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

Obama takes heat from Catholic League over Pfleger

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. M.K. Ozman

    So what? The priest may have phrased crudely. But isn't what everybody thinks about HRC's helpful tears and her rule sense of entitlements? There is no substance in this attack on Obama, but the media will love it as usual.

    May 30, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  2. Ryan Hanzelik

    I'm sick of people giving any candidate a hard time because of things other people say. Stick to the issues America!

    May 30, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  3. What if?

    This remind me of what was told to the voters in KY & WV, what was it again.................I can get the UNEDUCATIONED HARD WORKING WHITE PEOPLE, Clinton said this, at least Obama didn't say what this dummy said.

    He is for all people..............

    OBAMA 08

    May 30, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  4. Chuck, Democrats United We Stand

    Actually, I do not believe Obama should take any heat for what someone else says. Just as I do not believe Hillary, or McCain should take any heat for what is said by other. They, all three of them, have absolutely no control of what comes from the mouths of others. However, I feel a caviot is due about now, should something be said by member one of the campaign camps of these three candidates, then yes, they must answer for what is said. This is just another way for the media to increase it's ratings, and has nothing to do about nothing other that some priest speaking at a church became suddenly stupid. In this situation who he know, where he spoke from and what was said, is not something the candidate has no control over. The media as well as anyone that believes Obama has any responsibility needs to be careful that they are not held personally accountable for the words that flow from someone they know as they are trying to imply by some streach of the immigination Obama is.

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

    I wish preachers would stop injecting politics into their sermons. There's a reason for separation of church and state.

    Preachers are not experts in politics, so when they go off against or for a candidate, they only serve to do harm to ALL the candidates.

    That being said, I honestly feel that Geraldine Ferraro's comments have been MUCH worse than what this schmuck said. *She* needs to be denounced and repudiated by Clinton, but it will never happen.

    May 30, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  6. Bill Cosby Says

    Bill Cosby on Rev. Wright
    Article from Wall Street Journal:

    “Rev.Wright epitomizes the thoughts and actions that have prevented and continue to prevent black America from moving ahead and achieving their potential as a people. He suggests that this United States of America made up of sons and daughters of immigrants (I’m talking of the millions of 1st, 2nd, 3rd generation immigrants in this country) of every race, creed, color and religion each and everyone of them who had nothing to do with slavery, some how owe something to a group of people who have never been slaves? Its amazing. It seems everyone is to blame for the shambles black society is in with its violence, drugs, high school drop out rates, misogyny, and a host of other real and virulent problems, except for the very people who engage in such behavior.
    Enough. As a society, culture or people, they should look within themselves and fix their problems.
    When did this man become the spokesman for the ‘black church’? And of course his church is different, but that doesn’t mean his message and philosophy is acceptable, or productive or non-offensive or not-racist or indicative or our greater cultural behaviors, values and norms Americans.
    And yes, the link between this man and Obama really does matter. At a very minimum, it provides insight into the political and philosophical strain that Obama adheres to.”

    May 30, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  7. christina

    He said it and he meant...stop apologizing! Grow some balls!!!

    OBAMA '08!

    May 30, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  8. Louis

    Matter of fact, Pfledger spoke the truth. The truth is hard to swallow though. Hillary thinks she's entitled to the presidency because she is white. And whenever she says Obama cant win over white votes, she implies that she deserves it because she is white.

    How else could the truth be spoken. Get a lofe Hillary. Drop out of this race and let us face Mccain who is a replica of George Bush.

    Obama for president.

    May 30, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  9. G

    This is stupid report on other more interesting news please or I will be switching to MSNBC! So what if he mocks her SNL mocks her and we still watch that every saturday!

    May 30, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  10. MoveOn

    Why is this being beat to death?? The HRC lie about being under sniper fire in Bosnia got less air play than this foolishness. It's like the League is saying that Obama should have been able to look into the future 20 years ago and decide not to ever acknowledge Pfleger! Obama cannot control what people say or do so let's move on to McCain.

    May 30, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  11. Truth-Chicago

    Also all the commentator where saying that Hillary's crying was phony. I thought it was phony too. Also the way she used her daughter for political gain. And even Richardson, who was made my the Clintons says she feel that she has an entitlement. Was it not Richardson who sat down and watch the Super Bowl with Bill.

    May 30, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  12. Ryan

    McCain has pastor problems, Obama has pastor problems...when U.S. citizens stop putting so much weight on organized religion's opinions they'd be much better off...either that or don't be surprised when fanatics act fanatical.

    All that aside, I agree with what much of Pfleger said even if he was a bit over the top. Someone had to say it.

    Obama 08'

    May 30, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  13. A CHANGE

    Here we go once again.... attacking Obama for something he did not say at all. It is quite amazing how people are that would like to bring Obama down so fast. The Catholic church of all things on earth has not room to talk or give input about nothing. I will be so glad with this is over, because everyone is so unfair. The US has a long way to go to unite as one and I think Obama can help.

