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Jeremiah Wright is the gift that keeps on giving

Republicans resurrecting Jeremiah Wright as campaign issue

by Bill Berkowitz

Conservative philanthropy funded Media Research Center astonishingly claims news networks held collective tongues on the Wright affair

In 1962, two years after losing the presidency to John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon ran and lost the governor's race in California. At a post-election press conference, Nixon famously told reporters that they wouldn't "have Richard Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference." It wasn't. He won the presidency in 1968, escalated the Vietnam War, was re-elected in 1972, and two years later he was forced to resign in disgrace over the Watergate Affair.

These days, one can easily imagine that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright might wish -- in his heart of hearts -- that the press, the cable news networks, conservative pundits, the headline writers and Republican Party operatives didn't have Jeremiah Wright "to kick around any more."

Thanks to conservative philanthropy and the Republican echo machine, the story about the relationship between the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Senator Barack Obama will be with us through Election Day and beyond. Whether Obama wins or loses, there will be much post-election analysis about how much the Wright Affair hurt the campaign.

A recent report issued by the Media Research Center (conservative philanthropy grants) bemoans the lack of coverage of the Wright Affair by the major news networks; Wright is featured in Jerome Corsi's new book "The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality," headlines were made when a story appeared about a Wright-authored book that was to be published in October and followed by a book tour; in a column in The Jewish Journal of greater Los Angeles, Rob Eshman suggested that Pastor Rick Warren ask Obama -- during the back-to-back interviews with Obama and Sen. John McCain -- how Obama's comment that "all Americans can live together in a diverse society," squares "with his loyalty to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose sermons were often hateful and divisive."

For now, the McCain campaign appears to be too busy scoping out other avenues of attack against Obama to resurface the Rev. Wright tale: The "celebrity" ad tying Obama's persona to the celebrity of Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton, created buzz; the ad in which Obama is portrayed as the "Anti Christ" was a startling reminder of Tim LaHaye's "Left Behind" series of bestselling apocalyptic novels; and then, there's the web-only ad called "Join The One's [Obama] Fan Club."

While the McCain campaign is otherwise involved, conservative media watchers still have Rev. Wright on their minds. In a recently released report by L. Brent Bozell III's Medias Research Center, the conservative "watchdog" group claimed that coverage of the Rev. Wright affair on the major news networks was skimpy to say the least. That's right, the Rev. Wright affair: the one that occupied a good portion of the 24/7 news cycle on cable television's news networks (especially the Fox News Channel) for months; the one that basically pushed Obama to make his remarkable speech on race; the one that forced Obama to resign from his church and toss the Rev. Wright under bus; did not get enough coverage on the network news programs.

The Media Research Center's (MRC) report is titled "Editing Reverend Wright's Wrongs: How the Networks Censored and Manipulated Jeremiah Wright Soundbites and Glorified Barack Obama's Race Speech."

The MRC, probably the number one conservative media watchdog group in the business (defined by grants from conservative philanthropy and appearances on FOX news), found that viewers watching "ABC, CBS, and NBC news broadcasts from the formal announcement of the Obama campaign on February 10, 2007 through July 15 [of this year] ... would have received a much more limited (and even censored) version of Wright's sermons."

The report's key findings were:

