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. Greg

    Doesn't sound like the Catholic League is very "non-partisan" now does it?

    What business does this person have attacking Obama for having relationships with certain clergy members?

    Agree that the clergy needs to stay out of this election but it goes both ways.

    Don't disagree with what the Pfleger said at all, but he should not have said it.

    All of this means absolutely nothing.

    May 30, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  2. Pete

    As long as he isn't molesting kids, I don't care.

    May 30, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  3. Vakeel

    Way too many incidents for it to be a coincidence. Wake up people; where there is this much smoke, there is a fire.

    How he is going to wiggle his way out of this mess. Oh wait, I know, another eloquent speech with lots and lots of flags behind him.

    Why is this story not on the front page, rather than buried in the ticker?

    May 30, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  4. Kenneth M


    May 30, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  5. Karin

    Once again someone is talking, yet it's not Obama.

    Someone talks in Hillary's camp, and usually it's her, but she rarely has to apologze.

    Yet, on this they will want Obama to apologize for words not coming out of his mouth.

    He doesn't have to. Nor does he have to explain them away. Go to the source to get the answer...not Obama.

    May 30, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  6. walt1

    You will know a person by the company he keeps: Rev. Wright, Louis Farrakhan and Michael Pfleger-and, a father who deserted him and wanted nothing to do with him.

    May 30, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  7. Darth Vadik, CA

    oh for the love of everything Holly, what is Obama supposed to do about this.
    Give me a break.

    May 30, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  8. J. M. (WA)

    Obama is an opportunistic and will do and say whatever is needed in order to get elected. But again white folks always feel very entitled so maybe this guy is right after all.

    May 30, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  9. AA

    Yea, OK Kettle, see The Pot over there?

    Care if we look a little closer into conduct of the other wonderful Catholic priests in the south and maybe discuss alter boys hmm?

    The amount of divisive hypocrisy that is spewed from the religious right is mind-numbing, who in the world do they think they are pointing a finger at ANYONE.

    May 30, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  10. CB


    The amount of priests and pastors and reverends who have said offensive political stuff is repulsivie! ON BOTH SIDES! They are not polititians, they are not running for office.

    CNN – START REPORTING SOME REAL NEWS, Like the McCain gaffes on Iraq for starters and his claim he would be the CHIEF NEGOTIATOR of Isreali/Palestinian settlements – without even being asked to play such a role!

    May 30, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  11. Amy

    Wait, did I miss something?
    If I'm a minister or priest and I basically say what Hillary Clinton is thinking and saying to herself, then you can blame someone else who didn't say but I'm connected to??? Cool!

    CNN, NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR THIS GARBAGE! IT'S NOT NEWS WORTHY!! All it does is shift the garbage from one guys side of the street to his neighbors place...but it's not his neighbors garbage! Stop playing wedge politics and making the HALF black guy out to be a racist. That's like Barack hating his own mother...that raised him. Geez you guys at CNN really are starting to anger me.

    I know you don't have the guts to print this.

    May 30, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  12. s

    This is ridiculous! We've all been talking about the same thing, but when someone with a close 'six degree' relation to obama says it the media goes crazy.

    The media failed years ago when they didn't properly question the iraq war. And, now they're losing sight AGAIN by focusing on the silly topics again.

    What a shame!

    May 30, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  13. David

    Seriously – who the f- cares?

    Given the racist tone of the Clinton campaign, I can't even disagree with the comment.

    Move on, Clinton News Network.

    May 30, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  14. Ron L

    Only TWO questions..IF Pfleger is such a BAD priest why doesn't the Catholic League step up to him and take his church?

    WHY are we making candidates responsible for what these KNUCKLEHEADS say???

    This is a VERY BAD trend, that needs to be nipped in the bud. Candidates can not and should not be responsible for everything any one says that they may know. It's just ridiculous.

    May 30, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  15. ChicoSez

    Watching the Obamabots try to spin this one is great. BO only knew this priest for 15 years so he wasn't really close. The priest was only another spiritual adviser but that relly doesn't count since BO doesn't really need spiritual advising because BO is the second coming personified. Bo can do no wrong so it must be Cliknton's fault.
    Birds of a feather flock together and why did BO send his children to this hatefilled 'church'? It must be because BO wants his kids to believe like the church does. I'm another lifelong dem who will vote for anybody but BO.

    May 30, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  16. Tom, St. Paul

    While I don't agree with his strident tactics, it is clear to this Roman Catholic that Father Pfluger is clearly living the gospel of Jesus. The Catholic Leauge types who fail to see this are clueless. They are so caught up in their obsession with abortion that they fail to see the true Christianity that Father Pflueger represents.

    May 30, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  17. Greg

    People are paying too much attention to stuff like this... who cares?

    May 30, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  18. mac k

    Has the catholic church taken away his priesthood? When did they take notice of this priest? Of course not .

    May 30, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  19. Christina

    Please remember that our country has a separation of church and state. We should not hold any of the candidates accountable for what their pastors, priests or rabbis say, How many of us have rolled our eyes listening to a sermon? Let's stay focused on what the candidate says and does. Please.

    May 30, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  20. Frankie

    More of this to come before the general election. We need to stand clear that these attack will only hurt Obama or will it? There is too little to know about this guy, what else is out there??? I realize that there are the Swift Boat for truth and other conservative out there that will literally attack Obama at all sides. We need to realize that these attacks are based on opinion and not facts. We cannot be distracted from the truth, the damaging economy, the incredibly shinking dollar, high gas prices, the endless war in Iraq the Recession and whatever problems 30 years of Bush has left this country. Let's face it, we are up to our eyeballs in problems, do we need a repeat of this? I say no!!! Whichever Democrat wins this primary, I wish them the best. We need to work this out together. God Bless America, if a Democrat does not win in November, it will take divine intervention to save us.

    May 30, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  21. Alfredo

    That is what Obama and his allies, Wright and Rezco deserves.
    Way to go President HIllary!!!

    May 30, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  22. mike

    Are you kidding me? The Catholic League is throwing Pfleger under the bus for calling Hillary a whiny baby. What about the truck loads of priests that have molested kids? I think their surprise and outrage is little misplaced.

    May 30, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  23. bettee

    But what he said was so funny and so true

    May 30, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  24. Pchapin

    Just another example of the truth about Obama finally coming out & showing he is not as innocent as at first he appears. He's just another politician that will do & say whatever to get ahead. I realize he has no control over what others say or do, but isn't it ironic that the most devisive rhetoric seems to be coming from persons he is connected to. Maybe at last democrats & pundits will finally see that Obama can not defeat John McCain in the fall? I will however admit that if he gets the nomination I will vote for him as the lesser of two evils, but I won't like it.

    May 30, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  25. Glenn

    If the Catholic League was truly a Christian organization, it wouldn't criticize anyone. Jesus says don't judge others. maybe the Catholic League needs to reexamine itself in light of Christ's teachings. Seems like there is some truly mean spiritedness on the part of the Catholic League. God is watching us!

    May 30, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
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