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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Obama\'s Wright Ties Highlighted Again


Fox News and the conservative blogger Matt Drudge on Tuesday night trumpeted a five-year-old video of President Obama praising his controversial former pastor, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., reviving the issue on the eve of Mr. Obama's first debate with Mitt Romney.

In the video clip from 2007, which was reported on at the time, Mr. Obama is shown delivering an impassioned speech about race and poverty during a conference for black clergy at Hampton University, an historically black college in Virginia. During the speech, he singles out Mr. Wright in the audience.

“I've got to give a special shout-out to my pastor, the guy who puts up with me, counsels me, listens to my wife complain about me. He's a friend and a great leader. Not just in Chicago, but all across the country,” Mr. Obama says on June 5. “Please everybody, give an extraordinary welcome to my pastor, Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Jr.”

The video, which was obtained in full and posted by the Daily Caller, another conservative website, also shows Mr. Obama talking about the difficulties faced by the homeless people and veterans. He says such people “may need help with basic skills-how to show up to work on time, wear the right clothes, and act appropriately in an office. We have to help them get there.”

The publication of the video was apparently an attempt to counter the recent video showing Mr. Romney characterizing “47 percent” of the American public as dependent on government.

An article on the Daily Caller website described the video as showing a “racially charged and at times angry speech” in which Mr. Obama describes “a racist, zero-sum society.”

Sean Hannity, a Fox News host, played several clips from the video in which Mr. Obama complains about the lack of help for the communities in New Orleans after the Katrina Hurricane. Mr. Hannity called the clips e vidence of the “most divisive class warfare” from Mr. Obama and said it offers “a glimpse into the mind of the real Barack Obama.”

The release of the clip showing the president praising Mr. Wright appeared to be designed to remind undecided voters of the controversial comments about race and religion that caused Mr. Obama to distance himself from his longtime pastor during the 2008 campaign.

Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for Mr. Obama's campaign, said of the video:

“In a transparent attempt to change the subject from his comments attacking half of the American people, Mitt Romney's allies recirculated video of a 2007 event that was open to and extensively covered by the press at the time. The only thing shocking about this is that they apparently think it's wrong to suggest that we should help returning veterans, children leaving foster care and other members of Mitt Romney's 47 percent get training that will allow them to find the best ava ilable jobs. If the Romney campaign believes that Americans will accept these desperate attacks tomorrow night in place of specific plans for the middle class, it's they who are in for a surprise.”

It remained unclear on Tuesday night whether Mr. Romney's campaign would seize on the video as an effective tool for helping to turn around his campaign with a little more than a month to go before election day. Mr. Romney trails Mr. Obama in most key battleground states.

But unlike the recent video of Mr. Romney's critique of the “47 percent,” the clip of Mr. Obama praising Mr. Wright was previously known. And the controversy over Mr. Obama's relationship with Mr. Wright was one of the most covered of the 2008 primary.

The June 2007 speech aired by Fox was delivered nine months before some of Mr. Wright's controversial comments were made public in the middle of the 2008 primary battle between Mr. Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton. Mr. Wright had said that “Americans chickens are coming home to roost” and declared “God damn America.”

In remarks in April of 2008, Mr. Obama denounced his former pastor, saying that he was “outraged” and “saddened” by Mr. Wright's statements. Mr. Obama said Mr. Wright's comments were “divisive and destructive” and that they ‘end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate.”

Mr. Obama successfully weathered the controversy in 2008. But despite his denunciations of his former pastor, Mr. Obama's relationship with Mr. Wright has persisted as an issue, especially among some conservatives.

Earlier this year, a group of high-profile Republican strategists weighed a multi-million dollar campaign to use Mr. Wright as an issue against Mr. Obama. The effort was to be financed by a conservative billionaire in Chicago.

The group had suggested hiring an “extremely literate conservative African-American” to argue that Mr. Obama misled the natio n by trying to be a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.” The $10 million plan, to be financed by Joe Ricketts, the founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade, was ditched after the New York Times reported its existence.