Brian Fitzpatrick

Are the media ever going to tell us what Barack Obama believes?

After months of embarrassing revelations about the unpatriotic, conspiratorial views of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and others, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama finally resigned last Friday from Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. 

Though he chose to break fellowship with the congregation, Obama refused to repudiate the church or its teachings.  According to The New York Times, he said, “I’m not denouncing the church, and I’m not interested in people who want me to denounce the church…It’s not a church worthy of denouncing.”

This endorsement of Trinity, even as he quit the church, raises afresh the questions that have dogged Obama since those troubling Wright videos first surfaced on YouTube.  Is it possible he agrees with Wright that, to cite just one example, God should “damn” America?  If he disagrees, then why did he and his family remain in the church nearly 20 years?

The obvious journalistic response to Obama’s resignation, a seminal development in the story, would be to run a retrospective.  Three months of ugly revelations raising questions about patriotism, radicalism and judgment, punctuated by ineffectual attempts to defuse the political powder keg.  An enterprising journalist might even try to pin down the candidate on the substantive questions about values and judgment: what he believes and why he stayed in the church.     

Instead, the media keep serving up pure politics, usually from the viewpoint of damage control.

When the story broke on Saturday, journalists gave their common sense reaction that Obama’s move appeared to be a political stratagem.  ABC’s George Stephanopoulos observed, “This also helps cut his ties to a church that has become a source of a lot of political baggage for Sen. Obama in this campaign. I think they figured it was best to cut the ties before Sen. Obama formally got the nomination so he could kind of wipe the slate clean during the general election.”  CBS’s Jeff Greenfield told viewers, “That church was going to be used by his political opponents in the fall to define him.”

By Sunday morning, the media were depicting Obama as a knight in shining armor.  All of the networks brought in Democrat politicians to comment on the campaign, and most of them dutifully repeated Obama’s principal talking point—that he left Trinity for the good of the congregation.  Not a single network brought in a Republican for balance. 

“He did the right thing for 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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