The Moyers/Wright Fiasco

I watched all of the love-in on 25 April of Bill Moyers and the Reverend Doctor Jeremiah Wright on the Moyers PBS program Moyers Journal, partly funded by the U.S. government. Wright was glib and Moyers played the "innocent," apparently naïve (that puzzled look) at not knowing the "facts" behind Wright's life, church and his performances.

Moyers began the program by explaining that he, too, was a member of a church affiliated, like Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ, with the United Church of Christ denomination, but that he also attended Baptist-related Riverside Church in New York City. In early 2007, he was advertised for some time as a main speaker in the Baptist-only speaker-lineup at the New Baptist Covenant Celebration concocted by former presidents Carter and Clinton and held in Atlanta earlier this year. Suddenly, Moyers had to be excused. Coincidentally, he was a main speaker at the annual United Church of Christ synod on 23 June 2007, when he mentioned his 40-year UCC-membership, making him, of course, actually not a Baptist at all. What did Carter and Clinton know and when did they know it? Moyers knew. So much for his honesty!

Wright was obsessed with the subject of slavery and, strangely, apartheid. He claimed that Americans, due to faulty public education (truth not taught), don't know about such things as M.L. King, Jr. or the "trail of tears" and made much of Psalm 137, dealing with the matter of revenge, claiming that God wants redemption while the people (his people, apparently) want revenge. He didn't mention from whom the Indians took their lands or the fact that Africans sold each other into slavery or the monstrous terroristic violence each group visited upon its enemies.

The usual good things mentioned when bad things or rantings are in evidence were enumerated with respect to what Wright's church does; however, those things are no different from the ministries of many mega-churches and smaller churches throughout the country. Wright's history and education were touched-on – son and grandson of ministers, military experience, education, even a clip of Wright as an attendant (navy medic) when president Johnson had his gall bladder operation in the 60s.

Wright blamed the "corporate media" for its spreading of disinformation, apparently referring to its constant use of the "sound-bites" of his anti-American, white-hating rants. However, one of his most revealing statements was made in answer to Moyers' reminder that Barack Obama had said harsh and repudiating things about Wright's rants, to wit, that…well, Obama is a politician while Wright is a pastor. Translation: Politicians lie and pastors tell the truth.

Wright explained the emphasis of the church on maintaining the African nature of its congregants. Moyers did not ask about the church's documented self-description: "We are an African people, and remain 'true to our native land,' the mother continent, the cradle of civilization." He could have asked what "true to our native land" means, but he didn't, obviously for good reason. Wright did get in a plug for the Honorable Minister Louis (Calypso Louie) Farrakhan, rabid anti-Semite and head of the Nation of Islam, with whom he made a visit to consult with Libya's terrorist President Qadaffi in 1984.

Moyers made a damning mistake – unbelievable, actually, since the whole program was designed to vindicate Wright's racist hate-mongering rants. He used some of the "sound-bite" clips in their context, meaning, for instance, that he produced Wright in his almost hysterical frenzy as he built up to his repeated "God Damn America" phrases in the "chickens-coming-home" sermon on the Sunday after 9/11, during which the congregation was up and clapping and apparently celebrating the events of that day. He brought in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but Moyers didn't ask him about the millions of lives saved through those actions – both Japanese and American.

But even in the "context thing," Moyers let Wright off the hook. He didn't ask Wright for the evidence of Wright's monstrous accusation, well documented, that the U.S. government plagued African Americans with HIV/AIDS, apparently to get rid of them. Wright, the keynote speaker at its convention in 2007, is a darling of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N'COBRA). Moyers didn't ask Wright about this connection because Wright makes no bones about the country "owing" him and his.

Moyers didn't ask Wright about his allusion in one (probably more than one) of his sermons concerning the "Tuskegee Experiment," in which the government used black men as guinea pigs to study syphilis, without their knowledge. The reason: Tuskegee, a black college, was firmly in favor of and a part of that "experiment," even sending its pre-med students – all black – through the exercise that went on for decades, starting in the 30s.

The ancillary goal of the interview was, of course, the separation of Barack Obama from anything un-American by making Wright, his acknowledged mentor and spiritual adviser, appear as an America-loving "prophet" preaching to the people, like Isaiah of old. It didn't wash. Moyers should never have played those clips. They made Wright appear as just one step away from hysteria in his racist denunciations of this country, spouting untruths or half-truths and revving up his parishioners into spasms of hatred. This will come back to haunt Obama, and Wright seems determined to keep himself in the public eye, thus continuing the haunting.