March 21st, 2008
11:00 AM ET
10 years ago

Photo shows President Clinton, controversial Obama minister


(CNN) - Barack Obama’s former minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, attended a 1998 Clinton White House prayer breakfast, and met former President Bill Clinton – a moment which was documented by official photographers in a photo that surfaced Thursday.

Wright was one of roughly 100 religious leaders invited to the breakfast, which was held in the East Room on September 11, 1998, as part of a series of similar events scheduled that year in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

The photograph appeared on "The truth about Trinity United Church of Christ," a blog operated by a church member.

During the breakfast, then-President Clinton told the group that "I don't think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned."

An Obama spokesman declined to comment. Clinton spokesman Phil Singer told CNN, “In the course of his two terms in office, Bill Clinton met with, corresponded with and took pictures with literally tens of thousands of people.

According to White House documents released this week, Hillary Clinton was scheduled to attend the event as well.

The Obama campaign has struggled to re-gain its footing following the controversy over racially-charged comments by the Illinois senator’s former minister. Earlier this week, Obama gave a speech in Philadelphia that was meant to clarify his opposition to the substance of Wright’s remarks, as well as his views on racial division in America.

The Clinton campaign has largely steered clear of public criticism of Obama over the incident, though some current and former campaign surrogates have suggested the fact that the senator did not dissociate himself sooner might raise questions about his judgment.

–CNN's Steve Brusk and Rebeca Sinderbrand

soundoff (318 Responses)
  1. Chappel

    Yes! I see Hillary Clinton in that picture and she sat and discussed for twenty years about religion and life. Way to go OBAMA you got her.

    March 21, 2008 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  2. Seth, Washington DC

    This certainly lends credence to the fact that Rev. Wright was not some big anti-American preacher. If you think that people get invited to the white house and have their pictures taken with the President without a little fact-checking going on, your nuts. This shows Rev. Wright was not some nut job, but made a few bad judgements in a few sermons over his 40 year career. Big deal.

    McCain has been linked to controversial religious people, so has Clinton, and so has Obama.

    March 21, 2008 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  3. John, Cape May, Nj

    So this is cnn's excuse for Obama attending an anti-Semite, Louis Farrakhan award winning church for 20 (which is now changed to 15) because Obama doesnt now need to say he was christian for 20 years at the present moment. Why doesnt CNN make an official endorsement?

    March 21, 2008 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  4. d

    I opened this and thought immediately, how convenient that today this particular photo suddenly is found and is published - and like it means anything. It shows the president at a breakfast and he probably has no idea who this man is. Just like the three contractors who looked at the file...just nosey people. But unfortunately, this will be made a big thing of in the press...back to the poor candidate being picked on issue again. Americans are SO tired of the race and women issues and NOT the SERIOUS national issues being taken on by our press. They feed and build the frenzy, and the candidates are acting like children on a playground who can't get along and again Americans are the losers here, not the candidates. The parties and the press don't ever change, just the faces. That is why America is really in the state it is in

    March 21, 2008 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  5. suraj

    Well I am not sure if this will get publish here as you know we have freedom of speech but yet everything has to be screened before going public.

    I am still looking to hear what is so wrong about what Rev. Jeremiah Wright has said… the problem we have in this country is that we don’t like to hear the truth…as the old saying goes “The truth always hurt”. The problem is that most of us does not read and follow America actions abroad. The facts are never told to the American people it always a spin to it.

    Mr. Wright is more that qualifies to criticized and bring to light where he thinks this country is going wrong because he have don’t what many of us have never done and will never do.. Put His Life On The Line so that we all can sit and talk here in peace today.

    Wake up America and correct your errors before it too late!!!!

    March 21, 2008 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  6. Mark, VA

    Since Clinton did not hear the sermons of Rev. Wright the picture is just a picture of someone being polite. Nice try though...

    March 21, 2008 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  7. Candace for Kansas

    OH my goodness, there was a preacher at a prayer that is news!

    March 21, 2008 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  8. LT -correction

    I guess Clinton should clean her closet first rather than looking in someone else's. This is one of those rules she forgot to obey.

    March 21, 2008 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  9. Justin

    So what.

    March 21, 2008 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  10. Joyce in Florida

    And this photo is to prove what? The Obama campaign is really getting desperate. What a joke they are. Senator Obama cannot be trusted. He walks and talks but it is empty words to me. He doesn't follow through with his statements, especially with regard to the Michigan re-vote. He stated that he would abide by what the DNC approved. Well HE DIDN'T. And we want this person running our country? I THINK NOT!!!

    I am proud of the Clinton's and Hillary is the best candidate.


    March 21, 2008 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  11. Tim, Cincinnati, OH

    This photo proves nothing (and I say that as a McCain supporter).

    March 21, 2008 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  12. Rodney Dallas TX

    Like the Clinton campaign said, Bill Clinton met literally thousands of people.

    The difference is Clinton was in the room with this guy for a few hours. Obama sat in his church for 20 years.

    March 21, 2008 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  13. from Boston

    As the article states, during his term he took pictures with literally tens of thousands of people. And....

    There was no relationship with Wright, so what's your point.

    March 21, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  14. Shola Jamgbadi, Abuja

    While I strongly disagree with Rev Wright's comments, Obama can no more be held liable for Wright's views than Bill, seen in this picture with Rev Wright. Wright even prayed for Bill for God to forgive him at a very low point in his life. Meaning there must be some good aspects to Wright.

    March 21, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  15. CB

    Bill will say " I didn't have breakfast with that man!" Is a picture really worth 1,000 words?

    March 21, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  16. Rob

    Is this really news worthy. A one time photo op.

    March 21, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  17. d

    SO... what's the point?

    March 21, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  18. Charles

    Well,well well.

    March 21, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  19. Brandon

    This says more about Wright than it says about Clinton. There is obviously much more to this man than the 3 most controversial statements that he made from behind the pew that have been running almost non-stop on news networks for the past week.

    The only thing about this that reflects badly on the Clintons is that they have been using Rev Wright behind the scenes to try to steal this election. I think this photo will make that arguement null and void. And that is the last arguement they could make

    March 21, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  20. Ray

    Big deal!!It's not like he sat in his church for twenty years listening to his sermans like Obama did.A picture is not comparable to what Rev.Wright(Wrong)was preaching.

    March 21, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  21. again....

    So this must be the reason why Clinton's camp had no comment on this situation because they knew they respected him too. hhhmmmmm....

    And for those who keep saying that Barack was wrong for staying in the church for 20 years... 9/11 happended about 7 years ago... Rev. Wrights comments were taken from sermons that were made in '01, '02, and '03. AFTER 9/11.
    So you can't make the argument that Barack heard these incindiary remarks for "20 years". He already admitted that he wasn't attending church on a regular basis after the birth of his second child. And by that time he was already in the US Senate. Not to say that he didn't go at all, but he didn't go "as much" to hear "ALL" of these remarks made.

    So it is true that maybe Rev. Wright wasn't seen as such a "RADICAL" as everyone would like to beleive. Besides, this man is an EX-MARINE! So how can he hate the US??!! He put his life on the line to help protect this country!!!


    March 21, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  22. Underground Clintons

    Why does a picture of the Clintons show up containing the very people the Clintons bring up to make Obama look bad. Also if Wright was so racist why is he supporting a white guys so much that he shows up at his meeting supporting him when he is down, and then recieves a thank you letter.

    Wrights comments and they way he worded them were stupid, ignorant, and inconsiderate. But for the some people and news casters to try to make him look racist when he didn't say anything bad directly related to a person being some color is race baiting and brings up the question, are they racist?


    This also shows the Clintons are two faced and they hang with the Bush's too much.

    March 21, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  23. Danny G. Boca Raton, FL

    This should show the public, that President Clinton was finally serious about the acts he commited in adultery, I believe this was a very brave thing to do.. I'm sure some people will try to twist that or to say that Sen. clinton was aware of the pastor's past behavior... I'm not sure what purpose the church itself has by releasing the picture either... politics I guess... this reminds me why I'm voting for Sen. Clinton she is strong, commited and the best person to lead this nation. As for the picture, it is was a very trying moment for the former president, but one of the few times he face the music head on and showed that he had what it took to understand how important the job of a president and his character really are. Also for the pastor it may show a different side of him, perhaps he is more politically savy that most of us thought, perhaps his words were more calculated that just the ranting of a soon-to-be retired pastor, perhaps this is an early indication that this pastor understood washington more than what he is given credit for... just my humble opinion.

    March 21, 2008 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  24. Jane

    Oh Snap!

    So are we saying Hillary DID dance with Rev. Wright at this reception?

    March 21, 2008 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  25. Madison , Mo

    You can invite only people you know neither ennemies. America think well... Clinton still Clinton... They will do anytink to win... Now you are looking in Obama's personal and private file... This is just ridiculous...!!!

    March 21, 2008 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
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