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. Jeff Radun

    Mr Obama has consistantly shown he has bad judgment in who he has as friends and wants to talk with.
    Mr Wright
    Mr Pfleger
    Mr Rezko
    Mr Ayres
    North Korea
    Michelle Obama
    With these people as part of his family how can he claim to be different in a positive way, be for change and inclusive.

    May 30, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  2. Ian

    Pfleger really stated the truth. Disregarding the "black" part–which is rather divisive and against Obama's message and not true, considering all that the Clintons have done for black people–it is very true that she walked into this process feeling entitled to the nomination. It's just an uncomfortable truth and it is the reason she is acting so petulant these days.

    May 30, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  3. Pam

    Once again, it is coming to light the people that Obama hangs with. What else is going to be exposed about this man? He is an unknown and people have been incredibly gullable believing every word that has come out of his mouth. Not my candidate of choice!

    May 30, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  4. Peter in PA

    CNN, you are no different than Neo-Con network Fix News Network. This is irrelevent. You know I no longer watch CNN as I used to. I go to MSNBC now.

    I am more concerned about my future and my kids future and not some paster's comments.

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

    Obama, just cut ties with the entire church so these people can kill this issue. I am a huge supporter of you and I'm sure you will make the right decision.

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


    May 30, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  7. Sharon Evans

    The words from the Priest may be harsh, but I think they are true. Why would Hillary Clinton still be in the race when she has been told she can not win. It's because a Black Man is beating her and I do think she feel she is entitled. It's a sad statement but I think there are many white people that feel that way.

    May 30, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  8. Bukky- Balt

    You've got to be kidding. If he was freinds with ANY other catholic priest that guy would have turned out to be a child molester. Are we really going to keep attacking preacher for what they preach just because they know Obama?

    The religious right has been spewing pious hate for the past 7-8 years and now... you people want to "speak up" the catholic league is take a bite out of one of there own for political reasons....

    If he is/was such a bad catholic why have they not had him tossed out of church.... This is the must blatant much of "we cant find dirt on this guy so we will attack his preachers."

    Preacher more than most have the freedom to say WHATEVER THEY WANT (freedom of speech x freedom of religion) = Im aloud to say things that make you uncomfortable to get you thinking... THIS IS THE POINT.

    May 30, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  9. I have a goldfish

    One of my all-time favorite movies is Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles". For those of you who haven't seen it, the "N" word is said several times. If I watch that movie, does it make me a racist?

    Do you get what I'm trying to say here? Everyone in the world has some sort of tie to someone who has said something inappropriate or controversial. Who comes up with this crap and decides it to be newsworthy?

    May 30, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  10. Miche

    Hillary said:
    Hard working, WHITE hard working people support me.
    Obama can't win, because HARD WORKING WHITE, will not vote for him.
    So, how come we blame the pastor for just repeating what a candidate for president has said?
    Neither Obama or this pastor should have apologized. Hillary should apologize to American people and particularly democrats for using race to win elections in WV and KY

    May 30, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  11. TL

    I don’t think Obama or anyone should apologize anything. Yes, it sounded harsh and disrespectful. But, that’s what you got to be in the political race. Many kitchen sinks and disrespectful comments have thrown at Obama many times before. And, I never heard any apologies from the Clintons. So, be fair

    May 30, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  12. Bruce

    I think it's time Obama's famous church loses its tax-exempt status for political activity in the church!! How can that church keep its tax exempt status when others are losing their for far less?

    May 30, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  13. ms

    We are now discovering that Obama has many friends with, to put it kindly, some resentment against white people. And we do tend to judge people by their friends.


    Most voters are white. Do voters usually support people whom they suspect of being racist against them?

    Denver, we have a problem.

    May 30, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  14. Phillip

    The attacks on Obama from the Religious Right are beginning...

    May 30, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  15. Miguel Gomez

    Oh well, I guess another speech is in order now for the Obamaniacs. They just buy and accept whatever Obama has to say as the true .. not questions asked.

    May 30, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  16. Alex Stone

    It seems these controversial clerics were the only ones who weighed in on the plight of the people on the South side of Chicago. As a result of Obama opting to work with the community, why is anyone wondering why he knows these people. Where were all the saintly people when the Rev. Wrights and Father Pflegers where working in the enpoverished south side of Chicago? How was Obama to help these people without getting to deal with the influential leaders of the coomunities?

    May 30, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  17. Robert

    Oh boy. Here we go again... Yet another distraction from the fact that Obama is trouncing Hillary in every count: popular vote, majority of pledged delegates, super delegates...

    Does Obama control what this guy says? No. So why should Obama be stigmatized for what another man says?

    Come on Donohue, quit playing politics with your rhetorical questions.

    May 30, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  18. Neutral

    Obambi is the END OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY! The Dems big bosses like Pelosi, Dean, Brazile, Reid, Kennedy are not serving the will of the people in their party anymore, they've become a club for elitists and ELITIST only. To Dems, leave your party, they're subverting the will of the people.

    May 30, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  19. Ratgurl

    Seriously.... SEPARATION of CHURCH & STATE!!!!

    May 30, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  20. Mary

    Why did Jesus hang with the sinners? Why does a doctor heal the sick? They hang where they are needed. Senator Obama is not responsible for what Pfleger had to say. Maybe you should take a look at the ones being talked about. If some of you wonderful Catholic priests had chosen to hang with Pfleger maybe things things would be different.

    May 30, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  21. Tanya

    Another admirer of Louis Farrakhan for Obama!
    Sen. Obama seems to have too many friends who belong to "You are not helping!" category.
    Is he a very poor judge of character or simply goes along without thinking with his wife's choice of friends?

    May 30, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  22. dave

    Why is this a story, he doesn't speak for Obama.

    May 30, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  23. rexx

    Wow there is a shock. Obama with a crazy minister. Racism and sexism seem to be alive and well in the Obama campaign. Welcome to President McCain.

    May 30, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  24. Marie

    Clinton News Network at it again 24/7. Let yee not forget McCains pastor he sought and fought for his support. Hmmm, first CNN greatly promoted the war now, will be picking the next president. What's the phrase.." You have to be carefully taught."

    May 30, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  25. Ryan

    "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."

    Boy, that's a helpful statement Bill....exactly what's so troubling in his history? His anti-drug work, his opposition to radio shock jocks, or his outreach work to get counseling and job training for prostitutes?

    May 30, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
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