Rev. Wright wrote the NYT a year ago to complain about their portrayal of him

Time’s Mark Halperin obtained a copy of a letter Obama’s “former pastor” Jeremiah Wright wrote to NYT reporter Jodi Kantor last March complaining about how she “misrepresented” in an article she wrote about him shortly after she interviewed him for a piece she was doing on Barack Obama. Some excerpts (via Scott Johnson):

Thank you for engaging in one of the biggest misrepresentations of the
truth I have ever seen in sixty-five years. You sat and shared with me
for two hours. You told me you were doing a “Spiritual Biography” of
Senator Barack Obama. For two hours, I shared with you how I thought he
was the most principled individual in public service that I have ever met.

For two hours, I talked with you about how idealistic he was. For two
hours I shared with you what a genuine human being he was. I told you
how incredible he was as a man who was an African American in public
service, and as a man who refused to announce his candidacy for
President until Carol Moseley Braun indicated one way or the other
whether or not she was going to run.

I told you what a dreamer he was. I told you how idealistic he was. We
talked about how refreshing it would be for someone who knew about Islam
to be in the Oval Office. Your own question to me was, Didn’t I think it
would be incredible to have somebody in the Oval Office who not only
knew about Muslims, but had living and breathing Muslims in his own
family? I told you how important it would be to have a man who not only
knew the difference between Shiites and Sunnis prior to 9/11/01 in the
Oval Office, but also how important it would be to have a man who knew
what Sufism was; a man who understood that there were different branches
of Judaism; a man who knew the difference between Hasidic Jews, Orthodox
Jews, Conservative Jews and Reformed Jews; and a man who was a devout
Christian, but who did not prejudge others because they believed
something other than what he believed.

I talked about how rare it was to meet a man whose Christianity was not
just “in word only.” I talked about Barack being a person who lived his
faith and did not argue his faith. I talked about Barack as a person
who did not draw doctrinal lines in the sand nor consign other people to
hell if they did not believe what he believed.

Here is the article in question. She wrote a more in depth follow-up piece here. I can tell you from experience that both of those articles have been referenced numerous times by plenty of pundits and bloggers alike, especially in the last month as more of Rev. Wright’s hateful sermons have been exposed to the American people.

The NYT’s response is here. Excerpt:

In early March 2007, Ms. Kantor interviewed Mr. Wright, then senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, for a story about Senator Obama’s religious evolution. During the lengthy interview, Mr. Wright told Ms. Kantor that Mr. Obama, on the night before the formal declaration of his presidential candidacy several weeks earlier, had canceled an invitation for Mr. Wright to speak at the event. Since Mr. Obama’s decision to disinvite Mr. Wright was clearly news – and because word of it was beginning to get around – we decided to publish a news story about it right away. Ms. Kantor called Mr. Wright back and spoke to him to fact check the article before it was published.

Mr. Wright wrote his letter to Ms. Kantor several days later. He did not respond to subsequent attempts by Ms. Kantor to reach him. The following month, when the reporting and editing on it was complete, we published a much longer story about Senator Obama’s faith, including a full account of Mr. Wright’s influence on him, incorporating considerable material from the interview.


Putting aside the question of why a letter that is more than a year old is suddenly getting new circulation, it is worth noting that at no time has Mr. Wright challenged the accuracy of either story written by Ms. Kantor – both of which, given the events of the last several weeks, seem remarkably prescient about the potential political peril in the Obama-Wright relationship.

The best take I’ve seen on this is from Captain Ed:

[Kantor] apparently didn’t bother to research the videos and copies of sermons easily available, and so missed the exhortations that 9/11 was America’s “chickens coming home to roost”, that black people should sing “God Damn America”, and that the US had created HIV-AIDS as a tool for genocide against people of color. One wonders why Wright bothered to complain about the minor issue at hand while all of these political land mines remained just below the surface — and why Kantor and the Times never bothered to research Wright in more depth.

The entire national media missed the Wright Stuff, so it’s not entirely fair to hold the Times and Kantor solely responsible for the failure. However, the paper had a reporter assigned to the story, and clearly Kantor had an inkling of the kind of damage Wright could do to Obama’s campaign. Did the Times deliberately pull its punches, even after getting slapped by Wright over Kantor’s early reporting? And more to the point, did the Times pull its punches because Wright complained about their early coverage?

Knowing what we know about how the NYT tends to treat liberals better than conservatives in general, I’d say it’s fair to suggest that the answer to the last question is “yes.”

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