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. Ian

    Does anyone know where I can find he article that states what the Catholic League had to say about John McCain who sought the endorsment of Hagee??? Did they just go after Hagee or did they also go after McCain... non-partisan??? they are no more non-partisan than CNN!!!!

    May 30, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  2. Ann

    Well, superdelegates:

    Will you think twice about voting for Obama after more and more of these coming out ????!!!!

    May 30, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  3. Terrence (Winston Salem, NC)

    CNN, are you serious? Why is this an issue? I guess all the Obama haters will actually see this is as a reflection of Obama. Although there is no endorsement from any of the ministers the media sticks on Obama, all gets forgiven of McCain from his minister endorsements. Wow.

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

    Why should Barack Obama take the heat for this? You CANNOT control what other people say...........seems mighty "Fishy" that this sermon would be preached at this point when Barack is about to close this race & get the Democratic nomination. Makes ya wanna go "Hmm?"

    May 30, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  5. Hard Working Latina

    It really doesn't matter what Obama says or does because the media is out to tear him down.

    I expected it to happen. I just knew it would turn out like this in the end.

    Just as white people won't vote for Obama, I, as a Latina, will not vote for the candidate of the white "hard working" folks. Billary, we now know just what you think of the races. You will definitely get the "racist" vote.

    Who works harder that Latinos at the nastiest jobs in this country.

    May 30, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  6. rumpusgoopus

    On another note, Pfleger was pretty dead on with his comments.

    May 30, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  7. Doris

    Why should Senator Obama have to answer for this priest? Do any of these commentators go to church? If you had a quote of everything every clergyman said (particularly in Black churches), there would be no end of statements about which to claim offense. Jimmy Carter attended a church that would not allow Black people in the door but he stayed with his church, even while disagreeing with its policies.

    In contrast, Senator Clinton has made offensive statements herself, and refuses to be held accountable. Get a life. The only thing Barack Obama should answer for is what he has said–not the words of every clergyman who has ever been in his presence.

    May 30, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  8. Rod Smelser

    If the purpose of the Catholic League is to defend the free speech rights of Catholics, why are they condemning this particular priest for speaking his mind. Pfleger's opinions may upset some people, and I myself think they are a bit off-colour in their treatment of Clinton. But what is the purpose of this League if it only defends those Catholics who say non-controversial things?

    May 30, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  9. Nia

    uggg here we go.... I have a funny idea of how these posting are going to go.

    May 30, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  10. WJ from NOVA

    Here we go again? If these were the words of Obama or Hillary or McCain, then I would have a problem. These are the words of a unique individual.

    Mr. Catholic Priest, are you a bad person because other Catholic priests molested boys?

    May 30, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  11. jonny

    I think most people would agree with what this priest said, tho it was very inappropriate for him to say it, especially in a church. But you can't blame Obama for every bad thing everyone he knows says. What about all the nasty thing said by people McCain knows? McCain didn't take heat over both of his pastors nasty comments. This is no different.

    May 30, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  12. Lonnie

    All of these preachers, on every side, need to step out of politics and leave the politicking to the politicians. They need to be speaking about Biblical matters and not political ones. They need to stop spreading hatred, racism, lies, and propaganda. If they all claim to be so close to Christ then they need to start acting Christ like. It's sad when ministers involve themselves in situations for nothing more than selfish gain. And we thought our politicians were bad.


    May 30, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  13. Evan Tribley Columbus, OH

    To the rest of the world America must look like the biggest bunch of idiots ever. All I read about is racism, sexism, and religion.

    Somewhere in there I thought there was a Presidential campaign going on. I am ashamed by all of it. Here we are preaching from the soapbox about democracy and this is all we can deliver?

    I'll just keep my fingers crossed that it will get better once we actually have the nominees sorted out.

    May 30, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  14. Adriana (Ontario, Canada)

    He didn't say anything wrong.
    Bill Richardson gave a similar perspective's an entitlement!

    We should back off the guy.

    May 30, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  15. Sante

    Chicago mafia , full steam!

    Are we going to work to support lazy buggers in America and in the worl?
    It is not late Americans, please do not do the mistake that you did 8 years ago!
    Go with the known!!!

    Hillary or McCain

    May 30, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  16. what

    A League that sheilds Child Molesters has the moulth to criticize.

    May 30, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  17. Joe

    People need to grow up.

    What next? Are people going to criticize Obama for being a distant relative of Dick Cheney? Why do some idiots hold Obama accountable for every person he knows that isn't Ms. or Mr. Perfect?

    May 30, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  18. Independent for Obama

    I think the Catholic League should SHUT UP about which priests anyone should pick or not. At least as far as we know Obama avoided a CHILD MOLESTER, which is more than we can say for all the poor people SCARRED by molestation by a *Catholic* priest.

    May 30, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  19. Dave

    "Obama is friends with [insert name here], and he said somethin that could possibly be considered slightly offensive by a few people." Give me a friggin break. The G.O.P. spin-machine'll have to do better than that if they're gonna have a chance at the prez.

    OBAMA 08

    May 30, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  20. Mimi De La Cruz for OBAMA





    May 30, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  21. Nick

    It's the Catholic League that should apologize!

    After all, Pfleger is a Catholic priest!

    May 30, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  22. Nia

    Let the double standards begin.....Now!

    May 30, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  23. bill in pa

    So why isn't this catholic priest screaming at the top of his lungs that clinton is pro choice, a murderer in the eyes of the catholic church. It's time to enforce separation of church and state.

    May 30, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  24. Joe

    Is this a joke? Tell me CNN has better things to report on than garbage jounalism like this.

    May 30, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  25. jfs Memhis, Tn

    If the Catholics have issues with him why don't they defrock Him ??? I have guest speakers in my church that I do not agree with. I have worked with many people that I do not share my beliefs wit. This I ridiculous.....a guest speaker at a chy=urch in Chicago has nothing to do wiyh my shrinking pay check, or the need for health care, nor getting us out of Iraq . This sounds like a McCain and Clinton last hope. Sorry it will not work this time !!! The average voter is too smart to the SPIN now. CNN STOP PROMOTING division in ths party !!!! I'll bet this doesn't ge posted !!!

    May 30, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
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