O'Donnell on Wright Blaming U.S. for 9/11: 'How Do We Get Away from This?'

Instead of acting as an impartial journalist who would express interest in probing why Barack Obama may say he disagrees with the incendiary anti-U.S. left-wing rants from his minister while he has remained close to him, Friday afternoon on MSNBC Norah O'Donnell fretted about how “Rush Limbaugh went nuts today on his program about this story” and wondered: “How do we get away from this?” Guest Michael Crowley of The New Republic assured her: “I don't think this reflects anything on what Barack Obama believes.”At about 3:55 PM EDT, MSNBC played this clip of a screaming Wright:
We bombed Hiroshima! We bombed Nagasaki! And we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye. [edit jump] We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yard.
O'Donnell then rued:
I don't even know how these candidates can talk about policy because it seems like every day someone's asking them to apologize for the comments of their supporters. I mean, Rush Limbaugh went nuts today on his program about this story. John McCain is talking about this particular story. How do we get away from this?
It's not as if the news media have been exploring the far-left, America-hating minister for days, weeks or months. See Tim Graham's earlier NewsBusters item, “Study: Broadcast Networks Fell Down on Covering Jeremiah Wright,” which began:
As Jeremiah Wright's screaming sermons have gone from ABC across the media in the last 24 hours, many are asking: where were the networks on this story? It sounds like Obama's minister is less versed in the audacity of hope than in the audacity of hate. A Nexis search of network transcripts shows that up until now, Obama's church and minister have been barely mentioned -- and usually as an Obama defense mechanism.
O'Donnell's discomfort with the subject that is uncomfortable for Obama matches CNN's Anderson Cooper who, as recounted on NewsBusters by Mark Finkelstein, complained on Thursday night's Anderson Cooper 360: “All this seems to have nothing to do with actual issues that the country is facing which these candidates should be talking about and we probably should be talking about.”

From MSNBC just before 4 PM EDT on Friday, March 14, picking up mid-segment:
NORAH O'DONNELL: Karen, obviously the comments that this Reverend has made are inflammatory. They are derogatory in many ways. I mean, he blames essentially America for 9/11. How much does this hurt Barack Obama's campaign?

KAREN TUMULTY, TIME: Of course, this is the latest in a series of comments by people's supporters that they have then had to answer for themselves. I do think that this is a situation -- Barack Obama has made his faith a very important part of defining himself for voters. He doesn't speak about religion a lot, but he does talk in sort of the language of faith, a language that people of faith would recognize. And he has also written about how this minister has influenced his life. In fact, The Audacity of Hope, the title of Barack Obama's most recent book is in fact from Reverend Wright's own sermon. So it's hard for him to distance himself from the person. But the fact is that these are no different from comments that the reverend has been making for quite a while.

O'DONNELL: Yeah, Michael, what about that? I mean, these are -- this is the church that Barack Obama attends. The Reverend Wright has been making these types of comments for years. And I want to play the comments he made about 9/11, just again to give people a sense of what he's saying. Let's take a listen.

JEREMIAH WRIGHT, SCREAMING: We bombed Hiroshima! We bombed Nagasaki! And we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye. [edit jump] We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yard.

O'DONNELL: Michael, let me ask you, how does [laughs] -- I mean, I don't even kind of know where to go from here, quite frankly. I mean, it sort of seems like I don't even know how these candidates can talk about policy because it seems like every day someone's asking them to apologize for the comments of their supporters. I mean, Rush Limbaugh went nuts today on his program about this story. John McCain is talking about this particular story. How do we get away from this?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, THE NEW REPUBLIC: Well, get this primary over with for one thing. I think part of the problem is that this thing never ends, and the differences between Hillary and Obama are actually quite small on policy grounds. So what we have is loose canons who are sort of in their orbit but have not really integrated the campaign. Gerry Ferraro, for instance, is not a key Clinton adviser. And we're getting caught up in debates about tactics whose ad was nastier and unfair and identity and gender and race and that's because the differences between them aren't actually that great. I will say look, I don't think this reflects anything on what Barack Obama believes. I think he probably thinks this is quite deplorable, as he says. The problem is I think this is a real gift right now to Hillary and also down the line, if Obama's the nominee, to the Republicans. This is the sort of emotional, visceral anger that I think traditionally has made some Reagan Democrats worried about black politics, and it's something Obama, sort of a post-racial candidate, has really not had anything to do with until now, and I think it sums up just some bad vibes in the electorate that he could do without.

O'DONNELL: Interesting point, Michael Crowley and Karen Tumulty. Thanks to both of you for your time. We appreciate it.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center