Only ABC Focuses on Wright's Inanity, All Showcase Shot at Cheney

At his National Press Club appearance on Monday, Reverend Jeremiah Wright re-affirmed several of his past incendiary allegations -- and added at least one new one equating U.S. troops to the Roman legions who killed Jesus -- but only ABC's World News noted that as the network journalists preferred to paint Barack Obama as a “victim” of Wright and all three evening newscasts highlighted Wright's attack on Dick Cheney for not serving in the military.

CBS's Dean Reynolds, who spent more time on Wright's attack on Cheney than on anything crazy Wright said Monday, explained that “as for questions about his patriotism, Wright pointed to his Marine service compared to Vice President Cheney's five deferments from duty.” Wright: “I served six years in the military. Does that make me patriotic? How many years did Cheney serve?”

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams set up the story from Andrea Mitchell by stressing how “one veteran politico today” dismissed Wright's comments as “a 'circus' and a 'sideshow.'” Mitchell soon repeated how “Obama supporters described the whole thing as a media circus.” Viewers then heard from former Senator Bill Bradley followed by Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart, the man who in March hailed Obama's speech on race as “a very important gift the Senator has given the country.” Monday night Capehart lamented how “the victim in all of this is going to be Senator Obama's campaign.

Fill-in ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos described Wright as “the controversy that Barack Obama just can't seem to shake.” Reporter David Wright, however, uniquely informed viewers of how Wright on Monday “compared U.S. troops to the Roman legions who killed Christ.” Jeremiah Wright asserted: “Yes, I can compare that. We have troops stationed all over the world, just like Rome had troops stationed all over the world, because we run the world.”

David Wright also pointed out how “Wright expressed admiration for the controversial Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan.” NBC also aired this clip from Jeremiah Wright, but without any set up as to its meaning: “When Louis Farrakhan speaks, it's like E.F. Hutton speaks. All black America listens. Whether they agree with him or not, they listen.”

NBC's Mitchell relayed that Reverend Wright insisted “that when he said after 9/11 that America's chickens were coming home to roost, he was quoting a former American ambassador.” But in his “Grapevine” segment, Brit Hume pointed out on FNC: “Problem is, Ambassador [Edward] Peck never said 'America's chickens are coming home to roost' -- nor did he suggest America engages in terrorism.”

None of the broadcast network reports touched on Wright's refusal to back down from his charge that the U.S. government “lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color.” As William Branigin reported in a Monday afternoon WashingtonPost.com posting:

Nor would Wright back down when asked if he really believes, as he once preached, that the U.S. government started the AIDS epidemic as a means of genocide against non-whites.

"Based on the Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything," he said. The Tuskegee experiment was a 40-year study conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service between 1932 and 1972 on nearly 400 black men who were afflicted with syphilis but were never told they had the disease.

Wright went on to accuse the United States of having sold to former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein "those biological weapons that he was using against his own people." He concluded: "So any time a government can put together biological warfare to kill people and then get angry when those people use what we sold them, yes, I believe we are capable."
My April 25 NewsBusters item, “Nets Stress Wright's Claim His Remarks Distorted, Not How Obama Agrees with Him,” recounted:
Barack Obama's pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, suggested in an interview with Bill Moyers that Obama agreed with his comments which stirred a furor in March, but instead of framing their stories around evidence Obama may be in sync with Wright's paranoid and America-hating rants, the network evening newscasts on Thursday stressed Wright's claim his sermons were unfairly distorted.

CBS's Jim Axelrod relayed how Wright asserted “parts of his sermons were publicized by Obama's opponents to damage Obama, but that they fundamentally misrepresented Wright's ministry and Wright himself.” NBC anchor Brian Williams related how “Wright says he does not think he's been treated fairly,” before reporter Andrea Mitchell began with Wright's insistence “his sermons were taken out of context to hurt Barack Obama.” Leading into a soundbite from Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart, who in March hailed Obama's speech on race as “a very important gift the Senator has given the country,” Mitchell asserted “some analysts agree that Wright was taken out of context.”

None of the stories aired any of Jeremiah Wright's infamous allegations. ABC's David Wright came the closest in recalling that “Wright does not disavow controversial remarks he has made in his church, some of which are sharply critical of the U.S., its history and its policies.”...
Transcripts of the Monday, April 28 broadcast network evening newscasts stories, as provided by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, starting with part of the CBS Evening News story, picking up after Dean Reynolds reported Wright's contention the attacks on him were an assault on the African-American church and how his “inflammatory rhetoric” has been all over the Internet:
DEAN REYNOLDS: ....Today Wright took written questions from members of the National Press Club.

QUESTION: In light of your widely quoted comments damning America, do you think you owe the American people an apology?

JEREMIAH WRIGHT: God damns some practices and there is no excuse for the things that the government -- not the American people -- have done. That doesn't make me not like America or unpatriotic.

REYNOLDS: As for questions about his patriotism, Wright pointed to his Marine service compared to Vice President Cheney's five deferments from duty.

WRIGHT: I served six years in the military. Does that make me patriotic? How many years did Cheney serve?

REYNOLDS: Obama felt compelled to give a major speech on race last month after the whole issue erupted. Today, Wright implied the speech was politically motivated.

WRIGHT: We both know that if Senator Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected.