    May 30, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  14. Neutral

    Obambi can't bring people together, in fact he is doing the EXACT opposite, he is DIVIDING this country according to RACE and GENDER. Obambi is doing the DIVIDE AND CONQUER strategy, too bad middle America doesn't drink koolaid, his cult followers have been drinking for months!

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

    After hearing your linking of Obama & the idiot Catholic Priest, who was a guest speaker at the church Obama belongs to, I am starting to suspect you are a Repupbican. Obama was not even in attendance on the Sunday the priest spoke. Obama was a community organizer, naturally he had to work with any number of churches and their ministers. How would you like to be blamed for every stupid thing someone you know or have worked with has said or done? If you want to be constructive get on the case of churches who get involved
    in politics from the pulpit. If a few of them were threatened with losing their tax free status they might stick to saving souls instead of meddling in politicks. A 75 yr. old White woman

    May 30, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  16. Len

    This is a white catholic priest.What is there to say.

    May 30, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  17. RGJ

    The Catholic League should not blame Senator Obama what man said. If the shoe fit wear it. The Catholic League must focus on there owed problem instead of trying to damage Senator Obama.

    He is a good guy. He is a blesses from God. Come On Catholic League wake up. Done you see God Handwriting on the wall. He is delivery us out of Egypt. Where is your FAITH IN GOD. Stop try to find negative in the Senator and look at your heart. The truth really hurt? HUM..........

    Hillary is speaking both side of her mouth. Both party agree on the bylaw and sign it. The vote will not count. Senator Clinton said this statement out her owed mouth. But soon she realize the game is over now she want to count the vote. How can we trust a President like that. She no better then the current President. Senator Hillary statement she will do anything to winner. Come On Now who can trust her......

    May 30, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  18. MsAnnette, Little Rock, AR

    Get over it CNN and the rest of you people trying hard to make this story "grow legs". Obama had nothing to do with the comments this man made. A lot of people feel the same way about Hillary, but you need to stop trying to fault Obama for what every Tom, Dick and Harry says.
    Please, grow up and be responsible journalists....Is that asking too much???

    May 30, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  19. Demetris

    Once again, We are judging This man based on what some one else has said. This isn't a racial matter. There was really nothing controversial in his comments.. MSM need to grow some Balls

    May 30, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  20. tanner, ca

    Just another Red Flag we need to be worried about. Too many of them with this guy; not voting to protect the lives of newborns, Ayers, Farrakhan, Wright, etc. How the Democrats picked this guy over Hillary is beyond me. Just don't be mad when you lose in November.

    Hillary should join McCain. McCain/Hillary 08
    (then she'll be a shoe in for 2012 when McCain doesn't run again)

    May 30, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  21. Gerald

    The Catholic League needs to calm down, especially Donohue. Senator Obama responded appropriately under the circumstances. You can't babysit someone every time they choose to open their mouths. The Catholic league should be disciplining one of their own and not accusing Senator Obama of anything. It is however interesting how a White man and Black man of the cloth share the same ideas and do not have a problem with everyone knowing about it. Sounds like their telling the truth to me. Whether we like to admit it or not, behind closed doors we characterize race when we're upset. This was Senator Clinton's election to win and she got surprised!

    May 30, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  22. skippy

    Isn't the bigger problem that a church leader is using the pulpit to express political opinions?
    Why is it ministers and ministries can actively immerse themselves in the political process, but when it's time for them to file paperwork like every other nonprofit, they refuse?
    How many churches file 990s, an IRS form that lists the salaries of the top five officers?
    Try almost none.
    Yet ministers and ministries claim "separation of church and state."
    No one would know about this priest without his comments.
    The IRS needs to investigate.
    And Clinton's campaign should quit using the media in such a stupid way.
    And Mooney, nice way to get a top story link. I wish you had done more reporting.

    May 30, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  23. Noah

    Obama should take heat from the American people.Its becoming more obvious that this church has bred hate. Just watch the viedo and watch as the congragation cheers the pastor's hateful comments.

    This man served as one of Obama's spiritual advisors and friend for 20 years. Until this blew up, he was on the camapign as an advisor.

    Obama has yet to leave this church and it says a lot about his judgement. Does Obama feel the same way two of his pastors and advisors feel? There is a lot of hate, and I blame the Obama camp for all of it. They have played the race card against the Clinton's true friends to the black community.

    Obama should step aside. His campaign has done nothing he claimed it would do. And most of it is his doing.

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

    Father Pfleger is a priest in good standing with the Catholica church...and he was speaking in a pulpit as a priest when he said what he maybe Donohue should take it up with the Pope and not Obama.

    May 30, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  25. Jessica, MI


    Should we trot out everything controversial ever said by every Hillary supporter also? This crap doesn't reflect on the candidates at all.

    May 30, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
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