Kristol/Newsmax claim on BO disputed (MULTIPLE UPDATES)

Posted by: ST on March 17, 2008 at 11:41 am

Over the weekend, Rocco di Pippo at the Autonomist blog did some digging and found a Newsmax piece written in August 2007 by Jim Davis, in which Davis asserted that Obama was in attendance at a Trinity United Church of Christ service on July 22nd of that same year. Davis also reported that Obama allegedly “nodded in apparent agreement” when Wright was going on one of his now infamous “US of White America” diatribes.

Yesterday, Newsmax’s Ronald Kessler recounted that story. In turn, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, who also writes a weekly column for the NYT, picked it up and ran with it:

But Ronald Kessler, a journalist who has written about Wright’s ministry, claims that Obama was in fact in the pews at Trinity last July 22. That’s when Wright blamed the “arrogance” of the “United States of White America” for much of the world’s suffering, especially the oppression of blacks. In any case, given the apparent frequency of such statements in Wright’s preaching and their centrality to his worldview, the pretense that over all these years Obama had no idea that Wright was saying such things is hard to sustain.

In response, the Barack Obama campaign claims BO didn’t attend that service but offered no proof to back it up. Per Mickey Kaus, commenters to the LAT’s Top of the Ticket blog pointed out that BO gave a speech in Miami that afternoon at 1:30 ET to a La Raza event, which is true.

This update was added to Kessler’s report in light of the Obama camp’s denials:

Clarification: The Obama campaign has told members of the press that Senator Obama was not in church on the day cited, July 22, because he had a speech he gave in Miami at 1:30 PM. Our writer, Jim Davis, says he attended several services at Senator Obama’s church during the month of July, including July 22. The church holds services three times every Sunday at 7:30 and 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Central time (with weekly praise/prayers starting 15 minutes previous to those times). While both the early morning and evening service allowed Sen. Obama to attend the service and still give a speech in Miami, Mr. Davis stands by his story that during one of the services he attended during the month of July, Senator Obama was present and sat through the sermon given by Rev. Wright as described in the story. Mr. Davis said Secret Service were also present in the church during Senator Obama’s attendance. Mr. Davis’ story was first published on Newsmax on August 9, 2007. Shortly before publication, Mr. Davis contacted the press office of Sen. Obama several times for comment about the Senator’s attendance and Rev. Wright’s comments during his sermon. The Senator’s office declined to comment.

So what it boils down to is a he said/he said. Will be interesting to see if there is any sort of clarification/correction posted to Kristol’s column.

Tom Maguire examines the timelines:

Planes, trains, and automobiles? From Chicago to Miami for a 1:30 scheduled speech? I could believe Obama flew in Sunday morning, but to have time to go to church first? Per NewsMax, it was a Sunday morning sermon. And there is a one hour time difference between Chicago, so even the 7AM service would be a tight schedule. Hmm, in by 8 AM (Eastern time), out by 9 (C’mon, don’t tell an old Catholic that the early service isn’t the quick one), private plane for three hours to Miami – EZ! Or at least, not utterly implausible. Pretty high level of energy and commitment from Obama, though. Show us some plane ticket receipts!

FWIW, Obama spoke to a rally in Manchester, NH on Friday, July 20. Chicago is an air hub, so he may have gone home that night. But geez, playing “Where’s Obama?” is absurd – Wright delivered twenty years of this stuff.

Exactly. Though this story is definitely intriguing, the bottom line is that BO is pulling everyone’s chain with his claim of never being in attendance or in the presence of Rev. Wright when he’s preached his hateful sermons, whether or not it’s true that BO was in attendance for the July 22, 2007 sermon. We know he knew that Wright can and had said highly controversial things because he disinvited the Rev. Wright from delivering the invocation at his February 2007 announcement that he was jumping into the Dem race for the nomination for president. In that NYT piece, Wright is quoted as saying that Obama told him, “You can get kind of rough in the sermons, so what we’ve decided is that it’s best for you not to be out there in public.”

He knew. Don’t let him nor his campaign spinmeisters fool you.

Related: I normally enjoy Marc Ambinder’s writings, but he’s a bit off the mark in this one:

The error is in trusting the source without checking.

The truth is that Obama did not attend church on July 22.

He was on his way to campaign in Miami.


Now, a simple Google search suggests that Obama spent most of the day in Miami. But a simple e-mail or telephone call to Obama’s campaign might have cleared things up.

