Barack Obama left a little hedge room for his relationship with Rev. Wright in his Friday evening interview with Major Garrett on FoxNews. From the transcript:
GARRETT: Sir, would you have — would you have quit the church had you heard them personally?
OBAMA: You know, I guess — keep in mind that, just to provide more context, this is somebody who I had known for 20 years. Pastor Wright has been a pastor for 30 years. He’s an ex-Marine. He is somebody who is a biblical scholar, has spoken at theological seminaries all across the country, from the University of Chicago to Hampton. And so he is a well- regarded preacher. And somebody who is known for talking about the social gospel.
But most of the time, when I’m in church, he’s talking about Jesus, God, faith, values, caring for the poor, those — family, those were the messages that I was hearing.
And so you know, I think that the statements that have been strung together are compiled out of hundred of sermons that he delivered over the course of his lifetime. But, obviously, they are ones that are, from my perspective, completely unacceptable and inexcusable.
And if I had thought that that was the tenor or tone on an ongoing basis of his sermons, then, yes, I don’t think that it would have been reflective of my values or my faith experience.
GARRETT: So, quick yes or no. If had you heard them in person you would have quit?
OBAMA: If I had heard them repeated, I would have quit. I mean, obviously, understand that — understand that, you know, this is somebody who is like an uncle. If you have — to me. He’s somebody who helped me find Christ. And somebody who always talked to me in very powerful ways about relationship to God and our obligations to the poor.
If somebody makes a mistake, then obviously, you recognize — I make mistakes. We all make mistakes. If I thought that that was the repeated tenor of the church, then I wouldn’t feel comfortable there.
But, frankly, that has not been my experience at Trinity United Church of Christ.
Obama says that a one-time statement would not have been enough to make him leave Wright’s church, but only “repeated” statements by Wright that would have led him to quit. This appears to be a hedge designed to deal with the possibility of videotape evidence (or the like) showing Obama present at one of Wright’s inflammatory sermons (as Ronald Kessler is reporting was the case).
Contrast that “two (or more) strike” posture with Obama’s response to Don Imus’s slanderous remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team last spring. Obama was the first Presidential contender to call for Imus’s firing by NBC. “I understand MSNBC has suspended Mr. Imus,” Obama told ABC News, “but I would also say that there’s nobody on my staff who would still be working for me if they made a comment like that about anybody of any ethnic group. And I would hope that NBC ends up having that same attitude.” Now perhaps it can be said that Imus’s remarks were part of a pattern of stupid and degrading comments by the radio shock jock, but Obama’s call for Imus’s firing was apparently based on this single event. “He didn’t just cross the line,” Obama said. “He fed into some of the worst stereotypes that my two young daughters are having to deal with today in America.”
UPDATE: Several readers have noted that the Kessler reporting parenthetically referred to above is doubtful and that Obama’s camp has denied the report.