Friday, October 24th, 2014
Mostly True
Obama
"Bill Clinton invited him (the Rev. Wright) to the White House when he was having his personal crises."

Barack Obama on Monday, March 24th, 2008 in Philadelphia

Photo, and Obama, don't lie

In an interview with Philadelphia radio talk show host Michael Smerconish on March 24, 2008, Sen. Barack Obama defended his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, noting that he was good enough at one point for the Clintons.

"But understand this, something else that I think has not gotten reported on enough, is despite these very offensive views, this guy has built one of the finest churches in Chicago. It's not some crackpot church. I mean, witness the fact that Bill Clinton invited him to the White House when he was having his personal crises."

Obama is talking about a White House prayer breakfast on Sept. 11, 1998. But this wasn't just any prayer breakfast. This was the forum Clinton chose to make his most comprehensive public apology for the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

The Clintons invited more than 100 religious leaders from around the country. And Wright, pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ, was one of them.

A few days before Obama's radio comment, the Obama campaign released a photo of Rev. Wright shaking hands with President Bill Clinton at the prayer breakfast.

Case closed. He was there.

They also provided a two-sentence letter Clinton wrote to Rev. Wright the following month.

"Thank you so much for your kind message," Clinton's letter reads. "I am touched by your prayers and by the many expressions of encouragement and support I have received from friends across the country."

The Rev. Wright's incendiary comments about America — like the oft-viewed comment about America's "chickens coming home to roost" on Sept. 11 — and his close ties as spiritual adviser to Obama have made him the most controversial figure of this presidential election season.

A couple days after the Obama campaign released the Clinton-Wright photo, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore took it one step further and claimed that during a time of marital difficulties due to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the Clintons had reached out to none other than Rev. Wright for "spiritual counseling."

According to ministers at the prayer breakfast, that's not true. Wright was merely one of more than 100 religious leaders invited to the prayer breakfast. There was no spiritual counseling.

A small team of ministers were chosen by Clinton to provide ongoing religious counseling about his indiscretions. But Wright wasn't one of them. We rule Moore's statement False.

But Obama's wording and purpose are different than Moore's. Obama merely noted that Clinton invited Wright to the White House during a time of personal crisis and didn't suggest there was some close personal tie. And by pointing out the invitation Obama was making clear that Wright was a well-regarded minister — good enough, at least, to be among a select group of religious leaders invited to the White House for an important address by Clinton.

"To my knowledge, the 100 leaders were invited on the merits of their leadership and accomplishments in their particular communities," said Dr. Gerald Mann, who delivered a prayer at the breakfast.

Listeners hearing Obama's comments might have thought Wright had a larger role at the White House than simply attending a prayer breakfast, but Obama is correct about the timing of the event. And so we find the statement Mostly True.