How could a “simple email or call to Obama’s campaign” clear things up? Have we reached the point of saying that if a campaign spokesman makes a denial or affirmation that we should automatically believe it’s true? Even with the Google search option, as has been noted by multiple sources, Trinity had a 7:30 a.m. service BO may have attended. Now,as I said earlier, this has boiled down to a he said/he said, and in terms of viewing the big picture, it didn’t take this allegation about BO and the July 22nd service to get people to understand that BO is not being upfront with people on his assertons about what he knew about the outspoken Rev. Wright’s beliefs. That said, the belief that simply calling a campaign to clarify things will satisfy questions one way or the other and put to bed the issue is faulty.

Via Memeorandum.

Update 1 – 1:17 PM: Kristol has added a correction to his column:

In this column, I cite a report that Sen. Obama had attended services at Trinity Church on July 22, 2007. The Obama camapaign has provided information showing that Sen. Obama did not attend Trinity that day. I regret the error.

Update 2 – 2:33 PM: Ben Smith reports that Obama will give a “major speech” on race tomorrow, which I’m sure will be quite eloquent and impassioned, and very persuasive to those for who mere words mean everything. I guess this will be kinda like the speech Mitt Romney felt he had to give in light of all the questions about his Mormonism.

Update 3 – 4:42 PM: Via McQ, I read that the HuffPo has verified that BO was indeed in Chicago on the morning of 7-22-07. Doesn’t mean he was at the church that morning, however, but the assertions by various writers/surrogates about him being in Miami that day were misleading, as they made it sound like he was there the entire day.

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  • 19 Responses to “Kristol/Newsmax claim on BO disputed (MULTIPLE UPDATES)”


    1. Dana says:

      I’m not certain that this story really has “legs.” Even if Senator Obama was present during one of the Rev Wright’s hate whitey sermons, that doesn’t make the senator responsible for them.

      I have heard the figure $23,000 bandied about, with the claim that was what the Obama’s donated to the church; a google search didn’t bring up a source with which I would be satisfied. But if that’s what he donated over 20 years as a parishioner, it was just peanuts, $22 a week. If it was all in one year — one uncitable source said 2006 — then while it seems a substantial amount, it’s less than a 5% contribution for the Obamas. And it can very easily be held that they were donating because the church did such good charitable work among the poor in the community. Mr Obama has already denounced the sermons in question.

      I wish that I thought that this was a usable story, but I don’t think it will go anywhere.

    2. T-Steel says:

      What else can Senator Obama do, Sister Toldjah? He has to address this issue straight up. He’s in a corner. The fact is this, as I posted at The Moderate Voice (sorry for the plug), you can’t run from your relationships and your friends (both of my parents were former Black Panthers and I love white people). :d

      Even if people don’t believe what you say, you got to come out say it lest looking like a big wimp.

      I would have done the “major speech” much earlier though. I’ll put it this way, if a conservative such as you ST appreciate the his speech’s honesty, then he would have done his job. If not.. :-ss


    3. T-Steel, I wasn’t being critical of the fact that he’s giving a speech tomorrow, but I’m skeptical that it will mean anything to anyone outside of the people who are already in his corner.

      And as far as severing ties, we can’t chose who are family members are, but we can choose who our close friends are, and we can certainly chose what church we attend.

    4. Lorica says:

      that doesn’t make the senator responsible for them.

      You are correct Dana, but as the Dear Sister has pointed out, he is responsible for the Spiritual Covering he places himself under. There is no way possible, and further statements clearly show that BO did know the kind of garbage that the Rev. spewed. – Lorica

    5. sanity says:

      Seems like I am hearing more and more painting of any criticism of BO as Racism.

      I htink as the crunch time comes, OB is gong to be using the race card more adn more – how long till people wake up and say, we are not racist?

      How long will the public allow its self to let him go through the campaign as a ‘victim’ everytime he is questioned or hit hard on something that he didn’t expect?

      This campaign should be about experience and ideas, not race.

      What do you call a person or group that uses race as a way of excusing itself or diverting attention from problems?

    6. steveegg says:

      The schedule would have been a bit tight. Between air time and ground travel, it’s about 3 1/2 hours between the south side of Chicago and Miami, which would have barely allowed Obama the ability to attend either the 7:30 am or 6 pm services assuming no significant delays. He would need to have been on his way to Midway (the likely airport in Chicago he would be using, on Chicago’s southwest side) by 9 am Central, or on his way to one of Miami’s airports by 3:30 pm Eastern.

