What Was Michael Pfleger Thinking?

A campaign blog.
May 30 2008 12:35 PM

What Was Michael Pfleger Thinking?

One big question lingers over the inflammatory comments made by Father Michael Pfleger, a Chicago priest who said some not-very-nice things about Hillary Clinton at Obama’s church last Sunday: Didn’t he know he’d get in trouble?

Pfleger was fully aware of the guilt-by-association theme of this presidential campaign. In a May 4 op-ed he wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times , Pfleger mourned the fact that Obama and Wright "are suddenly being held accountable and responsible for whatever the other says. This is not being done in either of the campaigns of Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. John McCain."

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Since the beginning, Pfleger has urged Obama not to distance himself from Rev. Wright. The night before he announced his candidacy, Obama withdrew his invitation to Wright, who was planning to give the public invocation. Pfleger disagreed. "I told him I thought it was the wrong decision," he told the Christian Science Monitor .

And most recently, Pfleger defended Wright during Wright’s April media tour. Pfleger told CNN: " I think any human being that for three weeks has been demonized and trivialized and put into a caricature around the world, there's no place he can go that people have not seen him, you know, I don't think it's narcissistic to say, wait a minute, this is not me."

For someone who was so aware of the ins and outs of the Wright controversy—and who knows that sermons at the United Church of Christ are taped—it’s hard to understand why he would launch attacks on Hillary Clinton from that same pulpit. He even uttered an apology toward the end of his remarks: " Sorry ... don't want to get you into any more trouble," he said. Lynn Sweet reports that folks in Obama’s camp are baffled.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.