  • # The broadcast networks took an entire year to locate Reverend Wright. Despite a feisty interview on Fox News Channel's Hannity & Colmes back on March 1, 2007 about Obama's church's controversial commitment to a "black value system," the name of Jeremiah Wright didn't surface on the Big Three networks until CBS first broached it on February 28, 2008. The first story with Wright sermon soundbites aired two weeks later, on ABC on March 13. By then, 42 states and the District of Columbia had already voted.
  • # The broadcast network evening news shows gave virtually no coverage to Wright soundbites in March. Snippets of Wright's sermons drew only 72 seconds of evening news coverage in all of March, or an average of 24 seconds per network, less than one commercial.
  • # The Big Three morning shows gave four times as much time to Wright soundbites as the evening shows in March. The morning shows carried almost five minutes of Wright clips (297 seconds), with ABC offering the most at 128 seconds. The other two networks each ran less than 90 seconds.
  • # The networks completely ignored soundbites of Wright's conspiracy theory about the U.S. government inventing AIDS to kill blacks, and mostly ignored his comments about the September 11 terrorist attacks being "America's chickens coming home to roost." None of the network morning or evening shows found one opportunity to air Wright's 2003 sermon accusing the federal government of hiding the truth about their "inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color." His attack on America's alleged record of terrorism and violence was ignored by all three evening shows, as well as by CBS's The Early Show.
  • # The broadcast networks gave clips of Obama's "race speech" on March 18 more than twice as much air time in a few hours than they gave all of the Wright bites aired in the month of March. The evening news shows on March 18 carried almost six minutes (348 seconds) of highlights from the Obama speech, or roughly five times more than all the Wright bites in March. The morning shows carried roughly nine and a half minutes (572 seconds) of sound from the speech. The three morning shows gave almost twice as much time to the Obama speech clips as they devoted to Wright soundbites in March. Combined, Obama's one speech drew about 15 minutes of clips, while Wright's years of sermons drew about six minutes.
  • # Broadcast network interview segments on the Wright remarks and Obama's race speech in March were dominated by liberal guests. When the networks allowed Republican or conservative guests, they stayed neutral or praised Obama's remarks. Overall, the network pundit count was 16 to 5. CBS especially loaded its reaction panels with nine liberals and just one right-leaning pundit, pollster Frank Luntz, who contained his remarks to grading Obama's stagecraft. NBC allowed six liberals and three conservatives. ABC aired one liberal and one conservative.
  • # Wright's National Press Club vitriol repeating his opinions about an AIDS conspiracy and America deserving 9/11 went virtually unreported. The broadcast network morning and evening shows aired only two and a half minutes (155 seconds) of soundbites from Wright's April 28 performance at the National Press Club, but there were no soundbites about AIDS and only 23 seconds about America deserving a terrorist attack. By contrast, these same Big Three shows aired almost six minutes (358 seconds) of clips of Wright's softball interview with Bill Moyers on PBS, where he accused conservatives of smearing him as a hater.

But the MRC's report is not the only item giving oxygen to Obama's relationship with Rev. Wright. In mid-August, Wright made headlines again. A story in New York magazine -- which spread about the internet and wound up as a lead story on Anderson Cooper's nightly program on CNN -- maintained that Wright had written a book and would be on tour in October. The story deduced its conclusion from a speech Rev. Wright gave in April to the NAACP in which he said that the audience could read about his story in a "book that will be out later this year." Both a spokesperson for Trinity United Church of Christ and Wright's daughter Jeri, denied that there were any plans for a Wright-penned book before the election.

A more venal attack linking Wright to Obama -- and both to "black theology" -- appeared in a WorldNetDaily post titled 'The stench of 'Black Theology'," in which Eric Rush introduced the piece by hitting all the key GOP talking points: "He [Obama] has a friend [William Ayers] who bombed the Pentagon and other government buildings. He has another [Kenya's Raila Odinga] who murdered African Christians [according to Jerome Corsi's new book 'The Obama Nation']. He has received endorsements and illegal campaign contributions from terrorists. Despite the veneer manufactured for him by his handlers and the press, he is so mired in far-left militancy he can barely conceal his disdain for America."

Rush, a Black columnist and author of several books including his latest, "Annexing Mexico: Solving the Border Problem Through Annexation and Assimilation", "was the first to give national attention to the story of ... Obama's ties to militant Chicago preacher Rev. Jeremiah Wright, initiating a media feeding frenzy," according to a WorldNetDaily bio of Rush.

Tying Obama to Wright, Rush concludes: "As scholars and genuine theologians (yes, as opposed to carny barkers and snake oil salesmen like James Cone and Jeremiah Wright) have determined, Black Liberation Theology is but one thing: a perversion of Christianity intended by design to woo blacks from faith and toward Marxist thought. 'Blackness' is to be worshipped, as is the state -- another intangible entity -- in totalitarian regimes. Having established this deification of ethnicity, as far as the far-left puppet-masters go, the sky's the limit."

According to an article published on the internet site, Wright is currently teaching and ministering in Ghana. Nevertheless, as the presidential campaign begins to hit its stride after Labor Day, expect the Rev. Wright to be resurrected time and time again by the Republican Party and its surrogates in conservative philanthropy.


Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His column "Conservative Watch" documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the U.S. Right.

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