Hey, guess who’s back? In his new book on Barack Obama titled The Amateur, Edward Klein caught up with Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s minister and friend for 20 years and pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. The Hillary Clinton campaign nearly derailed Obama’s nomination by digging up Wright’s incendiary and controversial sermons at TUCC, including exhortations like, “God damn America!” and saying that 9/11 was nothing more than America’s chickens coming home to roost — among many other statements. Obama later proclaimed ignorance of Wright’s rants despite his long association with TUCC, and eventually renounced Wright and TUCC entirely when Wright wouldn’t keep his mouth shut.
In his on-the-record interview with Klein, Wright claims that an Obama ally offered him $150,000 to keep his mouth shut and stop preaching until after the election, in excerpts published by the New York Post today:
‘Man, the media ate me alive,” Wright told me when we met in his office at Chicago’s Kwame Nkrumah Academy. “After the media went ballistic on me, I received an e-mail offering me money not to preach at all until the November presidential election.”
“Who sent the e-mail?” I asked Wright.
“It was from one of Barack’s closest friends.”
“He offered you money?”
“Not directly,” Wright said. “He sent the offer to one of the members of the church, who sent it to me.”
“How much money did he offer you?”
“One hundred and fifty thousand dollars,” Wright said.
According to Wright, Obama met personally with his then-pastor to ask him to do the same, although Obama apparently didn’t offer money for his silence. Wright’s version of the conversation makes it clear that Obama knew very well what his pastor had preached from the pulpit, and what he was likely to do once attention focused on him:
“And one of the first things Barack said was, ‘I really wish you wouldn’t do any more public speaking until after the November election.’ He knew I had some speaking engagements lined up, and he said, ‘I wish you wouldn’t speak. It’s gonna hurt the campaign if you do that.’
“And what did you say?” I asked. “I said, ‘I don’t see it that way. And anyway, how am I supposed to support my family?’ And he said, ‘Well, I wish you wouldn’t speak in public. The press is gonna eat you alive.’
“Barack said, ‘I’m sorry you don’t see it the way I do. Do you know what your problem is?’ And I said, ‘No, what’s my problem?’ And he said, ‘You have to tell the truth.’ I said, ‘That’s a good problem to have. That’s a good problem for all preachers to have. That’s why I could never be a politician.’
Sounds as though Obama knew full well what the “truth” was going to be once Wright started talking to the media, at least according to Wright’s version of events. Wright doesn’t have much to lose by telling the story now, but it should be noted in fairness that he might have a lot to gain. If the media takes more interest in Wright this time around, he’s going to be a pretty hot property for the next five months.
I’d expect the White House to begin decrying distractions in the election campaign coverage in 5 … 4… 3 … 2 …
Update: In retrospect, the Obama friend should be glad that Wright turned down his offer. It sounds a lot like the kind of thing that got John Edwards into trouble.