The pastor who preached the Easter sermon that Barack Obama heard this past Sunday is not another Jeremiah Wright, Time's Amy Sullivan insists in an April 29 blog "Swampland" blog post entitled "Conservatives Go After Another Obama Pastor."
Sullivan was responding to the complaints of conservative talkers Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, who highlighted some controversial remarks Smith made to a college audience last year:
What got these two conservative media giants atwitter was a speech Smith gave last year at Eastern University in Pennsylvania–the school where evangelical pastor and speaker Tony Campolo is based. He was asked to speak about racism and offered some thoughts that included the assertion that racism still exists in the United States. There were two important details about the speech: 1) It was taped; and 2) Smith singled out Fox News and Limbaugh by name.
“It may not be Jim Crow anymore,” Smith said in the speech. “Now, Jim Crow wears blue pinstripes, goes to law school and carries fancy briefs in cases….[H]e doesn’t have to wear white robes anymore because now he can wear the protective cover of talk radio or can get a regular news program on Fox.” Of Limbaugh, Smith said that the conservative radio host can get away with making “statements that were once the purview of Robert Shelton and members of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizen’s Council.”
Harsh? Yes. Hyperbolic? Possibly. The same as Jeremiah Wright’s most controversial statements? No.
Well, yes and no. Wright said, in effect, that America had 9/11 coming for all its past transgressions. Smith is only attacking conservatives, not the country as a whole.
Still, Smith's smears tar a whole broad swath of everyday people - conservative talk show listeners -- as racist and as such deserves condemnation or at least denunciation by any responsible politician asked about them.
Perhaps, and I think it's quite likely, President Obama was unaware of Smith's controversial speech. Even so, if it were Bush or McCain or Palin attending a service preached by a controversial conservative minister, it's highly unlikely the media would not consider the matter worthy of media scrutiny.
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