PI Original Josh Kalven Tuesday March 18th, 2008, 5:58pm

Sun-Times' Sweet Fabricates Obama Flip-Flop

During his speech in Philadelphia this morning, Barack Obama said the following about his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright:

"Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make ...

During his speech in Philadelphia this morning, Barack Obama said the following about his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright:

"Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in the church? Yes."

In a blog post this afternoon, the Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet asserts that this passage contradicts Obama's statement in a March 14 interview with the paper that he "wasn't in church" when Wright made the controversial comments repeatedly aired on the cable news channels in the past week. Here's the title of Sweet's post:

"Obama now says he heard Wright make controversial remarks. Told Sun-Times Friday 'wasn't in church' during those sermons."

Sweet describes Obama's comment during the speech as an "admission" that he "personally heard some of Wright’s fiery rhetoric." But in suggesting a flip-flop on Obama's part, Sweet assumes that Obama's original remark to the Sun-Times represented a blanket denial that he had ever heard Wright say anything remotely controversial.

In fact, Obama's denial during the Sun-Times interview last Friday -- which Sweet reprints in her column -- was fairly specific. He said:

"I put out a statement today very clear about my clear rejection of the statements [by Wright] that have caused controversy. I'll be honest with you. I wasn't in church when any of those sermons were issued."

Obama denied being in attendance when Wright made the comments "that have caused controversy." -- i.e., the particular remarks that have been repeated endlessly throughout the media. In his March 14 statement, Obama referred to these specific comments by Wright as "some inflammatory and appalling remarks he made about our country, our politics, and my political opponents."

But rather than entertain the obvious possibility that both of Obama's statements could be true -- that he previously heard Wright make "remarks that could be considered controversial," but did not hear the particular comments highlighted by the media -- Sweet instead chooses to cast Obama as "admitt[ing]" something that he had purportedly denied.

Moreover, she concludes her blog post with a time-honored journalistic tradition -- attempting to read the candidate's mind:

Obama probably made that admission in his speech knowing that reporters were trying to determine if he was in church for one of Wright’s divisive missives.

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