May 042008
 
Authors: Sean Reed

Barack Obama is mad at his former pastor. And he wants to make sure everybody knows it.

Last Monday, Rev. Jeremiah Wright held a press conference to respond to criticism of his sermons in the media and called said criticism an “attack on the Black church.”

But he didn’t stop there.

Wright also took the opportunity to revisit some of his more controversial gems, including his belief that the U.S. government purposely introduced the AIDS virus to the Black community as a means of genocide.

“Based on the Tuskegee experiment . I believe the U.S. government is capable of anything,” he said.

Naturally, the press jumped on these comments and speculation ran wild as to what effects these comments would have on the Obama campaign.

Responding to the criticism, Obama unequivocally denounced Wright’s comments, and, even more, the man himself.

It’s a sad end to a 20-plus year relationship, to be sure. And it didn’t even need to end this way.

Just six weeks ago, when Obama responded to similar statements by his pastor, the issue should have died.

Amidst a similar media circus, Obama denounced the comments, but not the man, and called for understanding, rather than outright condemnation. And, surprisingly, it worked.

The media calmed down, his opponents’ cries of the danger of Obama’s association with such dangerous opinions fell on deaf ears and the campaign continued, relatively untainted.

This time, however, by denouncing his preacher and admitting his critics have been right about Wright all along, he has given his opponents the ammunition he had so cleverly denied them just a few short weeks ago.

What’s more disappointing than Obama’s tactical error, however, is the fact that this has even become an issue.

Obama’s pastor’s views, while most certainly influential on his former congregants, have nothing to do with this campaign, and, in the realm of boneheaded comments made by religious leaders, aren’t even close to being some of the worst that have been made.

Late right-wing pastor Jerry Falwell, like Wright, had some interesting things to say about the AIDS virus. He once claimed “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals, it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.”

His hateful comments did not stop there.

After the 9/11 attacks, Falwell said, “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.'”

Pat Robertson, another darling of “The 700 Club,” concurred.

Needless to say, there was outcry, but nobody blamed George W. Bush for his comments when Falwell endorsed his reelection campaign.

This isn’t to say that Wright’s comments are acceptable. Far from it — hateful speech, no matter what side of the political aisle it comes from should not be tolerated. But it is unfair for some to take flak while others are allowed to skate.

Only one person should be held accountable for the outrageous things Rev. Wright says — and that is Wright himself.

Obama should not have to explain himself for things he does not believe and does not say. The press and his opponents need to get off his back.

Editorial Editor Sean Reed is a senior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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