That’s Not Wright

March 25, 2008 4:38 p.m.

You can always tell when a scandal story has peaked and is ebbing, almost down to the minute: when your political opponents start to raise it explicitly against you. That was the minute I knew Bill Clinton was going to weather the Monica story — the moment when Republicans first started hitting him over it. It took a few days. And I remember rejoicing about it at the time. Same thing here with Wright. The Clinton camp can see that it’s drifting. So they’re deciding to stoke it. Also useful to get the Tuzla stuff off the front page.

Here’s one other point I want to raise about Wright. Having watched the full sermons that his sound bites were grabbed out of, it’s pretty clear to me that the snippets running on Youtube were taken out of context and heavily distorted. (But that’s life, to a degree — political hits don’t usually come packaged with extenuating context) I’m also not going to get into the business of full-scale defenses of someone who has apparently suggested that the US government had some role in “inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color.”

But in the debate about Wright, which Sen. Clinton has just reignited, it seems to be spoken of now as an unquestioned assumption that Wright traffics in racist rhetoric or hate speech. But is that really true? I’ve seen some stuff that strikes me as whacky. I’ve heard soundbites that critics would not have much trouble spinning as anti-American. But are there really quotes that justify the charge of racism? I’m not saying that purely as a rhetorical question. I have not made myself a full Wrightologist. But I do get the sense that a lot of people believe he’s so radioactive that it makes no sense to point out when others are treating as granted claims that appear demonstrably false.

The TPM Journalism Fund: A New Way To Support TPM
We're launching the TPM Journalism Fund as an additional way for readers and members to support TPM. Every dollar contributed goes toward:
  • -Hiring More Journalists
  • -Providing free memberships to those who cannot afford them
  • -Supporting independent, non-corporate journalism
Are you experiencing financial hardship?
Apply for a free community-supported membership
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: