April 9th, 2008
10:10 AM ET
14 years ago

Clinton backer to Obama: Explain unanswered Wright questions

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/03/20/art.davis.gi.jpg caption=" Davis is a prominent Clinton supporter."](CNN) - A prominent surrogate and fundraiser for Hillary Clinton took to the Wall Street Journal editorial page Wednesday to call on Barack Obama to address "unanswered questions" about his former pastor more fully.

Lanny Davis, a former special counsel to President Clinton and a key backer of the New York senator, describes his unease with Obama's response last month to the controversy surrounding his former minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and predicts the issue could play a major role in the general election if Obama is the Democratic nominee.

"Clearly Mr. Obama does not share the extremist views of Rev. Wright. He is a tolerant and honorable person. But that is not the issue," Davis writes. "The questions remain: Why did he stay a member of the congregation? Why didn't he speak up earlier? And why did he reward Rev. Wright with a campaign position even after knowing of his comments?"

Davis also says his own questions of Obama have been triggered anew after recently rereading some of Wright's most controversial sermons.

"I keep thinking: If my rabbi ever uttered such hateful words from the pulpit about America and declared all Palestinians to be terrorists, I have no doubt I would have withdrawn immediately from his congregation," Davis writes.

Davis, who has echoed similar sentiments on CNN and in an essay on the Huffingtonpost.com, also takes issue with those who criticize him for continuing to question the Illinois senator on the matter.

"Attacking the motives of those who feel this discomfort about Senator Obama's response or nonresponse to Reverend Wright's comments is not just unfair and wrong," Davis writes.

"It also misses the important electoral point about winning the general election in November: This issue is not going away," he adds. "If many loyal, progressive Democrats remain troubled by this issue, then there must be even more unease among key swing voters – soft ‘Reagan Democrats,’ independents and moderate Republicans – who will decide the 2008 election."

Davis is the third Clinton backer in as many days to suggest Obama's relationship with his former pastor could hinder his general election chances. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida told the New York Times on Monday the Wright matter "is a big liability," and Rep. Brad Sherman of California told the Los Angeles Times on Monday, "Her minister will not appear in McCain commercials."

soundoff (90 Responses)
  1. Kentuckyboy

    amen!!!!!! Obama is hiding details, we need to know more. not trust for obama here.

    April 9, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  2. PS from Tennessee

    Let Lanny or Billary give a race speech like Barack did. They haven't walked a mile in his shoes. Barack is brillant and will be the best President we have ever had. If you actually get down to it, some of what the Rev said was true, but it's not politically correct to say that. Come on down to Tennessee. I live in the town where the KKK was organized. There is still a lot or racism here. Let's get on with the real issues of soaring gas prices, food prices, increases in everything except your wages. The Rev has retired and all these religion fanatics forget that the only one judging the Rev isn't here on Earth.

    April 9, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  3. joker

    nice try buddy, but at the rate Clinton keeps on fumbling the ball your going to have to think of more diversions that this.

    April 9, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  4. Isaac, Wisconsin

    It is a serious concern and Dem will have to address it. Obama and Rev. Wright which way. Denounce and reject so that we can move forward.

    April 9, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  5. Wesley

    The only people that still care about this are people who were not going to vote for him in the first place. As the recent polls have shown, people are still favoring him over Clinton. If she gets the nomination the Democrats will DEFINITELY lose in November. This issue may come up again... as will the WIlliam Ayers stuff, but in my mind we need to elect the best person for the position. And, again my opinion, Obama is by FAR the best person to be America's next President.

    April 9, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  6. NObama

    I can honestly say that if Obama gets nominated and somehow elected president that, for the first time in my adult life, I will not be proud to be an American.

