Misrepresenting debate question, Wash. Post said Obama "did not directly answer" a question about his pastor and Farrakhan

››› ››› KATHLEEN HENEHAN

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman reported that during the Democratic presidential debate, Sen. Barack Obama "disavowed an endorsement from [Nation of Islam leader Louis] Farrakhan but did not directly answer a question about [Obama's pastor, Rev. Jeremiah] Wright once having said that Farrakhan 'epitomizes greatness.' " In fact, the debate question Weisman referenced was not specifically about Wright's reported remarks on Farrakhan.

In a February 28 article headlined, "Obama Rebuffs Challenges on His Israel Stance," Washington Post staff writer Jonathan Weisman reported that during the February 26 Democratic presidential debate, Sen. Barack Obama "disavowed an endorsement from [Nation of Islam leader Louis] Farrakhan but did not directly answer a question about [Obama's pastor, Rev. Jeremiah] Wright once having said that Farrakhan 'epitomizes greatness.' " In fact, contrary to Weisman's assertion, the debate question Weisman referenced was not specifically about Wright's reported remarks on Farrakhan. Rather, debate moderator Tim Russert, NBC's Washington bureau chief, asked Obama, "What do you do to assure Jewish-Americans that, whether it's Farrakhan's support or the activities of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, your pastor, you are consistent with issues regarding Israel and not in any way suggesting that Farrakhan epitomizes greatness?" Obama responded to Russert's question by saying that he is a "stalwart friend of Israel's," adding: "I think they are one of our most important allies in the region, and I think that their security is sacrosanct, and that the United States is in a special relationship with them, as is true with my relationship with the Jewish community."

From the February 26 debate:

RUSSERT: The title of one of your books, "Audacity of Hope," you acknowledge you got from a sermon from Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the head of the Trinity United Church. He said that Louis Farrakhan "epitomizes greatness."

He said that he went to Libya in 1984 with Louis Farrakhan to visit with Moammar Gadhafi and that, when your political opponents found out about that, quote, "your Jewish support would dry up quicker than a snowball in Hell."

What do you do to assure Jewish-Americans that, whether it's Farrakhan's support or the activities of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, your pastor, you are consistent with issues regarding Israel and not in any way suggesting that Farrakhan epitomizes greatness?

OBAMA: Tim, I have some of the strongest support from the Jewish community in my hometown of Chicago and in this presidential campaign. And the reason is because I have been a stalwart friend of Israel's. I think they are one of our most important allies in the region, and I think that their security is sacrosanct, and that the United States is in a special relationship with them, as is true with my relationship with the Jewish community.

And the reason that I have such strong support is because they know that not only would I not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form, but also because of the fact that what I want to do is rebuild what I consider to be a historic relationship between the African-American community and the Jewish community.

You know, I would not be sitting here were it not for a whole host of Jewish Americans, who supported the civil rights movement and helped to ensure that justice was served in the South. And that coalition has frayed over time around a whole host of issues, and part of my task in this process is making sure that those lines of communication and understanding are reopened.

But, you know, the reason that I have such strong support in the Jewish community and have historically -- it was true in my U.S. Senate campaign and it's true in this presidency -- is because the people who know me best know that I consistently have not only befriended the Jewish community, not only have I been strong on Israel, but, more importantly, I've been willing to speak out even when it is not comfortable.

When I was -- just last point I would make -- when I was giving -- had the honor of giving a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in conjunction with Martin Luther King's birthday in front of a large African-American audience, I specifically spoke out against anti- Semitism within the African-American community. And that's what gives people confidence that I will continue to do that when I'm president of the United States.

From the February 28 Washington Post article, headlined "Obama Rebuffs Challenges on His Israel Stance":

Two controversial Chicago figures -- Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, pastor of Obama's church -- have figured prominently in the criticism of Obama. In Tuesday's Democratic debate in Cleveland, Obama disavowed an endorsement from Farrakhan but did not directly answer a question about Wright once having said that Farrakhan "epitomizes greatness."

Asked by moderator Tim Russert what he could do to reassure Jewish Americans, Obama cited his belief that Israel's security is "sacrosanct." He also said he has strong support in the Jewish community because of his opposition to anti-Semitism and his efforts to rebuild the relationship between Jews and African Americans.

On Sunday, Obama took time from his campaign to air out concerns with about 100 Jewish leaders in Cleveland, assuring them of "an unshakable commitment to the security of Israel and the friendship between the United States and Israel."

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Religion
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.