Why Oprah quit Jeremiah Wright’s Church and Barack Obama didn’t.

(Photo Credit: Trinity United Church of Christ)

Andrew Malcom has a very interesting post today at his Los Angeles Times blog, here. It is entitled,

Why Oprah quit Jeremiah Wright’s Church and Barack Obama didn’t

The following is an excerpt:

“Early in the 1980s rising television star Oprah Winfrey was looking for a local church in Chicago. Not surprisingly, she like many blacks including four years later a community organizer named Barack Obama, was attracted to Trinity United Church of Christ and its dynamic, outspoken pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright….Things went along fine for several years, as Oprah’s fame and fortune exploded and as Obama laid the groundwork in local efforts and political connections for his political career.

But something began bothering Winfrey. By the late 1980s, she was an infrequent attendee at Trinity’s services and by the early 1990s she had stopped going altogether.

According to a revealing article, headlined “Something Wasn’t Wright,” in the new Newsweek by Allison Samuels, a major reason was Winfrey’s concern with Wright’s inflammatory sermons, her association with them through church membership and the potential impact on her widespread popularity….Samuels’ quotes unnamed sources as saying that, Winfrey, now a multi-billionaire, knew her audience was mainstream and while Wright’s anger-filled rants may have been familiar to lifelong black churchgoers, they would be nothing close to mainstream in the minds of Winfrey’s millions of fans.

Ironically, while Winfrey protected herself against negative associations with Wright, her endorsement of and active campaigning for Obama last year has hurt her popularity, as noted in two recent Ticket items here and the other one here.

Questions have arisen over why Obama as an astute budding politician would have remained in the same church environment for 20 years and when Wright’s shocking sermon snippets initially emerged weeks ago deny having heard them. He clearly was aware of the danger of association with Wright, having disinvited the pastor from giving the public invocation at Obama’s campaign announcement in Springfield in February of 2007 because, reportedly, Obama said Wright’s sermons could come across as a little “rough.”

…He then quotes Obama’s response to Tim Russert yesterday:

“Well, you know, previously, there were a bunch of sermons that had been spliced from a collection of sermons for 30 years. And that’s not who I thought he was. That’s not what I thought defined him. He’s somebody who’s a Marine, he’s somebody who has served
on city colleges boards, somebody who was a respected pillar in the community.

“And so I thought it was important to–for him to explain or at least provide some context for some of the things that he had said previously. But when he came out at the press conference of the National Press Club, not only did he amplify some of those comments and defend them vigorously, but he added to it.

“He put gasoline on the fire. And what that told me was not only was he interested in using this platform to continue to make statements that I fundamentally disagree with and that offend me, but also that he didn’t have much regard for the moment that we’re in right now here
in the United States where we can’t be distracted or engaged in this divisive, hateful language.”

The complete Obama transcript is available here. And the full hour video is available here. The parts concerning Wright are in the first 17 minutes.

Does Obama’s most recent explanation of his relationship with Wright assuage any concerns you may have had? The comments section below is open.

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