At the National Press Club this morning, Rev. Jeremiah Wright deflected a number of questions by accusing the press of being uninformed. When asked to explain his remarks that 9/11 was payback for American misdeeds, Wright replied: "Have you heard the whole sermon?" The moderator said she had heard most of the sermon, and Wright retorted: "No, no, the whole sermon, yes or no? No, you haven't heard the whole sermon? That nullifies that question."
At one point, the moderator asked: "You just mentioned that Senator Obama hadn't heard many of your sermons. Does that mean he's not much of a churchgoer? Or does he doze off in the pews?" Wright answered: "He goes to church about as much as you do. What did your pastor preach on last week? You don't know? OK." And that was that.
When asked if he still believes the U.S. government created HIV "as a means of genocide against people of color," Wright asked the moderator if she had read Emerging Viruses: AIDS And Ebola: Nature, Accident or Intentional? Then, Griff Jenkins, a Fox News correspondent who apparently wrote the question, stood up and asked Wright to answer the question. "No questions from the floor," Wright shot back. All questions from the press were submitted to a National Press Club moderator, who did not press Wright on follow-up questions. Wright said, "I believe our government is capable of doing anything," but he never directly answered whether he thinks the U.S. government created HIV.
Again and again, Wright was not held to account for his own disputed claims, such as his contention that in his post 9/11 sermon he was merely quoting the ambassador from Iraq that "America's chickens are coming home to roost." To be fair, most of those in the press gallery didn't openly applaud Wright during his speech--as did Christopher Hayes of the Nation and Nadia Charters of Al-Arabiya TV, who were both sitting (appropriately) to the left of me.
Despite the kid-glove treatment from the press, Wright found a way to create trouble for Obama. He implied that Obama was insincere in his criticism of Wright's incendiary remarks: "If Senator Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected." Wright defended his post-9/11 sermon, saying: "You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you. Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic, divisive principles." He said Louis Farrakhan was not anti-Semitic for saying "Zionism--not Judaism--is a gutter religion." He criticized America on everything from aiding the Contras in Nicaragua to sending thousands of troops "die over a lie" in Iraq.
Perhaps Wright damaged Obama the most by reminding everyone that he was with Obama at the beginning of the campaign, and he won't go away if Obama is elected. Asked why he wasn't invited to Obama's announcement ceremony, Wright replied: "Oh, I was not invited because that was a political event. Let me say again: I'm his pastor. As a political event, who started it off? Senator Dick Durbin. I started it off downstairs with him, his wife, and children in prayer. That's what pastors do."
What will come of Wright if Obama captures the White House? "I said to Barack Obama last year, 'If you get elected, November the 5th, I'm coming after you because you'll be representing a government whose policies grind under people.'"