God Damn America.”
A: I haven’t seen the line. This is a pastor who is on the brink of retirement who in the past has made some controversial statements. I profoundly disagree with some of these statements.
Q: What about this particular statement?
A: Obviously, I disagree with that. Here is what happens when you just cherry-pick statements from a guy who had a 40-year career as a pastor. There are times when people say things that are just wrong. But I think it’s important to judge me on what I’ve said in the past and what I believe.
Cherry-pick? Perhaps Senator Obama can explain the context that would justify “God damn America” and the accusation that America created HIV. That dog won’t hunt.
Howard Dean left his church over a bike path. We laughed at the superficiality of that choice, but Obama has a much better reason to repudiate Trinity — and Wright’s supposed retirement won’t come nearly in time to rescue him from this problem.