ABC: Obama's Race Speech Doesn't Match Year of Wright Spin

ABC’s Brian Ross is reporting that Barack Obama’s speech trying to get around the controversy over his pastor Jeremiah Wright doesn’t match his previous professions of ignorance about the vehemence of Wright’s sermons on the oppression wrought by America and "rich white people." (It also doesn’t match his account of Wright in his book Dreams of My Father.) Ross declared:

Buried in his eloquent, highly praised speech on America's racial divide, Sen. Barack Obama contradicted more than a year of denials and spin from him and his staff about his knowledge of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's controversial sermons....Until yesterday, Obama said the only thing controversial he knew about Rev. Wright was his stand on issues relating to Africa, abortion and gay marriage. "I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial," Obama said at a community meeting in Nelsonville, Ohio, earlier this month. "He has said some things that are considered controversial because he's considered that part of his social gospel; so he was one of the leaders in calling for divestment from South Africa and some other issues like that," Obama said on March 2. His initial reaction to the initial ABC News broadcast of Rev. Wright's sermons denouncing the U.S. was that he had never heard his pastor of 20 years make any comments that were anti-U.S. until the tape was played on air.

But in Obama’s account of Wright in his book Dreams from My Father, which the candidate mentioned in his "race" speech, Obama noted that very early on, he witnessed Wright sermonizing about the world (and savage whites and American nuclear bombs). From page 293 of the paperback edition:

"It is this world, a world where cruise ships throw away more food than most residents of Port-au-Prince see in a year, where white folks’ greed runs a world in need, apartheid in one hemisphere, apathy in another hemisphere...That’s the world! On which hope sits!"And so it went, a meditation on a fallen world. While the boys next to me doodled on their church bulletin, Reverend Wright spoke of Sharpsville [South Africa] and Hiroshima, the callousness of policy makers in the White House and in the State House.

Obama was impressed:

It became clear in this very first meeting that despite the reverend’s frequent disclaimers, it was this capacious talent of his – this ability to hold together, if not reconcile, the conflicting strains of black experience – upon whch Trinity’s success had ultimately been built.

When Obama met with Wright and told him some thought he was running a church for "buppies," Wright suggested black men will never get a fair shake in America:

"We don’t buy into these false divisions here. It’s not about income, Barack. Cops don’t check my bank account when they pull me over and make me spread-eagle against the car. These miseducated brothers, like that sociologist at the University of Chicago, talking about ‘the declining significance of race.’ Now, what country is he living in?"

Wright it speaking of liberal academic William Julius Wilson, who wrote a book on that title in 1978. It's ironic not only that the declining significance of race is implied by the 2008 Obama campaign, but that Wilson is an Obama supporter who finds him "refreshing."Obama wrote when he talked to Wright about the reality of class divisions, and mentioned how one of Wright’s assistants underlined "the tendency of those with means to move out of the line of fire." Wright replied:

"I’ve given Tracy my opinion about moving out of the city,’ he said quietly. "That boy of hers is gonna get out there and he won’t have a clue about where, or who, he is."[Obama:] "It’s tough to take chances with your child’s safety.""Life’s not safe for a black man in this country, Barack. Never has been. Probably never will be."

So much for the audacity of hope.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis