CNN correspondent Susan Roesgen, reporting live from in front Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ on Thursday’s "The Situation Room," presented a sympathetic view of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his house of worship as being "under siege" -- from the national media. "Beyond what they say is the hurtful glare of the cameras, church leaders also say parishioners are hounded by reporters and they say the church received bomb threats. A church that feels under siege, now getting national support." Nearly the entire three minute segment, outside of Roesgen’s voice-overs and on-camera reporting, consisted of sound bites of the supporters of the church.
Besides featuring nobody but its supporters, Roesgen also painted the church and its congregations as victims of the controversy and of the news media. "I think they feel angry and they feel used. When they have talked about certain reporters, they were basically talking about reporters who were rude enough to go into the pews and hand out their business cards during the services, something of course CNN would never do."
The report, which aired 41 minutes into the 5 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program, featured the Rev. Michael Kinnamon of the liberal National Council of Churches; the Rev. Otis Moss, the current pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ; and the Rev. John Thomas, president of the national United Church of Christ. The three appeared at a press conference that was given from behind the pulpit at Trinity, the same pulpit where the Rev. Jeremiah Wright made his many controversial sermons. The three were among those who came to the defense of the "church that feels under siege," as Roesgen put it.
Roesgen herself only mentioned Wright in passing, and then in a relatively good light. "Standing behind the pulpit where former Pastor Jeremiah Wright inspired his congregation and enraged critics, national church leaders defended the church and blasted the news media." She also did not play any of the former pastor’s now-infamous remarks, thus failing to provide the context to why these religious leaders were coming to the church’s defense.
The full transcript of Roesgen’s report from Thursday’s "The Situation Room:"
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Religious leaders are coming to the defense of Barack Obama's church which has been under a very hot spotlight over controversial remarks about race by the senior pastor. Our CNN's Susan Roesgen joining us live. Susan, obviously, there has been a lot of controversy over this. What is happening today?
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well today Suzanne, the church is trying very hard to defend its former pastor and its reputation.
REV. MICHAEL KINNAMON, NATL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES: In recent weeks, I have seen the United Church of Christ more than occasionally portrayed as some kind of radical sect. This, of course, is nonsense.
ROESGEN (voice-over): Standing behind the pulpit where former Pastor Jeremiah Wright inspired his congregation and enraged critics, national church leaders defended the church and blasted the news media.
REV. OTIS MOSS, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: We have received unprecedented scrutiny that has taken its toll on our members, our staff, and our senior pastor.
REV. JOHN THOMAS, PRES., UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: The intersection of politics, religion and race has heightened our awareness of how easy it is for our conversations about race to become anything but sacred.
MOSS: As a church, we say no more. Enough is enough. Today, we -- pastors, members, and supporters of Trinity United Church of Christ proclaim that we take back our sacred space.
ROESGEN: Beyond what they say is the hurtful glare of the cameras, church leaders also say parishioners are hounded by reporters and they say the church received bomb threats. A church that feels under siege, now getting national support.
KINNAMON: If there are threats against one church, as there have been here, all churches are threatened. If the privacy of church members in one place is violated, as it has been here, all places of worship are violated.
ROESGEN (on-camera): Now Suzanne, Reverend Wright himself was not here at the news conference today. He's been keeping a pretty low profile. And Senator Barack Obama was not here either. We know that he's in Chicago tonight. He's not campaigning, and his press spokesman told me that he has no idea when was the last time that Senator Obama actually attended a service here at Trinity United Church.
MALVEAUX: And Susan, you're there in Chicago at the church. You know, what is the tone of those -- the parishioners there? What sense do you get from them? Are they just fed up with this, or are they moving on, or resilient? What is the feeling there?
ROESGEN: No, they're not moving on Suzanne and that's why they had the news conference today. I think they feel angry and they feel used. When they have talked about certain reporters, they were basically talking about reporters who were rude enough to go into the pews and hand out their business cards during the services, something of course CNN would never do. And also, reporters who called up people who were sick, parishioners who were sick or in the hospital because they had gotten the names and phone numbers off of a prayer list from people who were praying for those particular parishioners. So these reporters actually went to the sickest members of the congregation to try to get their responses to the Wright controversy. And the church says that's horrible and this is a sacred place and we're not going to allow it anymore.
MALVEAUX: Okay, thank you very much Susan.