Liberal pastor and civil rights leader Joseph Lowery’s strange benediction prayer hoping that one day "white will embrace what is right" wasn’t ignored on the Tuesday night news, but it wasn’t portrayed as at all controversial. CBS skipped over it. But ABC, NBC, and PBS’s NewsHour all featured it, often without interrupting their gauzy promotional tone. Here’s a brief tour of how it unfolded.
ABC: In the first half-hour of a 60-minute World News, Charles Gibson recalled a legend praying:
GIBSON: The Reverend Joseph E Lowery, the legendary civil rights leader, delivered the benediction.
Rev. JOSEPH LOWERY: We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man and white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.
GIBSON: As hundreds of thousands on the Mall savored what they had just seen.
The scene was replayed in Gibson’s second half-hour, alongside the invocation by Rick Warren:
PASTOR RICK WARREN: Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans. United not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all.
REVEREND JOSEPH LOWERY: And in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day where black will not be asked to get back. When brown can stick around. When yellow will be mellow. When the red man can get ahead, man. And when white will embrace what is right. Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.
LOWERY: Say amen.
LOWERY: And amen.
On Nightline, Terry Moran was typically flushed with glee at Obama speaking, but he left out the whack-the-whites part:
MORAN: And then, he looked ahead and looked inside the national character where he's drawn so much inspiration and the words soared, the vision brightened....A new era of responsibility built on the old truths.
MORAN: And in the benediction given by the nearly 90-year-old Reverend Dr Joseph Lowery, a hero of the civil rights movement, who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. In his blessing, the old truths sang.
LOWERY: That all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.
LOWERY: Say amen.
LOWERY: And amen.
MORAN: One and a half million people said amen. And afterwards, we heard a deep joy.
NBC: As Brent Baker reported earlier, NBC Nightly News passed over Lowery’s prayer to delight in Andrea Mitchell’s picture of a cell-phone field of stars:
MITCHELL: His very name opening doors, as did his speech to the rest of the world, the ceremony acknowledging a debt to the sacrifices that made this day possible. The final blessing from a civil rights icon, the Reverend Joseph Lowery, changing the tones of official Washington.
Rev. JOSEPH LOWERY: We ask you to help us work for that day when blacks will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right.
MITCHELL: And the mass flickering of cell phone cameras on the Mall seemed like stars shining back at him.
Lowery also appeared briefly in a Savannah Guthrie story on the Obama daughters:
GUTHRIE: And as for the speech, two reviews were instant and very positive.
Rev. JOSEPH LOWERY: Look over our little angelic Sasha and Malia.
GUTHRIE: Not since the Kennedys has America had such young children in the White House.
On Tuesday night’s Dateline, there was more Lowery celebration, but no controversial prayer quotes:
Rev. JOSEPH LOWERY: I never dreamed I would see the day a black president would be elected. (Voiceover) Let alone that I would participate in the ceremony.
Rev. LOWERY: (Inauguration) Yes, we can work together. I'm so proud of my country. (Lowery and Barack Obama hugging)
LOWERY: I'm so proud of America that...(Voiceover) ...we have heard the call of that 34-year-old preacher that said move beyond color to character.
PBS. The NewsHour featured a soundbite of Lowery:
RAY SUAREZ: The ceremony ended with the benediction given by an 87- year-old leader of the civil rights movement, the Reverend Dr. Joseph Lowery.
Rev. JOSEPH LOWERY: And in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in the back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right. Let all those who do justice and love mercy say, "Amen."
SUAREZ: Minutes later, the now former President George Bush and his wife, Laura, left the Capitol building...
But Suarez treated Rick Warren with an ideological label and a "controversial" label in the same roundup: "The invocation was given by a well-known, and controversial, preacher, conservative pastor Rick Warren from California`s Saddleback Church."