Brian Fitzpatrick

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama finally denounced Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but he will never get past the Wright controversy without resolving the questions it has raised about his credibility, judgment and philosophy.

Unfortunately for Obama, the media have been reluctant to ask him those difficult questions. The media seem concerned only whether Obama’s “Pastor Souljah” putdown of his former mentor had stopped the political bleeding inflicted by the exposure of Wright’s radicalism (much as Bill Clinton benefited from criticizing radical black hip hop singer Sister Souljah).

Wright “mentored” and preached to Obama for nearly 20 years. The possibility that a devotee of Wright’s neo-Marxist “black liberation theology” could become President is sending chills down the spines of millions of Americans.

At the National Press Club on Monday, Wright defended the most controversial “snippets” from his sermons, including his call for God to “damn” America and his absurd suggestion that the U.S. government invented AIDS to kill off “people of color.”

In a Tuesday news conference in North Carolina, Obama dismissed his former pastor’s views as “outrageous” and “a bunch of rants that aren’t grounded in truth.” He also said, “The person that I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate…”

On Tuesday evening, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams asked political analyst Tim Russert, “Do you think this stops the damage?” CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric asked political analyst Jeff Greenfield, “Is today’s repudiation enough to kind of control the damage?” ABC’s David Wright said Obama is “hoping it will finally put the Wright controversy behind him.”

On Wednesday morning, CBS Early Show anchor Harry Smith was sounding the same tired refrain when a network journalist, political analyst Bob Schieffer, finally hit the nail on the head:

SMITH: This is all about distance. Did Barack Obama successfully distance himself from Rev. Wright yesterday?

SCHIEFFER: Well, I don’t know what else he could say. He basically denounced Rev. Wright, he said he did not represent his views, he put as much separation as he possibly could. But the question now, Harry, is will people believe him? Will they say, “look, if this is how he feels about the man, why didn’t he know about all this before? Why did he keep going to the church?”


Brian Fitzpatrick

Brian Fitzpatrick, a writer, editor, and commentator on political and cultural issues, is the Senior Editor at Media Research Center’s Culture & Media Institute.

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