When we convened here on May 25, the topic of discussion was the media’s renewed ardor for Barack Obama now that the president appears to be facing a tough reelection challenge.
The matter of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright was cited as a prime example of the skewed coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign. When journalists were finally forced to acknowledge Wright’s existence after months of hoping he’d somehow disappear, their sympathy for Obama – and even Wright himself– was all too clear. Just two brief examples:
Washington Post writer Sally Quinn lamented to PBS’s Charlie Rose, “To see his [Jeremiah Wright’s] career completely destroyed by three 20-second sound bites, all of the work he has done, his entire legacy gone down the drain, has been absolutely devastating to me – to him, sorry…. We are still a racist country…. I think that so many white people who had never been inside a black church were absolutely shocked by the tone and language that they heard [from Wright]…. I think it brought out a lot of latent racism.”
CNN’s Anderson Cooper, prefacing a story about Wright’s anti-American sermons, complained that “We’re running it [videos snippets of Wright’s speeches] because – like it or not, legitimate or not – it has become an issue…. All this seems to have nothing to do with actual issues that the country is facing, which these candidates should be talking about and we probably should be talking about.”
Ladies and gentlemen, your allegedly objective media at work.
The issue of Jeremiah Wright and his relationship with Obama is being given new life by Edward Klein in his recently released book The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House.
(The generally dismissive reception accorded Klein’s book by the mainstream media is indicative of the protective cover Obama enjoys from the nation’s chattering class. Klein, after all, is a veteran journalist whose resume includes service as foreign editor of Newsweek, back when Newsweek was a serious publication, and editor-in-chief of The New York Times Magazine. The Monitor is pleased to note that notwithstanding some less than laudatory reviews, the book is number one on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller list.)
Klein points out that for many years Obama would begin speeches to black audiences by saying, “I bring you greetings from my pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.”
Klein also writes that “Until Obama married Michelle Robinson in 1991, when he was thirty years old, his most significant adult relationship was with Jeremiah Wright. His connection to Wright ran long and deep, and went back further than has been generally reported. It started well before Obama joined Wright’s congregation…where the pastor’s sermons on Black Liberation theology encouraged a victimization mentality among his black parishioners.”
Wright, Klein writes, “became far more than a religious and spiritual guide to Obama; he was his substitute father, life coach, and political inspiration wrapped in one package. At each step of Obama’s career, Wright was there with practical advice and counsel…. It would be no exaggeration to say that Jeremiah Wright…prepared him to run for president.”
When Rolling Stone magazine in 2007 published a detailed account of Wright’s radicalism, the media ignored the story for more than a year. As Klein puts it, “One could only imagine how these journalists would have behaved if the shoe had been on the other foot and…President George W. Bush had sat for twenty years in a white-supremacist church and listened to anti-black rants.”
ABC News investigative correspondent Brian Ross finally broke the media silence in March 2008 when he broadcast videotapes of Wright ranting from the pulpit. He told Klein he “was surprised that no one else had picked up on the Jeremiah Wright story and pursued the videotapes.”
And – pay attention here – Ross added that “not everybody at ABC News was thrilled that I ran with the story. People who liked Obama were not happy with me. In fact, my story ran on ‘Good Morning America’ but was never picked up by ‘World News Tonight.’ ”
Can anyone imagine a more devastating indictment of a news organization?