May 30th, 2008
04:32 PM ET
6 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. Beth

    Wow, Obama is really uniting the party. Way to go Democrats. By attacking Clinton you Obamatons started a civil war. Y'all will now reap what you sowed. Republicans keep winning because Democrats have no common sense. I'll take my chances with McCain, thank you.

    May 30, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  2. Ron

    These preachers, Wright, Pfleger, Hagee, Jerry Fallwell, and Rod Parsley, among others, are not men of God, and shouldn't be in the pulpit. They come no where near preaching the teachings of Jesus. It again reinforces the reason politics and religion should be kept seperate. Church is the place to receive religious teachings, and Congress is the place to receive political teachings. A preacher makes a poor politician, and a politician makes a poor preacher. Just take a look at Huckabee.

    In the case of Wright and Pfleger, tho, I'm wondering if they're intentionally trying to harm Obama's chances of becoming president? Because they sure as hell aren't his friends.

    May 30, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  3. Mike

    Why is this news?

    May 30, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  4. Lorenza- Dallas

    It seems a bit ironic to me that the Catholic League, which claims its' mission is to protect the free-speech rights of Catholics, would show such contempt toward a Catholic priest who was exercising his own right to free speech.

    By the way, how is Barack Obama responsible for this guys' comments? Can someone please explain that to me?

    May 30, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  5. Bob

    While Michael Pfleger's words are offensive, the cheering and applauding from the audience worries even more. If this is Obama's vision of a "united" America then God helps us all.

    May 30, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  6. wam

    The Catholic League is a controversial group in and of itself! How dare they criticize one man for the comments of another! Free Speech!!!! I don't think so. This school teacher and long, in good standing Catholic says Go obama 08!!!

    May 30, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  7. Yasriel

    I am certainly sure that Bill Donohue is being partisan and probably a supporter of HRC. Shame on him that he would draw a relationship between Obama and Pfleger when, clearly, there are no relationship.
    Was it Obama that gave Pfleger the podium to speak or should Obama now be blamed for everything some says against his opponents?
    Shame on Bill Donohue, Shame on HRC.

    May 30, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  8. Nik, Florida

    Another reason why Obama is a liability. The audacity of hope as turned into the audacity of hate. Way to go dems! Because of some of you naiive guillable fools, Republicans will have the White House for another 4 years.

    May 30, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  9. avallery

    We need to judge an individual on what is said by that person. Obama should not be held accountable for what someone else say.

    May 30, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  10. floridian

    He can only say he is "disappointed"? How many more divisive, anti-white, racist people are going to pop up in Sen. Obama's circle of close friends and advisers? Kind of explains why his campaign wants to end the primary season and declare him the winner. The longer this drags on the more risk there exists. I say, give the varmits more time and take it to the convention and let those on the floor settle it. We, the American people, need the time to truly determine just who this Sen. Obama really is and what he really stands for, other than "change".

    May 30, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  11. James, SC

    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."

    I guess this only applies to Catholics who have never heard the name Barack Obama?

    Look at whom is threatening who!

    May 30, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  12. Truth

    The media is ignoring a crucial point in this sermon. Even if one does not approve of the messenger or the place from which the message was delivered, the message is true.

    Clinton seems to feel that she is entitled to the nomination. Even though she has not gained the majority of delegates (which is how all agreed the nomination was to be decided), she pushes on. She is not being denied the nomination because she is a woman. She is not getting the nomination because she did not earn enough votes.

    Yet in still she seems to have this sense of white, woman privilege, especially since she is running against a black man. She seems to think that she is better and more qualified than he. She has not shown in anyway that she is. His campaign has been far superior, in spite of her having more years of experience.

    Again, she seems to think that she is entitled. Well she is not. You have to win the most delegates.

    May 30, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  13. BILL

    CNN FINALLY TELLS FULL STORY ON OBAMA

    CATHOLIC LEAGUE PRES. DONAHUE IS CORRECT AND HONEST

    REV. WRIGHT AND FATHER PFLEGER PREACH HATE NOT RACE

    BOTH PREACH HATE...NOT RACE

    BOTH ARE LONGTIME FRIENDS OF OBAMA

    I AM CONCERN ABOUT OBAMA JUDGMENT AND CHARACTER

    WE SEE OBAMA PERSONAL TRUTH AND IT CONCERNS ME

    IF HE BECOME THE WORLD LEADER

    CATHOLIC LEAGUE PRES. DONAHUE..THANK YOU FOR HONESTY

    HILLARY OR MCCAIN 08

    HILLARY OR MCCAIN 08

    May 30, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  14. mary, Dallas, Tx

    What did they have to say about the Catholic priest who led the prayer at the McCain event? I don't recall seeing any out rage. These priest are such hypocrits. Instead of worrying about what this priest said, worry about the children.

    May 30, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  15. Jane

    Obama's supporters are hateful and divisive: they have constantly demonized and slandered Hillary. And now they want to talk to me about the issues? In November, I'm voting for McCain.

    May 30, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  16. Andrew

    This is hysterical to me considering it's coming from a group that supports an organized religion that has for over 50 years covered up thousands of cases of child molestation.

    May 30, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  17. Eliz

    I find it hysterical that you stated:

    "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."

    ...yet they want to silence a Catholic priest for his own personal views. Of all the crap that came out of Hillary and McCain's camp, Obama's somewhat wacky supporters sound like harmless stand-up comedians. Pfleger has done more for community improvement and anti-poverty work than the overly fed republican-like Catholic League

    May 30, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  18. Tee

    SINCE WHEN IS SPEAKING THE TRUTH DIVISIVE? OH WHEN A CERTIAN GROUP OF PEOPLE DO NOT WANT TO BE REMINDED OF THE BLACK HOLOCUST HERE IN THESE UNITED STATES.

    May 30, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  19. Biba

    I don't comment much, but I had to respond to this. Father Pfleger has done more to help the poor people of Chicago than McCain, Clinton, and Obama combined. If you follow local Chicago politics you know the politcal Catholic church has come after Father Pfleger for obvious and ubiquitous reasons, (read: selling provactive work under the umbrella of catholicism hurts our power) but the true Catholic church understands how important his work is. He speaks to everyone; he speaks to souls and he's brought many a lost soul to the Lord. He is not a political man as no religious man should be and now we want to jump on Obama for knowing him because his statements weren't poltical? I loved his statements and I will always thank God for people like Father Pfleger. I wish we could hold our current President to the same level of scrutiny. I heard we can, but I think it's a rumor.

    May 30, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  20. Dee Okla.

    CNN

    I hope this gets to go a way as fast as mcsane minister problems did, because you sure swept it way quick.

    Why must Obama apologize for everyone that says anything the media can spin off as news is it me or he the only one being held to accountability.

    May 30, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  21. HoustonTexan

    I tend to think that Michael Pfleger only said what everyone else is thinking. Maybe he should not have said it when he did but it is no big deal ! It is a dumb tactic that the Clintons are behind and I think the crane accident in NY stole their limelight !
    And I am a 50 yr old white female and proud to back OBAMA !

    May 30, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  22. Nancy

    I wish people would wake up before it is to late.... I do not believe the American people know the real Obama.

    May 30, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  23. Daniel

    Does all candidate have to be responsible about what other people said?

    Don't kidd yourself, every single one of us question about Clinton crying scene!

    May 30, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  24. Don W

    Wow, Obama's going to have to stop being involved with churches at all, with the way this has been going :/

    May 30, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  25. rachae

    who cares about what this preacer says. I am so sick of hearing this kind of stuff.

    May 30, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
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