WaPo's Milbank Notes Rev. Wright's 'Menage a Trois' Remark at Howard University

January 19th, 2009 2:08 PM

Imagine for a moment that Sen. John McCain won the election in November and that John Hagee gave a sermon at Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University the Sunday preceding the inauguration wherein he slammed the "egregious menage a trois of homosexuals, Hollywood, and hell-bound atheists" for destroying the United States.

The coverage would be non-stop and President-elect McCain would be pressed to repudiate the remarks from his stalwart evangelical supporter, even though he's already distanced himself during in the campaign.

Yet it's a vastly different story when it was Rev. Jeremiah Wright at Howard University's chapel and the "egregious menage a trois" was that of "racism, militarism and capitalism."

While his colleague Michelle Boorstein helpfully edited Wright's more embarrassing rhetoric (see more below the fold), Washington Post's Dana Milbank reminded readers just how loopy Rev. Wright is in his page A9 January 19 article, "You Thought the Jeremiad Was Over?" (emphasis mine):

Obama, shrewdly, decided to skip Wright's performance at Howard. He opted instead to be part of another predominantly African American congregation, Nineteenth Street Baptist, which had services at the same time. This allowed the president-elect to miss some choice phrases coined by his former preacher.

Wright spoke of the government's "egregious ménage à trois of racism, militarism and capitalism." He alluded to Thomas Jefferson's slave mistress, Sally Hemings: "Michelle Obama is the first African American sleeping in the White House legally."

Wright argued that "the murder of civilians in Gaza is a matter that calls our faith into question," and he spoke of "civilian Palestinians who are systematically stamped out by a military machine second to none." The minister found racism in the response to Hurricane Katrina, racism in the policy toward Darfur, racism in health care and racism in criminal justice.

By contrast, Post staffer Boorstein had a decidedly different take on Wright's sermon, helpfully editing out Wright's "menage a trois" line and otherwise giving a positive spin to Wright's sermon (emphasis mine):

A year after then-candidate Barack Obama distanced himself from his controversial longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright thrilled thousands of churchgoers yesterday morning in Washington, giving a sermon holding up Obama as a spiritual symbol of possibility.


Wright was nothing but positive and conciliatory yesterday, rousing churchgoers again and again to their feet with a sermon about what he called the Bible's message of self-reliance and encouragement.

Wright went back and forth from Obama to a passage from the Gospel of John about people who overcome sickness and challenges. "No more seeing ourselves through the eyes of people who don't look like us!" he said. "How does God see us?"


But Wright's message wasn't all self-help. He told churchgoers that racism, capitalism and militarism remain strong negative forces and that people who don't recognize these forces at work in such things as the government's response to Sudan and Hurricane Katrina as well as the civilian deaths in the Gaza Strip are "blind." They, too, are like the crippled in John's Gospel, he said.