McClatchy’s Wright-Obama-TUCC Expose: How Many Will Get to See It?

Yesterday, Gateway Pundit noticed what he called an "Uh-Oh... This wasn't supposed to happen" event for presidential candidate Barack Obama:

An amazing article appeared in the mainstream news today. McClatchy actually reported that Obama's church merges Marxism and Christian Gospel and preaches that the white church in America is the Antichrist because it supported slavery and segregation.

That they did. But how did they headline it, and how many McClatchy newspapers actually ran the story?

Margaret Talev's Thursday, March 20 description of the fundamental doctrines of the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ (TUCC) does get right to the point. Talev even goes so far as to question the candidate's motivations for his involvement with the church.

Most importantly, which I why I've bolded the related text, Talev notes that while TUCC's radical and racist philosophies will survive the Rev. Wright's retirement, their continued presence will not deter Obama from continuing to attend:

Obama's church pushes controversial doctrines

Jesus is black. Merging Marxism with Christian Gospel may show the way to a better tomorrow. The white church in America is the Antichrist because it supported slavery and segregation.

Those are some of the more provocative doctrines that animate the theology at the core of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Barack Obama's church.

Obama's speech Tuesday on race in America was hailed as a masterful handling of the controversy over divisive sermons by the longtime pastor of Trinity United, the recently retired Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.

But in repudiating and putting in context Wright's inflammatory lines about whites and U.S. foreign policy, the Democratic presidential front-runner didn't address other potentially controversial facts about his church and its ties.

..... Wright has said that a basis for Trinity's philosophies is the work of James Cone, who founded the modern black liberation theology movement out of the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. Particularly influential was Cone's seminal 1969 book, "Black Theology & Black Power."

Cone wrote that the United States was a white racist nation and the white church was the Antichrist for having supported slavery and segregation.

..... Cone also said he thought that Wright's successor, the Rev. Otis Moss III, would continue the tradition.

..... Obama, 46, who is biracial, joined Trinity in his late 20s when he was working as a community organizer. He says he'll continue to worship there.

..... It isn't clear where Obama's beliefs and the church's diverge.

..... It's possible that Obama joined Trinity as much because it gave him credibility as a newcomer to south side Chicago's black community as for its particular theological teachings.

While it is indeed refreshing to see substantive Old Media coverage of the TUCC, Wright, and Obama's involvement, how many people have ready access to it, or will get it, is an open question.

Based on the time of the first comment reacting to the March 20 story at mcclatchydc.com, it appears not to have been released until perhaps 7 PM that evening. With Good Friday and Easter approaching, and the Obama-Wright story at least 10 days old, one has to wonder if McClatchy held the story until Thursday evening to minimize its impact.

Even considering all of that, how many McClatchy newspapers actually carried Talev's story?

To find out, I searched for the article on "Obama Wright" (not in quotes) at what I believe are McClatchy's 10 largest properties. Keep in mind that this is not definitive, because a newspaper's print edition could have carried the story even if it didn't appear at a paper's web site, and vice-versa.

Six of the ten papers I selected carried the story at their web sites:

  • Charlotte Observer - carried ("Provocative ideas at core of church"; posted at an unspecified time on Friday).
  • El Nuevo Herald (Spanish Miami Herald) - carried (translated, "The controversial church of Barack Obama"; posted, per the search result, at 11:10 p.m. on Thursday).
  • Fort Worth Star-Telegram - carried ("Some views at Obama's church are controversial"; posted at an unspecified time on Friday).
  • Fresno Bee - not found (search engine may not have been working properly; link is to an alternate search attempt).
  • Idaho Statesman - not found.
  • Kansas City Star - not found.
  • Macon Telegraph - not found.
  • Miami Herald - carried ("Provocative ideas abound at Obama's church"; posted at an unspecified time on Friday).
  • Raleigh News & Observer - carried ("Obama's church holds controversial views"; posted March 21 at 12:30 a.m. on Friday).
  • Sacramento Bee - carried ("Obama church's theology replete with controversy"; posted at midnight on Friday, appeared on Page A7).

Finally, it's hard to dispute that the headlines used by Talev and the various McClatchy papers were weaker than they could have or should have been. Either "radical" or "racist" would have been perfectly appropriate adjectives. I daresay that the headline writers would not have been so restrained in describing a "far-right" church, especially if it held white-supremacist views analogous to those Talev described.

Getting back to what Gateway Pundit said, as noted at the beginning of this post -- It's nice that the Rev. Wright's and TUCC's radicalism got some exposure, but the coverage was, despite the strong reporting, weakly timed and more muted than it should have been. And of course, the chances that the Associated Press or the three "newspapers of record" (NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times) will produce similar efforts is nearly zero.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.