CBS’s Mitchell: How Does Obama ‘Not Denounce Jeremiah Wright?’

NewsBusters.org - Media Research CenterFollowing Monday’s sanitized coverage of the controversial comments of Barack Obama’s pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show" continued to gloss over the most inflammatory of Wright’s comments, spending over 6 minutes on Obama’s upcoming speech on the issue while devoting only 16 seconds of video to Wright’s more mild statements. Following this video, co-host Russ Mitchell asked left-wing commentator Nancy Giles: "How careful does he [Obama] have to be today not to denounce Jeremiah Wright and make some black voters angry?"

The rest of the analysis with Giles, who was ‘balanced’ with Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, was entirely about political strategy, not about Wright’s statements. Mitchell asked Trippi about the possibility of race affecting Obama’s appeal: "Joe Trippi, sticking with the risk factor for a second. There are folks out there who are going to look at Barack Obama, who's made no secret of the fact that he's black of course...And look at this speech and say 'you know what honey, I just realized something today, he brought up race. Barack Obama is black.' How risky is that in this speech?"

Mitchell concluded the segment by asking Giles if the issue was "over":

MITCHELL: After the speech today, is the race and gender issue over?

GILES: No, no. And it's -- I think it's a good thing to talk about these things and I really applaud the fact that he's attacked it head on and he didn't just dodge it with the kind of double-talk that I see Hillary Clinton having engaged in with the whole Geraldine Ferraro controversy, which incidentally has been pushed off the front pages for this. So I think it's great that he's taking this opportunity where something may have gone kind of wrong and faced it head on and tried to really get a dialogue going on race.

Prior to this segment, fill-in co-host Jeff Glor did a news brief on Obama’s speech and framed the story as being more about Obama’s race and less about Wright’s extreme statements: "According to one Barack Obama adviser, race is now officially on the table. In what may be the most important speech of his campaign, Obama addresses the issue this morning and racially charged sermons by his former pastor."

Glor then went to a report by correspondent Byron Pitts, who concluded that: "Obama's troubles on this issue points to the racial divide that still exists in America, a divide he will try and bridge later this morning."

Here are the transcripts of both segments:

7:00AM TEASER:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Barack Obama on the defensive, delivers the most important speech of his presidential campaign. He speaks on race and the influence of his fiery former pastor.

7:07AM SEGMENT:

JEFF GLOR: According to one Barack Obama adviser, race is now officially on the table. In what may be the most important speech of his campaign, Obama addresses the issue this morning and racially charged sermons by his former pastor. CBS News National Correspondent Byron Pitts is in Philadelphia with more. Good morning, Byron.

BYRON PITTS: Good morning, Jeff. Important is right. With the campaigns tightening and -- Obama's advisers admit, he must get beyond this race debate, and soon. All weekend and much of Monday, Senator Obama was dogged by questions about the teachings of his longtime pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

BARACK OBAMA: It has been a distraction from the core message of our campaign. I think that part of what has always been the essence of my politics.

PITTS: Last Friday, Obama denounced as inflammatory and appalling comments Reverend Wright made in years past, comments circulated on video clips.

JEREMIAH WRIGHT: Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich, white people!

PITTS: In one sermon, Reverend Wright said blacks should sing --

WRIGHT: No, no, no, not God bless America, God damn America!

PITTS: Comments critics have called anti-American and anti-white. Wright is the minister Obama has called his spiritual mentor, the man who married he and his wife Michelle, baptized their children. It's a long history now called into question. CBS affiliate KDKA pressed Obama on the issue during this exclusive interview.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Let me ask you about this growing controversy regarding your pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

OBAMA: Well, the truth is that, you know, this is somebody who's been a pastor for 30 years. He said some very offensive remarks, which I have denounced, but he is now retired, or he's on the verge of retirement. He's preached his last sermon. I wasn't familiar with some of the remarks that he had made. I had not been in church on those days.

PITTS: Obama's troubles on this issue points to the racial divide that still exists in America, a divide he will try and bridge later this morning. Jeff.

GLOR: Byron Pitts in Philadelphia, Byron, thank you. We'll have more on Obama's speech in this half hour.

 

7:13AM TEASER:

RUSS MITCHELL: Up next this morning, Barack Obama's speech on racism. Why it could be the most important of his presidential campaign.

