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. Lara

    Once again this has nothing to do with Senator Obama. He is not responsible for what this priest said. And the Clinton Campaign have the nerve to say he need to apologize for this after he let her slide on what she actually said on camera. He did nothing wrong and he needs to just concentrate on the issues of this country. Not stupid people who are trying to get attention.

    May 30, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  2. woman from south

    Come on Now this is not about Obama this man is white making fun of Hillary every one open your eyes . The people who does not like Obam will see this as a ractists remarks but there is some truth to what he is saying and you all know that so STOP THE MADNESS PEOPLE. White people needs to understand what Blacks have gone threw instead of making excuses about some one being a ractist.

    May 30, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  3. kathy

    This is really getting ridiculous! It is a shame that that all these religious men(Wright, Hagee, Parsley, Robertson and Pflager) are are so unprofessional, but why are the candidates responsible for their words? We haven`t heard about any of Hillary`s pastors,why not? I know there is some unfavorable stuff about them out there, but who cares?

    Let`s get back to the issues. The economy, the War in Iraq, healthcare. Why is the media focusing on these distractions, why are we the public letting them

    May 30, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  4. Joe, Chicago

    WHO CARES! This is non-news!!

    Why does he have to apologize for everything everybody else says! He knows or has met a lot of people– he is a politician for God-sake, and a popular one to boot... Should he also have to apologize for knowing George Bush and that the country was being led into War??

    May 30, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  5. Kevin, NC

    Pfleger spoke truth, simple and plane, the even bigger story is Hillary'scall for a hit job on Barack Obama that was swept under the rug.

    White folk are lying to themselves if they say they dont know anyone (pastor of friend) who has ever spoken negatively about a race of people or have done something inappropriate, and if you lie may GOD take all of your blessings away

    May 30, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  6. Belle

    Obama NEVER explains his ties to very QUESTIONABLE people....everyone should know that by now. Instead, he will either accuse the Clinton campaign of creating the story, accuse CNN of doing a "Hit Job" or point his finger at Hagee, whom McCain has NO ties with vs. explaining why he had friendships with these people for 20 years!

    And supports them with NOT ONLY HIS money, but TAXPAYERS money as well.

    May 30, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  7. jason

    get over with that bull. Obama is the right president they just hate him for no reason

    May 30, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  8. Garth

    Probably one of the reasons the Catholic League doesn't like Father Pfleger is that he is an activist priest working on the South Side (read poor) and working with Black community groups. He is a rock-the-boat type guy who speaks his mind. The Catholic League, I think, likes those priests who do their jobs and are mindful of authority and work to make the Catholic Church richer. From what I've read about Father Pfleger, he can stir up some feathers from time to time, but is for the people first and not the guys in charge.

    Now I disagree with Father Pfleger's method here, he is speaking not to Obama, but the church congregation. Trinity is known in Chicago as an activist church. And at last look, I don't think Obama owns or manages the church. I thought freedom of speech and freedom of religion still exist in this country (not if Dick Cheney has his way) and unless Obama was in the congregation that day, I can not see the connection.

    It is just a nit by the Repubs to point away from some of McCain's buddies that he courts.

    May 30, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  9. BEV ALLEN A CANADIAN OBSERVER

    FREE SPEECK IN AMERICA IS A FRACE!!!!!!!! I LAUGHTED MY HEAD OFF WHEN I SAW THAT NEWS CLIP & CHEERED ALONG BECAUSE THE PRIEST EXPRESSED WHAT THE WHOLE WORLD IS SEEING AS CLEAR AS CHRYSTAL. THE WHOLE HILARY RACE AND THE MEDIA PAMPERING IS A JOKE. SHE IS NO STATESWOMAN AND IS NOT FIT TO BE PRESIDENT. ANYONE WHO IS HONEST WILL HAVE TO ADMIT TO THE JOKE AND DESPERATION OF THE LAST FEW WEEKS. I DID NOT SEE WHY THE PRIEST HAD TO APOLOGIZE, HE WAS DEFINITELY NOT OFFENSIVE AND THERE'S ABSOLUTE NOTHING FOR SENATOR OBAMA TO APOLOGIZE FOR. HE IS NO MORE RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT THE PRIEST OR REV WRIGHT SAY THAN HE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT MRS. CLINTON SAYS!

    May 30, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  10. Jake from California

    The Catholics need to stick to their own business. It's NOT politics. And it's a little like the pot calling the kettle black when you criticize Phleger for having a "troubled history." Make sure your OWN priests have their ducks in a row before slinging mud at this guy. Phleger was a fool fro saying those things, but this INCESSANT pastor crap has this entire NATION fatigued. This is PETTY CRAP. Let it go!

    May 30, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  11. MB

    First of all, if the Catholic League's mission is to "protect the free-speech rights of Catholics "'whenever and wherever they are threatened.' ", then shouldn't this criticism be uncharacteristic of them. I may also point out that Pflieger is one of their own, not Obama's.
    Secondly, is Obama really supposed to control what comes out of the mouths of all his supporters. I'm an Obama supporter, and a public speaker. Does that mean that Barack Obama should be keeping constant tabs on every bloody word I say? Give me a break! Move on and find something else to worry about.

