CNN’s Phillips & Malveaux Feel the Obamas’ Pain Over Quitting Church

NewsBusters.org - Media Research CenterCNN’s Kyra Phillips and Suzanne Malveaux fretted over Barack Obama’s recent decision to leave his "controversial church" during a segment on Monday’s "American Morning." During her introduction to Malveaux’s report on the decision, Phillips lamented, "You know, he's getting criticized -- okay, he acting like a typical politician.... He's bailing out of the church. Well, he would have been accused of the same type of things if he stayed in the church. He can't win." Malveaux responded, "The things is, you know, Kyra, this was a personal decision. It was a political decision, but also a personal decision. When I interviewed Michelle Obama, they talked about the kind of pain that -- actually disassociating themselves from Reverend Wright...."

Both before and after her report, Malveaux guessed that the fact that the Obamas "had no control over the church" contributed to their decision to leave.

During the report itself, the CNN correspondent did not feature any critics or skeptics of the Obamas’ decision to leave the church. Instead, she aired clips of the Illinois Senator’s press conference where he announced that he was leaving Trinity United Church of Christ, along with clips of Father Michael Pfleger’s now-infamous sermon at the church and his later apology. She also played two clips of unidentified Trinity parishoners responding to Obama’s departure. Again, during the report, Malveaux highlighted how "the decision to leave was difficult for Obama. Trinity was a place where he married his wife and where his children were baptized."

After Malveaux’s report finished, Phillips echoed the CNN correspondent’s earlier Obama-sympathetic comments. "Well, it's such a personal thing. It's got to be tough. I mean, he was married in this church; his kids were baptized in this church; and it's sort of sad to see, just, even Reverend Wright and now Father Pfleger. You know, they're taking advantage of their moments of fame, and it's too bad it even had to happen in the first place."

The full transcript of the segment, which began a minute into the 8 am Eastern hour of Monday’s "American Morning:"

KYRA PHILLIPS: Barack Obama cut ties with his controversial church after being a member there for 20 years. But the controversy doesn't end there. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux joins us with the story. You know, he's getting criticized -- okay, he acting like a typical politician...

SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Right, right.

PHILLIPS: ...He's bailing out of the church. Well, he would have been accused of the same type of things if he stayed in the church. He can't win.

MALVEAUX: The things is, you know, Kyra, this was a personal decision. It was a political decision, but also a personal decision. When I interviewed Michelle Obama, they talked about the kind of pain that -- actually disassociating themselves from Reverend Wright, but they stayed in the church because of their relationship with the church. But this weekend it was really quite different because it was a political decision as well, which is they had no control over the church, and so they had to sever ties.

PHILLIPS: Now...

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Another scandal at Barack Obama's church.

FATHER MICHAEL PFLEGER: I'm white! I'm entitled! There's a black man stealing my show!

MALVEAUX: Visiting priest Michael Pfleger's remark quickly went viral, an immediate target for pundits and bloggers, and this time, Obama had had enough.

SENATOR BARACK OBAMA, ILLINOIS : We also don't want a church subjected to the scrutiny that a presidential campaign legitimately undergoes.

MALVEAUX: Pfleger gave a mea culpa Sunday.

PFLEGER: I am deeply sorry and I pray that my apology will be accepted, even by those who have told me they won't accept it.

MALXVEAUX: But it was too late for Obama.

OBAMA: ...statements by Father Pfleger, who is somebody who I've known, who I consider a friend, who has done tremendous work in Chicago, but made offensive statements that have no place in our politics and in the pulpit.

MALVEAUX: Still, the decision to leave was difficult for Obama. Trinity was a place where he married his wife and where his children were baptized.

OBAMA: I want to be able to take Michelle and my girls, sit in a pew quietly, hopefully get some nice music, some good reflection, praise God, thank him for all the blessings that he has given our family, put some money in the collection plate....

MALVEAUX: Parishioners at the church say the story was blown out of proportion.

UNIDENTIFIED PARISHONER #1: Politics and church should be separate -- totally separate, and I feel how can they bring all of this politician things inside the church. You know, if someone's preaching and they're delivering the word, however they feel to deliver that word, then that should be them.

UNIDENTIFIED PARISHONER #2: This goes not going to take the church down [by] any stretch of the imagination.

MALVEAUX: But it remains to be seen if Obama can distance himself enough to quell voters' concerns over his judgment come November.

OBAMA: I have no idea how it will impact my presidential campaign. But I know that it's the right thing to do for the church and for our family.

MALVEAUX (on-camera): And, really, one of the challenges that Barack Obama has -- and they realized this --is that he has to go out and define himself, and sometimes redefine his candidacy to voters who don't know him so well. So this kind of thing -- he really can't afford to be associated with the church, especially because they just couldn't control what was happening, you know, what was coming out of it, and it's something, though, that they're really -- they struggled with for quite some time.

PHILLIPS: Well, it's such a personal thing. It's got to be tough. I mean, he was married in this church; his kids were baptized in this church; and it's sort of sad to see, just, even Reverend Wright and now Father Pfleger. You know, they're taking advantage of their moments of fame, and it's too bad it even had to happen in the first place. But you know, it's historic what's happening in this election, not only you have an African-American, you have this first female candidate going for President, but just the subject matter. We haven't seen a controversy like this.

MALVEAUX: And, I mean, my church, I fell asleep in my church. It was never this exciting. We've had a whole different kind of role of pastors, I mean, on both sides, the Republicans as well as the Democrats here, which is why a lot of people make the argument, you know, church and state, keep them separate.

PHILLIPS: We'll be praying for a little kumbaya. All right, thank you Suzanne.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center