Barack Obama’s pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, made excuses for Obama’s association by comparing it to her family remaining loyal to the Catholic Church despite the sex abuse scandal. Barbara Walters called Obama a "uniter" and hopes the pastor’s words do not "taint" Obama’s presidential aspiration.
Joy Behar made an apples and oranges comparison that members of her family should not be "indicted" for continuing attendance at the Catholic Church after the sex abuse scandal. Behar excused Obama’s long time relationship with an anti-American minister, but scolded John McCain for a random supporter calling Hillary Clinton a "bitch." Does Behar grant more leeway for a Democrat than a Republican, or is she more offended by anti-Hillary comments than anti-American ones?
Barbara Walters, the journalist on the panel, conceded Obama’s Reverend Wright relationship was "disturbing,"but called Obama a "uniter" "soaring above racism." She added that in Obama’s speech, she hopes he "puts some of it to rest, that we can go beyond it and find out what’s good for this country."
Elisabeth Hasselbeck was the only one on the panel who raised serious concerns about Obama remaining at the church and his very close relationship with Reverend Wright despite his many inflammatory statements. Hasselbeck noted Obama "just recently decided to denounce his statements when it’s been twenty years of sitting there listening." She also mentioned in her personal life, she left a church upon finding out the leaders were engaging in action she did not approve of.
The entire transcript is below.
BARBARA WALTERS: What a day for news.
JOY BEHAR:I know, it’s a good news day although, it’s not a good news day.
ELISABETH HASSELBECK: It’s overwhelming.
WALTERS: Well, it’s just, just, there’s just so much. And perhaps one of the most important things now is what is happening with Barack Obama. He is making a speech this morning in Philadelphia, which was going to address- well, I don’t know what it’s going to address, the whole question of racism in this country. That’s a big thing to address, but specifically what’s been said by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright who is the pastor of Obama’s church for the past twenty years, and has made some very strong and difficult for some people to understand. Words, that among other things, he said that Israel is a dirty word, he has said "God Damn America" for different things that America has done.
HASSELBECK: He’s called the U.S, "the U.S. of KKK A." He’s, you know, said, essentially, after 9-11 "now we’re indignant because of stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards," "America’s chickens are coming home to roost." You know, you know he’s made comments that have-
BEHAR: This is the reverend
WALTERS: This is the reverend.
BEHAR: Not Obama.
HASSELBECK: No, not Obama, not Obama, and has made comments about suggesting that, you know, government, run by white men, white rich men, has injected HIV into black Americans. I don’t know, suggesting what? But he, you know, he’s made these, he’s made these comments and people are concerned because Barack Obama has been in his church for twenty years.
WALTERS: Well, Barack Obama, and, by the way, people forget that yes, he’s half black, but he’s also half white. And he has been soaring above racism, and many people are very pleased and very proud of the fact that he has done that. He has said "when these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear that I strongly condemned his [Reverend Wright’s] comments, but because Reverend Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity Faith Community, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church. I categorically denounce his statement," etc. So he’s on a very difficult position and some people are wondering is it going to affect his, you know, his, the delegates vote? But beyond that, the fact that, that racism, and it’s now become such an issue, is just something that’s so sad for all of us, black or white.
BEHAR: Yeah, but the question is, but the question is should he be tainted by the reverend’s words? That is really the discussion.
WALTERS: When he has denounced them.
BEHAR: When he has denounced it, and other people have denounced many things that their campaigns have said.
HASSELBECK: But he has, he has attended this church for twenty years. This is where I have the problem. He just recently decided to denounce his statements when it’s been twenty years of sitting there listening. If you do pushups for twenty years straight, are you going to have a strong chest? Yes. At the end of twenty years to suggest something you’ve been an active participant in doesn’t affect you, and doesn’t create, you know, who you are, have anything to do with who you are and what your thoughts are, I think that’s a bit naive. I also think that, you know, this has been a spiritual adviser, he’s baptized children, he’s married both he and his wife. He took a segment from this reverend’s speech "The Audacity of Hope," and made it the title of his book. To say that he has just now distanced himself concerns me because I think that they have a long standing relationship. It’s not as just though he was passively sitting there in the crowd.