    May 30, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  12. one nation under god!!!!

    Bye bye catholic vote .lol. Buyers remorse come on you can admit it lol.

    May 30, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  13. john g

    I guess now bill dononhue and the catholic league are in charge of determining which ordained Catholic Priests are really Catholic and which arent. I have no doubt that bill will soon take over for the Pope as the head of the Church in fact I think in his own mind he already has.

    May 30, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  14. Charlie

    Well, I'm glad the catholics are all over matters of ethics. They have such a long-standing history of recognizing ethical decisions and acting as a model of moral and ethical activity.

    I'm sorry, was that too sarcastic?

    May 30, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  15. Jason, Texas

    Again, grasping for straws. CNN, you should know better.

    May 30, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  16. Tired of Idiots

    Ok I'll find some validity in this once Fleger and Wright are on a Presidential ticket. BORING....Clintons priest is an accused molestor. McCain sought the support of a known racist, and Obama has the backing of a racists and bitter leaders such as Farrakhan, Wright, and Fleger and still no talk of the issues. If you want to vote for who attends the best church or who has the most prominent support of the religious sect then your are not following this campaign because of your interest in the state of are union you are basically voting for your next prom king or queen. Let's stick to the issues. WHO STANDS FOR YOUR INTERESTS......

    CAST YOUR VOTE BASED ON THAT...

    May 30, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  17. soy

    Look whether you accept it or not. The guy is right. Deep inside Clinton's heart she knows she thought of Obama as just that. She felt she was entitled to be the nominee of the party and going through the process was simply formality but some people thought differently and that why she continues to fight this losing battle. Plus I don't know how you can equate his comments to him criticizing Clinton because she's a woman.

    Obama can't be responsible for every comment that his supporters or people around him say especially not a clergy member. Any one that is a member of a church or any religious organization knows that these people feel they answer to the high power and not any individual and so to say that Obama has some kind of control over this priest or Wright is ridiculous and frankly irrelevant to the issues that need to be addressed in this political discourse.

    Finally when it comes to the issue of race many people tend to draw conclusions based on their limited experiences with people different from them. The same is true of Wright and many other people out there. They are still skeptical about the possibility of a black man being the president of this nation and I can't even say Obama being elected would change anything because even after he's elected they'll still feel they'll be some conspiracy to undermine and discredit his administration. You can only try to show people the light but you can't force them to change. Obama certainly tries to may people realize the we can get beyond these difference because when you look at it all we all have the same goals for ourselves and our children.

    Question: do black, whites, hispanics pay a different gas price at the pump? the bombs that go off in Iraq everyday killing our men and women do they discriminate? Do whites, hispanics and blacks pay different college fees?

    May 30, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  18. Obama Supporter

    What's wrong with what he said? I'm white and I absolutely agree with him. Obama doesn't need to apologize at all.

    May 30, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  19. Carol, WI

    I am confused. If the Catholics have such a problem with this priest, why haven't they disowned him? It doesn't state this priest was removed from the parish or suffered any other consequences for these actions. As a Catholic I am sure the Catholic church is against Obama because of his pro-choice stance, but they are being very hypocritical here.

    I don't see this as an issue related to the Catholic League's mission "to protect the free-speech rights of Catholics 'whenever and wherever they are threatened.'" Clinton is not a Catholic, and I can't see how else this relates to Catholics' free speech rights. This so-called non-partisan organization does not seem to be what it claims.

    May 30, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  20. dolly lanna

    STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT
    YOU ARE SOUNDING LIKE FOX NEWS LITE
    7 PRO HILLARY ARTICLES TO TWO OBAMA NEGATIVE ONES.
    Stop giving Hillary unlimited space with her unwarranted determination to screw things up and win at all costs. Sick of old politics as usual.
    SHAME ON CNN

    May 30, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  21. orlando

    Obama is not what he and media have told people who he is. He says and does anything in order to win. Who can believe that a person with his CV can get where he is now. Obama will ruin this country.

    May 30, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    Wouldn't waste a vote on a racist black person and his upbringing. If any white person would have said anything like that we'd be considered a racist. So are the blacks

    May 30, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  23. Mike Green, Beverly Hills

    We should blame Obama for this! He should also be held responsible for Iraq, the Great Plague, The stock market crash of the 20's, ALL REPUBLICAN'S that STILL back Bush, and for sure Obama needs to be held responsible for the book Scott wrote about our so-called president! Obama has so much to answer too. I think it's time to impeach the media outlets that spent ALL DAY on this trash! You Soap-ize the news with trash the people think TRASH should sit in the Whitehouse; case in point G.W. Bush. (he didn't lose hi house I bet.

    May 30, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  24. Kerry

    I wonder how many times Hillary had to appologize for what Bill has said about Obama.

    May 30, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  25. CMitch, FW TX

    Please check your bibical principles. Anything to discredit Obama. What he said was the truth. Obama is not responsible for others. Everyone he will stand before God at the judgement. Talk about the issue ot saving this country which is heading for self destructions.

    May 30, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
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