REYNOLDS: Of course, getting elected is the whole point. Senator Obama said today that Reverend Wright is free to speak his mind but it doesn't represent Obama's views nor is it what his campaign is all about. Katie?
NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Now we turn to politics and the pastor. He is officially a retired minister now. His name is Jeremiah Wright. He's on a publicity tour right now. He's Barack Obama's former minister. And Reverend Wright's speaking engagements these days are a problem for the Obama campaign. One veteran politico today called it a "circus" and a "sideshow." Our report tonight from NBC's Andrea Mitchell in Washington. Andrea, good evening.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Good evening, Brian. Reverend Wright's appearances were an unwelcome distraction for Barack Obama just as he was trying to reach out to blue collar voters. With supporters packing the audience, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright went to the National Press Club, what he considers the "belly of the beast," to accuse his critics of trying to undermine the black church.

REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT: This most recent attack on the black church, this is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright. It is an attack on the black church.

MITCHELL: In North Carolina today, Barack Obama immediately distanced himself again from his former pastor.

BARACK OBAMA: He does not speak for me. He does not speak for the campaign. And so, you know, he may make statements in the future that don't reflect my values or concerns.

MITCHELL: But Wright was defiant and hard to avoid, appearing on PBS and in three cities over the last four days, insisting that when he said after 9/11 that America's chickens were coming home to roost, he was quoting a former American ambassador.

REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT: You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you. Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic, divisive principles.

MITCHELL: Wright's reemergence comes just as Obama is trying to connect with white working class voters -- Sunday in Indiana, today in North Carolina.

OBAMA: And they've been trying to say, well, you know, we don't know him that well, we don't know what he believes, we don't know about his values, despite the fact I wrote two books.

MITCHELL: Now competing with his message, his former pastor who also said he is working on a book.

REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT: When Louis Farrakhan speaks, it's like E.F. Hutton speaks. All black America listens. Whether they agree with him or not, they listen.

MITCHELL: Hillary Clinton wouldn't comment on Wright today, but after saying he wouldn't dwell on the subject, John McCain talked about it again.

JOHN MCCAIN: But I also understand why millions of Americans may, as Senator Obama said yesterday, view this as a political issue. That's what Senator Obama said. I take Senator Obama at his word that he doesn't share those views.

MITCHELL: Obama supporters described the whole thing as a media circus.

FORMER SENATOR BILL BRADLEY (D-NJ): Obviously, Barack Obama has no control whatsoever over Reverend Wright. So the legitimate question should be asking is: Why did Reverend Wright do this at this time?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think he's just decided that he's got to do what he's got to do, just as Senator Obama has to do what he has to do. And, unfortunately, the victim in all of this is going to be Senator Obama's campaign.

MITCHELL: Obama did have some good news today – an endorsement from a superdelegate, New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman. But with North Carolina voting next week, Clinton is expecting a better prize tomorrow -- the endorsement of North Carolina's Governor Mike Easley, also a superdelegate. And both Clinton and Obama are still wooing Elizabeth and John Edwards, who have told friends they may not endorse anyone before North Carolina votes.
ABC's World News:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Now to the presidential race and the controversy that Barack Obama just can't seem to shake. His former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, was speaking out again today, this time at the National Press Club in Washington. Wright didn't back down from any of his controversial remarks, as Obama made clear one more time that his former pastor does not speak for him. David Wright's in Washington tonight.

DAVID WRIGHT: If Obama's former pastor were seeking to put to rest lingering questions about his patriotism, his appearance today at the National Press Club didn't exactly help.

REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT: I served six years in the military. Does that make me patriotic? How many years did Cheney serve?

DAVID WRIGHT: Today, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright compared U.S. troops to the Roman legions who killed Christ.

REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT: Yes, I can compare that. We have troops stationed all over the world, just like Rome had troops stationed all over the world, because we run the world.

DAVID WRIGHT: Wright expressed admiration for the controversial Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan.

REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT: When Louis Farrakhan speaks, it's like E.F. Hutton speaks. All black America listens. Whether they agree with him or not, they listen.

DAVID WRIGHT: And he implied that the rift between him and Obama is just for political show. As for Obama's race speech in Philadelphia-

BARACK OBAMA: Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong, but divisive.

DAVID WRIGHT: Wright suggested Obama didn't know what he was talking about.

REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT: He did not denounce me. He distanced himself from some of my remarks, like most of you, never having heard the sermon.

DAVID WRIGHT: Wright even joked about becoming Obama's running mate.

REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT: I am not running for office. I am open to being Vice President.

DAVID WRIGHT: That offer is not likely to be forthcoming. In fact, the Obama campaign would just as soon Wright take a good long vacation. Today, Obama said Wright doesn't speak for him or his campaign. Out on the campaign trail today, Hillary Clinton pulled her punches.

HILLARY CLINTON: I would not have stayed in that church under those circumstances. But I regret the efforts by the Republicans to politicize this matter.

DAVID WRIGHT: Today John McCain took the high road.

JOHN MCCAIN: Senator Obama does not reflect the extremist statements that Reverend Wright has given.

DAVID WRIGHT: But clearly the pastor won't make it easy for the politician to put this controversy behind him. David Wright, ABC News, Washington.
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