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. Alykatma

    Why should Obama take heat for this priest, he wasnt even there. When i first saw the clip I thought it was a standup comic. Not something to repeat over and over again in the news. Since this occured on Sunday and just now came out, leads me to believe this was intended to take the focus off of McClellan's book which was the hot topic yesterday. This is not news, or is it an issue

    May 30, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  2. Andy

    Um, the "Catholic League" is just Bill Donohue's mouth piece. Everyone knows that. It's just one angry guy who is not at all representative of actual Catholic people. Stop giving it legitimacy by pretending it's some sort of credible organization.

    If any candidate were affiliated with Bill Donohue and the Catholic League, that would be cause for alarm.

    May 30, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  3. David Goldman for OBAMA






    May 30, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  4. Diane

    WHY do these nut jobs keep talking? Wright, Hagee, Parsley, and now this Priest? It seems that even when a candidate has nothing to do with them their speeches (rants) are somehow tied to the candidate and somehow make him less qualified for office – MSM gives these people WAY too much air time and importance. I am Catholic and have never heard a Priest speak that way – I'm sure Obama has never heard this Priest say these things either. ENOUGH already.

    May 30, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  5. independant

    What is the deal?

    All of Obama's priests swear during their sermans. Now, after 20 long years, Obama is just now dissapointed? And I was born yesterday? Time for another speach to cover yourself, Obama.

    May 30, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  6. BlueBirdofFoxHill

    Father Pfleger is a disgrace to his Catholic Diocese and to the catholic people of the US and Chicago.

    He is a perfect example of all the "usual suspects" who are part and parcel of the Obama coterie of close friends, contacts, and long term supporters who degrade all that is decent and noble in this nation.

    That is reflective of the standards of Obama.

    and by the way....

    Seeing as CNN keeps closing comments after about 5 mins, let's try it here…

    "Who signed the agreement that MI and FL would not be allowed to seat delegates if they moved their primaries? Oh yes, Hillary Clinton." asks Pat.

    This is a very common accusation from Obama supporters. Please show me the agreement that Clinton signed stating that Florida and Michigan delegates should not be seated.

    This is the declaration they signed….

    I shall not campaign or participate in any state which schedules a presidential election primary or caucus before Feb. 5, 2008, except for the states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina, as "campaigning" is defined by rules and regulations of the DNC.

    The word participate is vague and open to interpretation, but as stated, "Campaign" is defined by the rules and regulations of the DNC.

    Here's how the DNC defines campaigning…

    "Campaigning" for purposes of this section includes, but is not limited to, purchasing print, internet, or electronic advertising that reaches a significant percentage of the voters in the aforementioned state; hiring campaign workers; opening an office; making public appearances; holding news conferences; coordinating volunteer activities; sending mail, other than fundraising requests that are also sent to potential donors in other states; using paid or volunteer phoners or automated calls to contact voters; sending emails or establishing a website specific to that state; holding events to which Democratic voters are invited; attending events sponsored by state or local Democratic organizations; or paying for campaign materials to be used in such a state. The Rules and Bylaws Committee will determine whether candidate activities are covered by this section.

    Now let me see, who purchased "electronic advertising that reaches a significant percentage of the voters" in Florida? Who held a news conference in Florida?

    That would be Obama.

    Tell me again, WHO broke the rules???

    May 30, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  7. B Not for obama

    What a disgrace to the church. This government needs to step in and strip these churches of there tax exempt status. No more federal or state funds for any church org. And once again Obama never heard such filth for 20 yrs. Does the Democratic party think that us white voters will tolerate this filth. If they think this is the candidate for the party I and my family will be switching parties. This is the filth that he has been taught along with his family and shame on his wife for getting him in this church, he should dump her under the bus along with all his so called friends. Hillary doesn't have to play the race card, his friends will do it for her. This white family will vote for John McCain if Obama is the candidate for the Democrats. Nobama , Nobama 08 yes we can

    May 30, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  8. Terry

    It is amazing to me how people can even considered voting for Obama. Of the millions and millions of people in the US this is the best we can come up with?? You can either vote for a man who is too old to be president or vote for Obama a man who is just learning and doesn't have any experience. Though Hillary can't be trusted she is the best of the three. By next week she will be out!!!!!!
    Our country is in BAD shape and the young voters are pushing Obama making him the front runner. I have some news for the Obama supporters a speech doesn't make a president. If Obama wins all who voted for him will regret it in 6 months to a year. All I can say is who ever is the vice president better be good to educate Obama. I will write in my vote for Hillary in November just like most of the Hillary supporters. I cannot look myself in the mirror and say I made the correct choice to vote for McCain or Obama.

    May 30, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  9. Dylan

    Oh please....

    People are not seriously stupid enough to let this crap dominate the news again?

    May 30, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  10. Karen in Cape Cod

    Gee another slug under a rock...what a surprise!

    May 30, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  11. Melinda Charlotte, NC

    Obama worships at a place I would not even call a church. First it was Reverend Wright, now this guy. Anyone else see a pattern? It is pathetic that a person who wishes to be the President of this great country would sit in those pews and listen to those tirades on Sundays.How could anyone possibly call Obama a unifier? I do not care if he was there when certain sermons or words were spoken or not. The cheers from the crowd when the priest ( supposedly, although I would not call him one) spewed this poison from the pulpit make it VERY clear that this behavior is not only accepted at Trinity Church but also welcomed. As I watched this unfold, I began to cry uncontrollably at what has happened to my once beloved Democratic Party. That a person would say such things and have them so accepted by the crowd made me ashamed to be a Democrat, which is why I left the party. You haters can have it if this is what it has become.

    May 30, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  12. Carrie

    I found these comments sickening. And the apology lacking - saying "if" I offended her? (Clinton) Of course the comments were offensive and intended to be so.

    However more to the point is what's up with Obama not addressing the insults and disrespet and total ignorance directly to Senator Clinton?

    May 30, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  13. Citizen

    How is the Catholic League chastising Obama? Shouldn't the Catholic League be chastising itself, because Pflegler is Catholic? Dononue, you are a clown. STFU.

    May 30, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  14. Reality Check

    The Catholic LEague works for the Clintons. They are the worst bunch of sinners I have ever known. They cannot talk. The things those folks say need to be reviewed.

    May 30, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  15. Leonardo

    This 'pastor controversy' has to stop! The one running for office is Barack Obama and not Pastor "Whoever". Voters have to start worring about the candidates and where they stand on the issues and not about what pastors or whoever are saying.
    The media has to stop putting gasoline on the fire as well. Enough of that!! Instead of fueling the fire, help voters to understand better where they stand on the issues and who would be better as president. Enough of pastors and stupid things such as.

    May 30, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  16. Natasha in Atlanta

    Ok, so now they are tying him to Obama!?? You people are getting ridiculous and this is out of hand. Obama has not even attended the church in MONTHS!!! No one has even heard of this man till he made these comments! Yet once again, you want to tie Obama to him. Give me a break. Hillarys so called minister was sent to jail for molestion?? Did anyone remeber that. She lied over and over again. Now, she is teach the world (RULES DON'T MATTER, and CAN ALWAYS BE BROKEN) I am sick of this.

    Everyone needs to get over this and Welcome that America (YES America will have their first African American President) Let's just welcome the change!!!

    OBAMA 08, 12

    May 30, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  17. Lima

    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".

    .....And this does not apply to Father Pfleger, Mr Donahue???

    May 30, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  18. HTA, Chicago, IL

    I think the religious right and left can be a pretty wild bunch. At least the religious left is more entertaining if nothing else. McCain and Obama have had a rough time with the religious groups recently.

    May 30, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  19. Debbie

    I am an Obama supporter, but I do wonder why he goes to a church that is led by such oddballs. This guy's sermon was just weird. Are all the people in the church so odd that they would find these two men's sermons so appropriate, and even clap and laugh? I mean, the white establishment deserves to be discussed, obviously, as does the history of slavery and racism, obviously again. But, why do these people think they should be so mean-spirited about it? That's not Christian. I'm tired of people claiming to be Christian when they are just plain mean-spirited! I don't see Obama like this at all - which makes it all the more puzzling. And how stupid are these two men to say the things they do when one of their parishioners is trying to be elected president? It all makes no sense.

    May 30, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  20. Patricia in Las Vegas

    ok, just because this priest gives a sermon at the Trinity Church, he "hangs" with Senator Obama? Give me a break.

    May 30, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  21. Billiam

    We blame Obama for everything. A "Catholic minister" says harsh things about Hillary Clinton and the "Catholic League" criticizes Obama–GO TO THE SOURCE!!!
    Can I criticize Obama for my cable bill?

    May 30, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  22. DJ, LA, CA

    How does that make any sense...yet again? Does Obama run the Church of Christ or the Chicago-area Catholic Church?

    How can anyone claim to hold a politician accountable for the words, actions or beliefs of religious figures or institutions?

    That's why in America there is this thing in the Constitution called seperation of Church and State. Hello?

    May 30, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  23. Obama Supporter

    Much Ado About Nothing!

    Obama 08

    May 30, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  24. k williams

    if hillary and all the racist try and steal the nom..., blacks need to unite and either dont vote or vote for maccain. how long are we going to take this crap for just being born black?, obama hasnt dont anything to clinton other than beat her fair and square. let's not take this crap. if clintion the racist thinks she will be president in this lifetime without the support of us she's really crazy. stand up for what's right black people. vote maccain or just dont vote. either one will fix the clintons just good.

    May 30, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  25. Truth Teller

    Pfleger just said what many people of color believe about Clinton - that she feels entitled to the presidency by virtue of her skin color. However, I hope that people (including the media) don't try to make Obama accountable for the words that escaped PFLEGER's mouth. Pfleger is his own man just as Obama is his own man.

    May 30, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25