    April 9, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  7. Luis, Seattle, WA

    Truly, who cares what Reverend Wright thinks...he is not the one running for office. What I truly care about is where Obama, Clinton and McCain stand on the issues. I was raised in the Catholic Church, I am still attend the Catholic church.....I go to church because of my relationship to God...not because of the priest, or their political stands. God knows the Catholic Church has all kinds of problems, from the sex abuse scandal to their stand on contraception that is creating poverty and helping spread HIV in third world country. I still attend the church because of my relationship with God....if my attendance (or anybody attendance) depended on our agreement with the Pastor, Rabbi, or Priest...nobody would attend church in the first place.

    April 9, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  8. Julie, Atlanta, GA

    I completely agree with Beth and Bob and others who recognize that THIS IS ABOUT BEATING JOHN MCCAIN. And the repubs will use the Wright controversy to DESTROY Obama.

    Like it or not (and I don't), the speech that Obama gave may be enough for now but it is NOT ENOUGH TO BEAT JOHN MCCAIN.

    Again, almost unimaginably, it looks like democrats will snatch DEFEAT from the jaws of victory. If we nominate Obama, WE WILL LOSE. God help us – we need to nominate Hillary.

    April 9, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  9. maya

    I really wish that Obama gave his race speech early in the primaries. So I could believe that it was more than politically motivated damage control.

    This issue won't go away because Obama has NOT been clear and specific about it. Talk about diversion- preaching to us about race and yet having a close relationship with a racist preacher?!

    He may squeak by with Dems- unfortunately- but it would be naive to think that this won't come up in the GE. It's very sad and makes me very angry that he put himself- and us- in this position.

    April 9, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  10. pat

    Lanny is right...Barack is a tolerant and honorable person. And that's where this conversation should end. There is not one shred of evidence that he has followed his former pastor's depicable words. And the pastor is NOR running for office–Barack is! Listen to his own words carefully and you will hear all the answers.

    It's way past time to change the subject to more important issues that affect all Americans.

    April 9, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  11. corin

    OMGA lannie shut up!! How about hillary explain unanswered questions such as:

    Why is Mark Penn still apart of her campaign?
    How is it that her Husband Bill clinton has deeper ties with the Columbian Trade Deal than Mark Penn not to mention hillary clinton is benefitting from the columbian trade deal finicially just look at the taxes.......?
    Why would hillary have left the church if she was a member of trinity but not leave her husband that committed adultery?
    Really why did hillary lie about Bosnia?
    Why cant hillary come up with her own personal on the trail storys versus getting them from her advisors (eg Ohio hospital story)?
    Why hasnt hillary paid numerous vendors......?

    Please lannie the list can go on......there are so many unanswered questions on the clintons part! Then she is always claiming media biased! Shoot the media arent even asking her these questions. Instead the media takes the bate a follow the narrow minded surrogates to distract away from the main issues that are effecting our country and the real issues that our in the campaigns.

    CNN Please post this comment!!!!

    April 9, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  12. melikeyhill

    Americans will not hold obama responsible for what others say!!! on the other hand lying to our face about sniper fire, is a lie that AMERICANS WILL PUNISH HER FOR, SIMPLE!!!

    April 9, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  13. TC

    It is time to stop holding Obama responsible for what his minister said. Do you hold Catholic's responsible for all of the sexual child abuse and the cover up, apparently not. Are you saying all of the catholic who do not leave the catholic church support child abuse?

    These attacks look like latent racism to me. Davis needs to go back and read Martin Luther King Jr's speeches, I think he would be surprised at the accusations against America by MLK.

    April 9, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  14. Hispanics now for Obama

    Wright is not a political issue! I'm tired of stupid people trying to bring this up. How will Wright bring down the economy????

    However, we have seen for ourselves that Hillary cannot take fiscal responsibility of her own campaign, so my question is to you Hill supporters: How can she handle America's money problem if she can't even pay her own bills????

    Wright or campaign debt, which is worse for the economy...

    April 9, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  15. Matt, Nebraska

    Funny how the Clinton's are not letting this die, and the democrats as a whole are blaming the whole Wright mess on Republicans.

    I hope people are paying attention to the crooked politics the democrats use.

    Bush has been a victim of it for years...

    April 9, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
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