Politics
Rev. Joseph Lowery gives the benediction during the inauguration of Barack Obama on Jan. 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) Rev. Joseph Lowery gives the benediction during the inauguration of Barack Obama on Jan. 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)  

Obama’s 2009 inauguration reverend says anti-Caucasian slam was a joke

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

Longtime African-American civil rights advocate Rev. Joseph Lowery told The Daily Caller that he was joking when he told a get-out-the-vote event that all whites will go to hell.

“It was a joke” that was supposed to show the perspective of a young militant, Lowery told TheDC. “When I said it, I said it was a joke, I identified it as a joke.”

However, attendees at the African-American event Oct. 27 were reportedly horrified.

An Oct. 31 article in the Monroe County Reporter newspaper reports that Lowery, who gave the benediction at the January 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, told the audience of up to 300 African-Americans “that when he was a young militant, he used to say all white folks were going to hell. Then he mellowed and just said most of them were. Now, he said, he is back to where he was.”

Lowery’s aide described the Oct. 27 statement as a reaction to bias against Obama: “He was saying [that] based on all of the hatred that’s going on” towards the president, Helen Butler, the executive director of Lowery’s Georgia-based Coalition for the People’s Agenda, told TheDC.

“He just felt that he should feel the way he used to feel,” Butler, who attended the rally, explained.

The speech, she said, was also intended to boost turnout in the presidential election.

Obama and his political allies are relying on high minority turnout to counter a sharp drop-off in support among mainstream white voters.

“He was trying to get people motivated to ensure they go and vote…. [and] he did make the point that there is a lot of hatred in this country,” she said.

“Of course he doesn’t believe that all whites should go to hell,” she added. “That’s not him — he’s a very caring person.”

Lowery, who gave the benediction at the January 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, told the audience of up to 300 African-Americans “that when he was a young militant, he used to say all white folks were going to hell. Then he mellowed and just said most of them were. Now, he said, he is back to where he was,” according to an Oct. 31 report in the Monroe County Reporter newspaper.

“I don’t know what kind of a n—– wouldn’t vote with a black man running,” Lowery also told the audience in the St. James Baptist Church in Forsyth, Ga., according to the Reporter.

Lowery insisted the go-to-hell statement was a joke.

However, the article also quotes Forsyth Mayor John Howard saying he was “pretty shocked” by Lowery’s comments.

Howard “said if a speaker had made the same comments about black people, he would have gotten up and left… He said the Bible gives set instructions on how to go to heaven and it doesn’t say anything about skin color … [and] he said he looked at the face of his pastor, the Rev. Antonio Proctor, and could tell he was real shocked too,” according to the Macon County Reporter account.

“Howard said he and Proctor talked about putting a video of the event on Forsyth Cable TV but decided after [Lowery’s] comments that it wasn’t a good idea,” the article said.

When asked by TheDC about the other notable comment — “what kind of a n—- wouldn’t vote with a black man running” — Lowery said he did not remember making that statement.

“I never said that, I don’t remember saying that,” he told TheDC.