7:16AM SEGMENT:

RUSS MITCHELL: Barack Obama confronts the issue of race head-on today. He wants to put to rest the controversy surrounding statements by his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, but Obama may have a hard time because of what he said previously about the importance of words.

BARACK OBAMA: Don't tell me words don't matter. "I have a dream," just words.

JEREMIAH WRIGHT: Not God bless America! God damn America.

OBAMA: The statements that were the source of controversy from Reverend Wright were wrong, and I strongly condemn them. I think the caricature that's being painted of him is not accurate.

MITCHELL: Here to talk more about Obama's speech is Nancy Giles, actress, comedian and CBS News Sunday Morning contributor, and Joe Trippi, a CBS News Political consultant who ran Howard Dean's presidential campaign. Good morning to both of you.

NANCY GILES: Morning Russ

TRIPPI: Morning.

MITCHELL: Joe I'm going to begin with you. Just how important is this speech today that Obama's going to make?

JOE TRIPPI: It's really important. I mean, he has to answer this -- all these questions now about this -- where he is on this and he's got to do it -- in a lot of ways, this could be the big crisis of this candidacy. It's either going to be the crisis of his candidacy or a shining moment for him, because a lot of Americans are really interested in this issue and they want to know where he stands.

MITCHELL: Nancy let me ask you. How careful does he have to be today not to denounce Jeremiah Wright and make some black voters angry?

NANCY GILES: Right. Well, he's in a really unique position, because this is somebody who married him, who baptized his kids. He's been a member of the church for a long time. But clearly, the words and the tone of the words was really incendiary, so rather than just throw him overboard -- and he's already started to establish that, that this is a man he cared about, but these words and these sentiments aren't anything that he agrees with. He's got to really walk that line between standing up for himself and saying this is what I believe and delineating that what Jeremiah Wright says, he doesn't go along with hook, line, and sinker.

MITCHELL: Nancy, you talk about walking the line, carefully walking the line. Just how risky, potentially, could this speech be?

GILES: Well look, you and I know about that line, I mean, as black people in, you know, in an entertainment field where sometimes we'll get criticized by not being what someone's stereotypical idea of being black is. We walk a line every day. So I feel like he's going to speak from the heart. He's an incredible speaker. He really knows how to incorporate all of his life experiences and make it a very personal story. But I think it's going to appeal to a lot of people across the board.

MITCHELL: Joe Trippi, sticking with the risk factor for a second. There are folks out there who are going to look at Barack Obama, who's made no secret of the fact that he's black of course --

GILES: Thank you.

MITCHELL: And look at this speech and say 'you know what honey, I just realized something today, he brought up race. Barack Obama is black.' How risky is that in this speech?

TRIPPI: No, I don't think that's what's going on. I think, look, Barack Obama says words matter, and I think the words that may matter are his statement that he didn't know or wasn't aware of some of these things. Those are the kinds -- that's the kind of words that come back to haunt you, if it turns out, no matter what he says in the speech today, if it turns out that, you know, he was there for one of these statements. That's the kind of stuff that's going to hurt his credibility, hurt what he stands for to the country right now, to the people who follow him as a guy who speaks the truth, is for a new kind of politics and doesn't do double talk. So I think he's walking a line on several fronts, but the biggest one -- may come out, is he telling the truth about what he knew and when he knew it? These are typical kinds of questions that hurt people who are running for high office, particularly for president.

MITCHELL: Quick question for both of you. Very quickly Joe, overall, good idea to make this speech today?

TRIPPI: Absolutely. Should have done it -- I mean, the real question here is, he can't let this linger at all. He's got to address it. His favorables are already dropping. He has to address it right now.

MITCHELL: And Nancy --

GILES: Well, I think --

MITCHELL: After the speech today, is the race and gender issue over?

GILES: No, no. And it's -- I think it's a good thing to talk about these things and I really applaud the fact that he's attacked it head on and he didn't just dodge it with the kind of double-talk that I see Hillary Clinton having engaged in with the whole Geraldine Ferraro controversy, which incidentally has been pushed off the front pages for this. So I think it's great that he's taking this opportunity where something may have gone kind of wrong and faced it head on and tried to really get a dialogue going on race.

MITCHELL: Okay. Nancy Giles and Joe Trippi, we'll be watching. Thanks for joining us today. We appreciate it.

GILES: Thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC