May 30th, 2008
04:32 PM ET
7 years ago

Obama takes heat from Catholic League over Pfleger

Pfleger has apologized for his comments.
Pfleger has apologized for his comments.

(CNN) - The Catholic League sharply criticized Barack Obama Friday for his ties to controversial Catholic minister Michael Pfleger, saying in a statement the Illinois senator should have severed ties with him long ago.

The criticisms come after wide circulation on the Internet of Pfleger's recent sermon, in which he mocked Hillary Clinton for becoming teary-eyed before the New Hampshire primary in January.

"And then, out of nowhere, came 'Hey, I'm Barack Obama,'" Pfleger said during a sermon Sunday at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. "And [Clinton] said, 'Oh damn, where did you come from? I'm white! I'm entitled! There's a black man stealing my show!' "

Barack Obama said Thursday he was "disappointed" in the comments, and Pfleger later issued an apology for the remarks.

"Why is it that of all the wonderful Catholic priests in the Chicago Archdiocese, Obama long ago chose Pfleger to hang with?" Catholic League President Bill Donohue said in a statement. "Truth be known, Pfleger has a very troubling history."

“Senator Obama says he wants to bring people together. Then why does he choose as his clerical friends people like Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Father Pfleger?" Donohue also said. "They are two peas in a pod, both equally divisive, separated only by the color of their skin.”

The Catholic League is an influential non-partisan organization that says its mission is to protect the free-speech rights of Catholics "whenever and wherever they are threatened." The League was an early critic of the Rev. John Hagee, the controversial evangelical pastor whose endorsement was sought by John McCain but later repudiated.

Pfleger is a priest at St. Sabina's Catholic Church on the south side of Chicago. He had served on the Catholics for Obama committee until recently and the two have known each other for 20 years. As a state senator, Obama once directed a $100,000 grant to a community center affiliated with Pfleger's church.

Watch Pfleger's controversial comments here.


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (621 Responses)
  1. Dan

    Wait ...

    So the Catholic League protects Catholic free-speech rights, and then questions a Catholic minister for something he said?

    May 30, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  2. Sharon

    He told the TRUTH!!!! Point Blank!

    May 30, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  3. John, New York

    Its clear that the Catholic League is only interested in freedom of speech of SOME Catholics.

    May 30, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  4. Independent Colorado

    Honestly, who cares about this preist thing. McCain and Obama have both affiliated themselves with controversial pastors. And? My pastors growing up were similiar in speech. I still today don't think the way they taught. I used the sermons as a source of enlightenment. I heard what they had to say but I didn't agree. That is why church should be left out of the political realm of ideas. The Catholics have pedophiles in their churches yet both the family whose child was molested still attends the same church AND the priest who molested that child still goes to to the same church. It is the same idea with what is going on with McCain and Obama. They are going to church to serve their GOD the best way they know how. No one is going to agree with everything their pastor say, be it extremist or not. Their reasons for affiliating themselves with these people are for different reasons but none are political. Obama was drawn the community of his church. He liked the way they help poor people and people from third world nations. Gays go to church and have to listen to their pastors talk about how wrong it is to live their lifestyles but they are still gay and they still go to church. Grow up people. There are more important things going on in this world. This is pathetic. We know what the Republicans are trying to do. At least this will be one thing McCain won't have an advantage over in the General Election. Be Happy Democrats. It could be worse.

    May 30, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  5. DAN BUFFALO NEW YORK

    What will Obama's excuse be this time? How many more racist friends has he in his "closet". Why does he always pretend that their views are news to him after knowing them for 20 years? Maybe the smiling man we see as Barack Obama is not the uniter he would have us believe he is. If his judgement is as poor for other things as it is for his choice of friends, maybe we should question his ability to be President. I used to be for Obama. Now I am thinking–Hillary is a known commodity. She is not Miss Congeniality–who cares?
    She is tough and bright. We need her combination of toughness and brains to compete in this sorry world. Also, there are no surprises John Mc Cain can uncover about Hillary before November. What more is waiting to be dug up on Barack???

    May 30, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  6. way to go

    Obama is going to make him the Secretary of State...

    May 30, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  7. Richard Bell - Winston-Salem, NC.

    NObama '08

    May 30, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  8. tcarter in jersey city

    so many people in middle america have a problem, when someone stands up to tell the truth as we african americans see it.

    father pfleger just had enough nerve to say what we've been thinking all along; that hillary clinton and her husband act as if they are entitled to another term as president.

    this sense of entitlement of some white americans is apparent with us....we just don't comment on it so much...at least not in public

    what father pfleger said was no different than what they said about hillary on saturday night live a few weeks ago...and i thought they spoke the truth as well

    as for hillary's "tears" several months ago...they seemed contrived.

    May 30, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  9. Darren M.

    Um, maybe he shouldn't have said it the way he did, but he kept it real. Hillary reached for the race card on the way down. People see this and they get inflamed. She has lost a lot fo respect in the party, and would probably be best served following Joe Lieberman out the back door.

    May 30, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  10. David, Paducah, Kentucky

    I think Father Pfleger is in the wrong business. He should be a stand up comedian! What he said is what probably 50% of America is actually thinking about Hillary Clinton. He was just stupid enough to actually verbalize it. If Chris Rock was saying it, people would have been laughing their butts off and his shows would be sold out.

    May 30, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  11. Carol

    The Catholic League–Isn't that what Kathy Griffith calls "some dude with a computer"?

    May 30, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  12. cougartino

    They're doing all they can to keep a black man from becoming president. None of the controversail comments came from Obama. If Obama made these type of statements, then fine, he'd be fair game. it appears to be the establishment can't find any dirt on Obama so they smear him through others. That's so childish.

    May 30, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  13. SABRINA PORTER

    GIVE ME A BREAK. JUST YESTERDAY I WATCHED REPORT ON MCCAIN/HAGEE. DEFENDING MCCAIN, SAYING HE IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT HE SAID. YOU GAVE EVERY REASON IN THE WORLD NOT TO HOLD HIM RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT HAGEE SAYS. NOW, IT'S TIME TO SEPARATE CHURCH GOVE.

    TODAY, BACK TO OBAMA AND WHAT THE PRIEST SAID. NOW, YOU CHANGE THE RULES. YOU HOLD OBAMA RESPONSIBLE. THE EXACT SAME THING THAT PERTAINED TO MCCAIN YESTERDAY, DOES NOT PERTAIN TO OBAMA TODAY. ARE WE FORGETTING WHAT THE OTHER CANDIDATES SUPPORTERS HAVE SAID AND DONE. I GUESS SO. I ALMOST SEEMS LIKE AS LONG AS IT IS SOMEONE OTHER THAN SEN. OBAMA, THE RULES/VIEWS ARE FLEXIBLE. WHAT ABOUT WHAT G. FERRARRO SAID, WHAT ABOUT THE RACIST COMMENT H. CLINTON MADE, WHAT ABOUT HAGEE AND PARSLEY? WE ONLY FOCUS ON OBAMA AND REV. WRIGHT.

    CUT IT OUT. IT IS NOT WORKING. HE IS GOING TO BE THE DEM. NOMINEE. STOP BRINGING UP REV. WRIGHT. IT DIDN'T WORK. BE FAIR. THE RULES APPLY TO ALL CANDIDATES. YOU INTERVIEWED A MAN THAT HELP OBAMA RESPONSIBLE, HE SHOULD HAVE INSTANTANOUSLY REBUKED IT AND TALKED TO THE CONGREGATION THAT LAUGHED. OBAMA WAS NOT EVEN THERE WHEN HE SAID IT. YOU ALL ARE GIVING SEN. OBAMA MORE POWER THAN GOD GAVE HIM. LOOK AT SOME OF YOU SEGMANTS. HE IS ONLY A MAN. HE CANNOT CONTROL WHAT PEOPLE SAY THINK OR DO

    May 30, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  14. Carmen Colorado

    I as a catholic I have known priest that have done far worst than that and they are still in the good side of the church and the people. I do not think because I have known these priest and have listen to their sermons or have dealt with them I am a bad person, on the other hand I am a better catholic and person, because I know that I choose to do right. I am not perfect but I think that we have a lot of problems in this great USA and we need to move on to these problems instead of wasting time with discussions of priest, preachers, and on and on. It is time to clean up politics and the WH.

