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31 May 2008 07:17
Barack Obama’s campaign on Friday tried to contain a new “pastor disaster” prompted by a video of a Catholic guest preacher at his Chicago church mocking Hillary Clinton’s tears.
In a sermon last Sunday, Father Michael Pfleger, a long-time ally of Obama, accused Clinton and white voters of believing she deserved to be president because she is white.
It was the second campaign controversy for Obama to arise out of the church he has attended for the past 20 years, Chicago’s Trinity United.
Last month, Obama was compelled to denounce the man who brought him to the church in the 1980s, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, after he praised the Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, and reaffirmed his belief that the United States government may have deliberately created the Aids virus.
A video of Father Pfleger surfaced on YouTube as Obama was poised to wrap up the Democratic nomination with three contests remaining: in Puerto Rico on Sunday, and in Montana and South Dakota on Tuesday.
“There are a lot of people who make a lot of crazy statements out there,” Jim Doyle, the governor of Wisconsin and an Obama supporter, told reporters in a conference call.
“I don’t think you can in any way attribute it to a candidate.”
Obama distanced himself from the cleric on Thursday night, saying: “I am deeply disappointed in Father Pfleger’s divisive, backward-looking rhetoric.”
Pfleger issued a separate apology.
In the YouTube video, the priest, who is white and leads a primarily African-American congregation in Chicago, pretends to sob and mop his face with a large handkerchief, mocking Clinton’s show of emotion before the New Hampshire primary in January.
“She just always thought, ‘This is mine. I’m Bill’s wife, I’m white and this is mine’,” Pfleger told the appreciative congregation.
“Then out of nowhere came, ‘Hey, I’m Barack Obama’, and she said, ‘Oh, damn.
Pfleger added: “She wasn’t the only one crying. There was a whole a lot of white people crying.”
The video again refocuses attention on Obama’s personal beliefs as well as his associations in Chicago, playing into attacks by negative Republican advertisements.
Like Reverend Wright, Pfleger has known Obama since his early days in Chicago. The Chicago Tribune reported in May 2007 that Pfleger donated $1 500 to Obama’s Illinois state senate campaigns between 1995 and 2001.
The relationship between Pfleger and Obama has recently been tense. Pfleger, a close friend of Wright, publicly disagreed with Obama for withdrawing an invitation to his pastor to give the public invocation when he formally announced he was running for the White House in February last year.
Republican John McCain has had his own pastor problems. Barely a week ago, he was forced to denounce two prominent evangelicals who had endorsed his campaign for the White House after footage surfaced showing they had made disparaging comments about Jews, Muslims and Catholics in their sermons.
John Hagee, a televangelist who heads a church of 19 000 members in Texas, had suggested in a 1999 sermon that the Nazis were working to God’s plan in driving Jews out of Europe.
Another evangelist who supported McCain, Rod Parsley of Ohio, had called Islam a “false religion”.—Â
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