NBC's Tim Russert suggested on the Today show that Sen. John McCain would "refrain from any public criticism of" Sen. Barack Obama over controversial comments made by Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. However, McCain's campaign reportedly circulated to reporters a Wall Street Journal op-ed that asserted Obama's association with Wright "raised legitimate questions."
On the March 19 edition of NBC's Today show, NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert suggested that Sen. John McCain will "refrain from any public criticism of [Sen. Barack] Obama" over controversial comments made by Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. But Russert did not note that the McCain campaign reportedly circulated to reporters a Wall Street Journal op-ed in which Newsmax.com chief Washington correspondent Ronald Kessler wrote that "Obama's close association with Mr. Wright ... raises legitimate questions about Mr. Obama's fundamental beliefs about his country," which "deserve a clearer answer than Mr. Obama has provided so far." On March 14, the Politico's Jonathan Martin also reported that the McCain campaign "included an op-ed from the WSJ written by Ron Kessler about Obama's pastor today in its morning clips." Subsequently, McCain's campaign reportedly said it sent the op-ed "in error."
From the March 19 edition of NBC's Today:
RUSSERT: He had no choice. He now realizes that any hope to rise above that and be seen as a candidate who happened to be black, he is front and center now a candidate who is black, and who is willing to talk about his race. He acknowledged, Meredith, that, quote, "Some nagging questions will remain for voters," and those will have to be addressed in a general election. My sense is, he'll have to revisit this subject, and he feels it's important and necessary for the country. But the most immediate thing was to be able to reassure his base that his candidacy is strong and viable. That's what his campaign was most focused on yesterday.
MEREDITH VIEIRA (co-host): So if you're Hillary Clinton or John McCain, what do you do after a speech like this?
RUSSERT: Well, Hillary Clinton said, "I'm glad he gave the speech," not acknowledging that she had seen it or read it. John McCain, I think, will say that, "I take him at his word." As you know, John McCain has received the endorsement of at least two very controversial pastors who have -- had said some derogatory things about members of other religions. So I think, at least publicly, both those candidates will refrain from any public criticism of Obama.