Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the longtime friend and former pastor of Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama, wrote a fiery letter to The New York Times after the paper published an unflattering news story about Wright’s relationship with Obama in 2007.
“Thank you for engaging in one of the biggest misrepresentations of the truth I have ever seen in sixty-five years,” Wright wrote in a letter to Times reporter Jodi Kantor made available online by Time magazine.
“Jodi, out of two hours of conversation I spent approximately five to seven minutes on Barack’s taking advice from one of his trusted campaign people and deeming it unwise to make me the media spotlight on the day of his announcing his candidacy for the Presidency and what do you print?” Wright asked. “You and your editor proceeded to present to the general public a snippet, a printed ‘sound byte’ and a titillating and tantalizing article about his disinviting me to the Invocation on the day of his announcing his candidacy.”
Kantor’s article, dated March 6, 2007, discussed Obama’s decision to rescind an invitation to Wright to deliver an invocation on the day Obama announced his intention to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Obama spokesman Bill Burton told Kantor the campaign did this because it “did not want the church [Trinity United Church of Christ] to face negative attention.” Instead of delivering an invocation, Wright prayed with Obama before the announcement and otherwise stayed on the sidelines of the event.
Kantor mentioned in her piece some black leaders were “questioning Mr. Obama’s decision to distance his campaign from Mr. Wright because of the campaign’s apparent fear of criticism over Mr. Wright’s teachings, which some say are overly Afrocentric to the point of excluding whites.”
Wright was upset with Kantor because he felt she did not give enough attention to the positive attributes of his church or Obama’s campaign. In his letter, Wright said: “The president of our denomination, the Reverend John Thomas, has offered to try to help you clarify in your confused head what Trinity Church is even though you spent the entire weekend with us setting me up to interview me for what turned out to be a smear of the Senator; and yet The New York Times continues to roll on making the truth what it wants to be the truth.”
Wright accused The New York Times of “leading the bandwagon in trumpeting why it is we should have gone into an illegal war,” and becoming “George Bush and the National Republican Party’s National ‘blog’.”
The pastor ended his letter to Kantor on an angry, sarcastic note. “There is no integrity when it comes to the Times. You should do well with that paper, Jodi. You looked me straight in my face and told me a lie!”
Wright’s letter did not deter Kantor from writing another piece about Wright on April 30, 2007—almost two months after her piece about Wright being disinvited from Obama’s presidential announcement events. It detailed Wright’s influence Obama’s political life and raised questions about the pro-black ideology of the Wright’s church.
It contained a telling quote from Kantor’s original interview with Wright that proves Wright and Obama frankly discussed the negative impact Wright could have on Obama’s candidacy.
“If Barack gets past the primary, he might have to publicly distance himself from me,” Wright told Kantor in March 2007. “I said to Barack personally, and he said yeah, that might have to happen.”
The Times stands by their work. In a statement to Time magazine, New York Times Political Editor Richard W. Stevenson said, “it is worth noting that at no time has Mr. Wright challenged the accuracy of either story written by Ms. Kantor – both of which, given the events of the last several weeks, seem remarkably prescient about the potential political peril in the Obama-Wright relationship.”
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