    May 30, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  15. Debra

    It was politically incorrect and devisive in that blacks are not the only one's supportig Obama, but other than that, I thought it/he was funny. It's true that Hillary feels the nomination was her's to have and so is the Presidency nd she just can't deal with it. We all need to lighten up.

    May 30, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  16. Mary May King

    These two peas in a pod are definitely bad for America's digestion. It is flatly amazing that one section of Chicago can produce this much bile. And a Presidential candidate thrives in the midst of such manure. Who knows, he may one day author another tome: It takes a landfill to raise a child with no sense of smell.

    May 30, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  17. South Dakota has not yet been decided

    this is an unfortunate turn for Obama. I feel situations such as this should have no effect on the political race. it seems to be a dog and pony sideshow that is aimed at discouraging votes for Sen. Obama. I on the other hand am for Clinton and wish issues such as this do not recieve such attention by the media due to the irrelevance to the race at hand. And to all you democrats that continue posting comments with degrading remarks toward Clinton; how can you be a true democrat without allowing all voices to be heard. Our party faught for this very issue in Florida's 2000 presidential election. Why now are the stakes any different. Florida and Michigan have payed their price and not counting these votes is a very un-democrat and unamerican thing to do.

    May 30, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  18. Terry

    It is amazing to me how people can even considered voting for Obama. Of the millions and millions of people in the US this is the best we can come up with?? You can either vote for a man who is too old to be president or vote for Obama a man who is just learning and doesn't have any experience. Though Hillary can't be trusted she is the best of the three. By next week she will be out!!!!!!
    Our country is in BAD shape and the young voters are pushing Obama making him the front runner. I have some news for the Obama supporters a speech doesn't make a president. If Obama wins all who voted for him will regret it in 6 months to a year. All I can say is who ever is the vice president better be good to educate Obama. I will write in my vote for Hillary in November just like most of the Hillary supporters. I cannot look myself in the mirror and say I made the correct choice to vote for McCain or Obama.

    May 30, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  19. linda

    Once, again, I guess Obama is responsible because the toilets stopped working on the space ship! That is how stupid this one is!

    May 30, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  20. Veterans for Obama

    Like he had anything to do with it....Ridiculous.

    May 30, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  21. KC Atlanta

    This can only be decribed with two words,hit – job.Good job father pfleger,I hope you choke on your divisive rhetoric sabotagging words.

    May 30, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  22. Pam

    There seems to be a disturbing pattern that has developed. People are under the impression that you can say hateful, shameful things about someone and then turn around and offer "deep apologies" and all will be forgotten and forgiven. These apologies do not take back the words.How about not saying them to begin with. What was equally as bad were all the people in the church pews clapping and cheering.If the African Americans in this country want to know why there is racism in this country, I suggest they look at what is going on in their churches. I hope that people think long and hard about their vote in November.Is this the person who is promising to unite people of all races and color? 20 years is a very long time for Obama to accept this frightning spiritual guidance.I wouldn't be surprised if he felt this way himself.

    May 30, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  23. Scott

    DISGUSTING! This is what we want?????????

    May 30, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  24. AlanBTR

    Things like this WILL be a problem in the general election. Yes, I know that Obama isn't the one who made the remarks but this shows who he has chosen to align himself with before he decided to run for president. Before I get attacked... I'll tell you- I don't hate Obama. I just see real problems in the general election that will cause the Dems to loose.

    May 30, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  25. sue

    It's debatable now whether BHO would be a good candidate for vice president. Hillary should think twice.

    May 30, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
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