Tuesday's front-page unusually featured a "TV Watch" analysis by Alessandra Stanley on Jeremiah Wright's latest incendiary remarks, "Not Speaking for Obama, Pastor Speaks for Himself, at Length."
That headline marked a subtle distancing of the toxic Wright from Obama. Stanley's piece, while not exactly flattering, did the same, while being unduly indulgent of its subject.
The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. has wriggled out from under sound bites and screen-grab loops to put himself into context in that most American of ways: on television.
And he went deep into context - a rich, stem-winding brew of black history, Scripture, hallelujahs and hermeneutics. Mr. Wright, Senator Barack Obama's former pastor, was cocky, defiant, declamatory, inflammatory and mischievous, but most of all, he was all over the place, performing a television triathlon of interview, lecture and live news conference that pushed Mr. Obama aside and placed himself front and center in the presidential election campaign.
His rehabilitation tour has done no favors to the Obama campaign, which has expressed distress over Mr. Wright's timing and intemperance. "He does not speak for me; he does not speak for the campaign," Mr. Obama said Monday.
But Mr. Wright's monomania over the last three days has helped prove the point Mr. Obama made about his former pastor last month in his speech on race, in which he described Mr. Wright as "imperfect" but having also been "like family to me." Mr. Wright revealed himself to be the compelling but slightly wacky uncle who unsettles strangers but really just craves attention.
Viewers who had seen the Chicago preacher only in brief cable news clips or campaign attack ads finally saw the unexpurgated version, and it was an illuminating display.
Followers of Fox News may have been appalled by the sound bites, but so were members of Mr. Wright's congregation, including Mr. Obama, who complained that the inflammatory snippets were reductive and unfair.
Stanley probably helped Obama out a little by portraying Wright as a daffy but essentially harmless attention whore:
Now it turns out that Mr. Wright doesn't hate America, he loves the sound of his own voice. He is not out of touch with the American culture, he is the avatar of the American celebrity principle: he grabbed his 30-second spots of infamy and turned them into 15 minutes of fame.
The Times has yet to delve into everything Wright has said in three appearances - a relatively sedate sit-down interview with leftist journalist Bill Moyers, a reckless speech to an NAACP dinner Sunday night, and Monday's embarrassing performance at the National Press Club. Along the way Wright compared U.S. troops to the Roman legions who killed Jesus and reaffirmed his belief that AIDS was invented by the government to kill blacks.
One would think the Times would have been concerned over Wright's remarks at the NAACP dinner suggesting the brains of whites and blacks are different. According toa transcript, Wright said:
African and African-American children have a different way of learning.
Because they learn from a subject, not from an object. Tell me a story. They have a different way of learning. Those same children who have difficulty reading from an object and who are labeled EMH, DMH and ADD. Those children can say every word from every song on every hip hop radio station half of who's words the average adult here tonight cannot understand. Why? Because they come from a right-brained creative oral culture like the griot in Africa who can go for two or three days as oral repositories of a people's history and like the oral tradition which passed down the first five book in our Jewish bible, our Christian Bible, our Hebrew bible long before there was a written Hebrew script or alphabet. And repeat incredulously long passages like Psalm 119 using mnemonic devices using eight line stanzas. Each stanza starting with a different letter of the alphabet. That is a different way of learning. It's not deficient, it is just different.
Yet the Times glossed over Wright expounding on the differences between white and black brains and how it makes blacks gifted at hip-hop. An odd omission, compared to the Times' blanket coverage and editorial excoriation of former Harvard President Larry Summers for mildly suggesting possible differences between male and female brains.
Nick Bunkley's brief summary in Monday's paper did its best to minimize the import: "Black people speak differently, learn differently and like different types of music than whites do, he said, but similar differences exist within races as well."