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Every denomination needs one of these...

Wright Comes Unhinged - UCC in damage control

Friday, March 23, 2007

Jeremiah Wright, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, has certainly enjoyed his recent notoriety as presidential candidate Barack Obama's pastor... but not all of the publicity is good. As a consequence, Wright imposed some highly restrictive rules on media access. According to Newsweek:
Wright's Chicago mega-church, Trinity United Church of Christ, imposes strict requirements on journalists who want to speak to the pastor. Reporters must sign two sets of legal papers on behalf of their news organizations before any interviews in order to be allowed inside the church.

The church has a list of what it calls "policies and procedures for use with outside media sources" or OMS for short. The paperwork states that the journalist will "fact-check the article" with the reverend's daughter, Jeri Wright, who is his media services director. The journalist also agrees to "give a full and fair idea of what to expect from the story." In addition, the journalist promises to give the church "any quotes derived from the interview process, prior to publication" and promises that all published quotes "are original quotes and will not be altered by the OMS in any way."

The second agreement, entitled "official waiver for use with outside media sources," states that "any infraction" of the church's OMS policies and procedures would lead to the reporter's "immediate removal" from the church and the confiscation of all interview notes and photos.

A church spokesperson told Newsweek the papers were designed to "protect our church and its pastoral staff and congregation."
According to Newsweek, New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor "agreed to the restrictions and signed the papers" before her recent interview with Wright. Kantor's subsequent article revealed that Wright had been "disinvited" from speaking at Obama's presidential announcement last month. According to the article, Wright "expressed disappointment but no surprise that Mr. Obama might try to play down their connection."

That's not exactly the message Wright wanted to convey - but it's the same message he's repeated well before the New York Times interview.

During a worship service at Trinity after the article was published, a recorded message from Wright was played for the congregation in which he told the church, "the press is not to be trusted. ... Don't let somebody outside our camp divide us."

Wright then did what every subject of an unfavorable article does... he chastised the author for not spinning the article they way he expected. In a letter to Kantor printed in the church's bulletin, Wright ripped the author for "engaging in one of the biggest misrepresentations of the truth I have ever seen in sixty-five years". Although Wright never denies making the statements to the Times in his letter, he does offer this tidbit:
The president of our denomination, the Reverend John Thomas, has offered to try to help you clarify in your confused head what Trinity Church is even though you spent the entire weekend with us setting me up to interview me for what turned out to be a smear of the Senator; and yet The New York Times continues to roll on making the truth what it wants to be the truth.
It probably not coincidental that UC News published a story titled "Obama remains 'proud' of his pastor, Trinity UCC" based on part of the transcript from Lawton's PBS show. Although the PBS interview with Wright was taped a month before the New York Times article, Wright acknowledged essentially the same thing the New York Times reported:
In fact, I just shared with, I was trying to remember who it is, somebody in public life was asking me about Barack, and I said listen, Barack might be forced by the media and/or by supporters to be very absent from this church and to put distance between our church and himself.
The New York Times article was no more a smear than the PBS interview... but it was the attention that the Times article brought that's caused Wright to react so adversely. Instead of trying to restrict what the media reports, Wright might be better served to restrict what he tells the media in the first place.
posted by UCCtruths, Friday, March 23, 2007


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