      I note that the WaPo link cited as proof that Obama was in Chicago the morning of July 22 does not actually place a time or location on Obama’s Chicago appearance. Unless there was a second source to say that it was in the morning, it’s only inferred that it was a morning appearance based on where he was the previous evening (Iowa). Assuming that appearance was not at Trinity, the time (and to a lesser extent, location) of that that appearance could eliminate one of those.

    7. steve, the writer at the HuffPo link said the BO campaign had confirmed he was in Chicago that morning.

    8. MataHarley says:

      Simple time analysis says the only feasible sermon to catch, with a 1:30p Miami speech, is the evening. A morning sermon perhaps ending at 8:30A optimally, a dash to O’Hare and boarding (even a private jet, worse if flying public transportation)… say 9:30ish. Minimal 2hr/20min flight nonstop to Miami puts him landing close to noon, or 1pm Miami time. Then a dash from the airport to the venue by 1:30 thru the city traffic?? Dunno… tight. And just as tight for the return.

      Personally I think this “pew proof” stuff is absurd. While I agree that we all have nefarious contacts in our lives, BHO’s stance on the issues is … and always has been… a reflection of the Jeremiah morality mold. He’s socialist in his domestic ideology, and naive in foreign policy.

      The electorate is now aware of BHO’s mentor and that mentor’s radical views. Perhaps – primaries, caucuses and delegate votes later – they will listen to more than flowerly phrases and connect the dots between his issues and his church community influence. It is that BHO must answer to… not his specific church attendance record, nor his pastor’s views of America.

    9. Dana says:

      Sanity wrote:

      Seems like I am hearing more and more painting of any criticism of BO as Racism.

      I htink as the crunch time comes, OB is gong to be using the race card more adn more – how long till people wake up and say, we are not racist?

      Playing the race card is a prescription for Mr Obama’s defeat. The man is black; something like 12% of the electorate is black. He already has the black vote completely locked up, in excess of 90%; he simply has very little upside there. If he tries to play the race card, he can’t gain many more black votes, but convincing whites that they had better vote based on race means that he loses, and loses big.

    10. Steve Skubinna says:

      Actually Dana, the end result of the Dems’ identity politics has painted many of them into a corner, as even the obtuse yet perennially giddy Maureen Down has acknowledged.

      Which victim card trumps the other? Do we have to vote for Hillary to atone for not letting women into Harvard until whenever (see, here’s proof I’m a Republican – a Dem would tell you the specific year the first woman was admitted to Harvard – also the first Asian, the first Jew, the first left handed gay Albanian-American tapdancer, yada yada yada – as a Republican, it’s good enough for me that they can all get in today). Is it imperative that we prove we’re not racist by electing Obama?

      The actual issues are not relevant. There’s very little daylight between Hillary and Obama in any significant topic. Most of the debate is about the price tag. And yet we’ve never seen this level of acrimony amongst the Democrat ranks – this is the most divisive issue they’ve embraced since 1968, when they threw their foreign policy and national defense credibility down the toilet to appease the petulant antiwar left.

      This is the inevitable result of the shameless pandering and victim poltics they’ve been pursuing, and the revolution they embarked upon in ’68 has finally reached the stage every leftist revolution achieves, the one where they turn upon each other and begin devouring the apostates.

    11. Great White Rat says:

      I don’t care if he was in the church that morning or not. All of these word games about denying whether he attended on any particular date, or heard any particular Wright diatribe, are beginning to sound – well, Clintonian. You almost expect Obama to start saying it all depends on what the meaning of the word “in” is.

      The larger point, which everyone except ST and a handful of others are missing, is that Senator Obama knew full well what kind of anti-American and racist drivel Wright was spouting on a regular basis. Yet Obama continues to describe Wright as his spritual advisor and friend. With friends like that….

      Therein lies my main concern about an Obama presidency. It’s not the candidate himself who worries me as much as the collection of crackpots and malicious loons around him. Obama may or may not be of like mind with Wright; I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now. But one thing’s for sure: he could use a lot fewer Jeremiah Wrights as advisors and a lot more sensible left-of-center realists (people like T-Steel, for example) in his inner circle.

    12. omapian says:

      Senator Obama is campaigning on faith in him to bring about change. Faith is accepting something as true when there is little or no evidence to support the belief. Therefore, what Senator Obama (and his mentors) believe is relevant in this campaign.
      The American public has learned that politicians can say one thing to get elected and act entirely different once in office. If there is a disconnect between what the Senator believes and what he says, that should be pointed out without fear of being called racist. Since the public is not privileged to intimate conversations between the Senator and his confidants, the public has no alternative than to examine the public utterances of those confidants.