Headlines – The Chicago Tribune – May 29. 2008
“Obama again apologizes for a pastor’s comments” (John McCormick and Manya A. Brachear, Chicago Tribune) – Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign on Thursday was forced to again apologize for the remarks of a Chicago pastor and friend backing his candidacy who spoke from the pulpit of Obama’s longtime South Side church.
By John McCormick and Manya A. Brachear
Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign on Thursday was forced to again apologize for the remarks of a Chicago pastor and friend backing his candidacy who spoke from the pulpit of Obama’s longtime South Side church.
In an Internet video recorded Sunday, Rev. Michael Pfleger, an outspoken activist Catholic priest, is seen mocking Sen. Hillary Clinton from the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.
“When Hillary was crying, and people said that was put on, I really don’t believe it was put on,” Pfleger said. “I really believe that she just always thought this is mine. I’m Bill’s wife, I’m white and this is mine. I just gotta get up and step into the plate and then out of nowhere came, ‘Hey, I’m Barack Obama,’ and she said, ‘Oh, damn. Where did you come from? I’m white. I’m entitled. There’s a black man stealing my show.’ ”
Obama expressed disappointment.
“As I have traveled this country, I’ve been impressed not by what divides us, but by all that unites us,” Obama said in a statement. “That is why I am deeply disappointed in Father Pfleger’s divisive, backward-looking rhetoric.”
Speaking as a guest at Trinity on Sunday, Pfleger mocked the tears Clinton displayed shortly before the New Hampshire primary in January.
“She wasn’t the only one crying,” Pfleger said. “There was a whole lot of white people crying.”
Then, Pfleger, who is white, seemed to indicate that he might be going too far. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to get you in any more trouble,” he said, as the church’s organ began to play to signal his exit from the pulpit.
CLINTON CAMP OUTRAGED
Clinton’s campaign condemned Pfleger’s remarks.
“Divisive and hateful language like that is totally counterproductive in our efforts to bring our party together and have no place at the pulpit or in our politics,” Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said in a statement. “We are disappointed that Sen. Obama didn’t specifically reject Father Pfleger’s despicable comments about Sen. Clinton, and assume he will do so.”
The church has been Obama’s spiritual home for years and also triggered a controversy this spring over remarks made by Obama’s longtime pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.
In late April, Obama denounced remarks from Wright after the retiring pastor gave a fiery appearance at the National Press Club, reaffirmed his view that the U.S. government may have initiated the AIDS epidemic to wipe out racial minorities, and praised Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan as one of the most important voices of the 20th Century.
Obama has not attended the church since the controversy over Wright erupted in mid-March.
Pfleger, a longtime friend of Wright’s and Obama’s, could not be reached for comment.
“I regret the words I chose Sunday,” Pfleger said in a statement released by his church, St. Sabina. “These words are inconsistent with Sen. Obama’s life and message, and I am deeply sorry if they offended Sen. Clinton or anyone else who saw them.”
The campaign said Pfleger stepped down several weeks ago from the campaign’s Catholic Advisory Council.
Earmarks to St. Sabina
In a Tribune story a year ago, Obama defended special budget earmarks for his district while he was a state legislator, including ones that went to programs associated with Pfleger’s church.
Pfleger gave Obama’s campaigns $1,500 between 1995 and 2001, including $200 in April 2001, about three months after Obama announced at least $100,000 in grants to St. Sabina programs.
In that story, Pfleger said he made those donations personally, not on behalf of the church or to win grants.
Rev. Dwight Hopkins, a professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School who attends Trinity, said Pfleger’s charged remarks reflect an old-school approach. “One of the hallmarks of preaching is the speaker is expected to combine their interpretation of current events with the divinely inspired message from above,” he said.
Hopkins said Trinity’s current pastor, Rev. Otis Moss III, who is shown in the video introducing Pfleger, has been more careful and nuanced in the sermons he has delivered during the political season.