SHERRI SHEPHERD: How many people, how many people- you can’t, nobody can even say they have people in their family that are crazy. How many people got that uncle that you can lock in the attic.
HASSELBECK: Are they running for the president? Are they running for the president?
SHEPHERD: But that’s not what Obama has said. He has said "I do not agree with his statements." And "he is not the only pastor in that church."
HASSELBECK: Why keep going to that church? I went to a church where I found out that the heads of the church were not good, okay, and I left. I left. I said, you know, I don’t want to be a part of that at all.
BEHAR: Alright. I want to speak to that. I want to speak to that. Because my family still is Catholic. And they object to the pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church, vehemently, as you can imagine. That does not stop them from going to church.
HASSELBECK: Is the same pastor preaching?
BEHAR: It is not one or another pastor. Cardinal Law, who was one of the perpetrators of pushing these priests to another parish, is now working at the Vatican under the pope. So that doesn’t mean that my aunt and my uncles agree with that position of the Catholic Church, but they go to church because they want to light a candle and they believe in God. And they believe in the, in Christianity, so I-
HASSELBECK: Would you attend this church with him saying the things he said?
BEHAR: You can’t indict my family because they go to a church that made, that committed sins.
HASSELBECK: What about the fact that Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney was running for president until he stepped down and said, you know, John McCain is the man I believe who can most properly lead this country in a time of war. We were- people were all over him because he was a Mormon, okay? We examined that under a microscope every single day. There were jokes cracked, there were things examined. To not examine his past and not examine his people that are his spiritual advisers, I think is wrong. We should be examining those.
WALTERS: I think what we’re doing now is having an examination. And Barack Obama is addressing this, this morning. And the sad thing is that he is a very- this is not a sad thing. This is a good thing. He is a very decent man who has tried throughout this whole dialogue and throughout all the campaigning, to rise above racism.
BEHAR: And to be a uniter.
WALTERS: And, and to be a uniter. And the reverend, who has divided and we can even see the way Sherri reacts and the way others, we can understand that this is now a divisive issue. And we can hope that we can rise above this and that is does not taint Barack Obama, and there are questions about why did he leave and why didn’t he stay.
BEHAR: Well, maybe he’ll answer that.
WALTERS: And what his allegiances are and so forth.
BEHAR: Let’s see what he says.
WALTERS: But what troubles me the most is, as I say, this is a good man, Barack Obama, just as Hillary Clinton is a good woman and there are sexist remarks. And to see what started off to be the most inspiring kind of race with a woman and a black, both so much admired, and to see it now with this reason, separating on racial lines, black versus white, is terribly painful, and I have to hope, and hope that when Barack Obama talks today and puts some of it to rest, that we can go beyond it and find out what’s good for this country. We have so many problems in this country.
HASSELBECK: He has a chance to do that.
WALTERS: We’re five years into this Iraq War, let us rise above this and not have it divide us along racial and sexist terms.
BEHAR: It would be nice.
HASSELBECK: I have a feeling today that he will do just that. I have a feeling he will address it and-
WALTERS: Let’s hope so.
HASSELBECK: -we will see how he deals with this sort of controversy now, which could indicate how he deals with it in the future. I just think, I think he’s got a shot today.
WALTERS: You want to say something Sherri?
SHEPHERD: No, I just, it breaks my heart that, that something that somebody else has said, people are putting that on Obama because he’s, I agree with you. He’s a good man and he wants to unite this country. And, and this is just being so divisive and it’s just taking away from what he wants to do, which is why he’s having this press conference about this, so he can explain what he feels.
HASSELBECK: But we should listen, if someone said that, you know, an extremist of whatever thought, religion, base was John McCain’s adviser, okay, in a spiritual realm, that John McCain named a book that he wrote after one of his speeches. Wouldn’t you-
WALTERS: It’s disturbing. It’s disturbing.
HASSELBECK: It concerns me. It concerns me.
SHEPHERD: Well, let’s let John McCain speak. You know, because Obama didn’t say these things. His pastor said these things. And he’s saying, "I don’t agree with it."
HASSELBECK: Well, he has some things to address today, so I hope, it’s interesting to see what he’ll say.