Kristol/Newsmax claim on BO disputed (MULTIPLE UPDATES)

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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