Politics

San Francisco Chronicle stands by report that Obama recently talked GOTV with Jeremiah Wright

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

The San Francisco Chronicle is standing by its columnist’s report that President Barack Obama recently held a get-out-the-vote teleconference with his anti-American former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

The report appeared Oct. 20 in a column by Willie Brown, the city’s former Democratic mayor and a 15-year chairman of the state assembly.

The purpose of Obama’s teleconference, according to Brown, was to talk with faith leaders about ways to spur turnout among African-Americans.

“Brothers and sisters aren’t among the top turnout groups … [compared to 2008] this time it’s not going to be that easy,” Brown wrote.

The Obama campaign promptly denied that report.

“It is not true. … The story is totally incorrect,” Lis Smith, the campaign’s rapid-response director, said in an email to The Daily Caller.

But a senior editor at the newspaper tentatively endorsed the column’s claim on Thursday.

“We stand by what was in the column, and if that changes we will clear it up for our readers,” Trapper Byrne, the Chronicle’s deputy metro editor, wrote to TheDC.

Wright helped Obama get his start in Chicago politics during the 1980s, and conducted the marriage ceremony between Obama and his wife, Michelle.

But in 2008, Obama distanced himself from his former pastor after reporters noticed that Wright’s sermons and writings were extremely critical of the United States and white people.

The paper’s report comes at an awkward time for the president, who is now using GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s associations with a fellow Republican, Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, to portray Romney as unfair to women.

After the Obama campaign denied the claim in Brown’s column, TheDC asked Brown and the newspaper’s editors for a response.

Brown has not responded to TheDC.

“Willie Brown doesn’t work in the office and keeps an irregular schedule outside it, so we’re still looking into this,” Byrne, the paper’s deputy editor, emailed Wednesday. “He has a scheduled sit-down tomorrow [Oct. 25] with one of our reporters to go over items for the next column, so we’re planning to clear it up then.”

Byrne followed up Oct. 25, saying the paper stands by the column and offering an explanation for Brown’s silence.

“Willie Brown left town because his sister-in-law passed away in Washington state, which probably explains why he’s been hard to reach this week,” Byrne said.

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