Jeremiah Wright on President Obama's faith

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," May 17, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And welcome to "Hannity" now. Earlier today, a new report in The New York Times revealed that a GOP super PAC was looking at a proposal to run ads linking President Obama to his friend Reverend Jeremiah Wright, around the time of the Democratic National Convention. And of course, the Obama campaign's initial reaction, panic. Now, the President's chief spin doctor David Axelrod quickly responded on Twitter at 5:45 this morning. He wrote, quote, "Stunning! Will Mitt Romney stand up, as John McCain did? Or allow the purveyors of slime to operate on his behalf?" Well, earlier today, Governor Romney rejected the idea of these ads. Let's listen to this.


MITT ROMNEY R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As I read the article, I want to make it very clear, I repudiate that effort. I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign. I hope that our campaigns can respectively be about the future and about issues and about a vision for America. I -- I have been disappointed in the President's campaign to date, which is focused on character assassination. I just think that we are wiser to talk about the issues of the day, what we do to get America working again. And talk about our respective records.


HANNITY: Now, Governor Romney, I have to respectfully disagree with you. Now, I do believe the economy, jobs, National Security are by far the most pressing issue facing the country today. I also feel that every candidate, though, needs to be fully vetted. Now, that's something the mainstream media failed to do back in 2008 with Barack Obama. And I believe that the president's relationship with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, a man that influenced him for over 20 years, inspired him is a very important campaign issue. After all, it is a matter of character. And we're going to have more on Governor Romney's comments later in the program with "The Five's" Kimberly Guilfoyle and Eric Bolling. But first, here is author Ed Klein. We will do what the mainstream media will not do, we will play the tapes of his recent interview with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. And joining us now is Ed Klein, the author of this controversial new book, "The Amateur." Let's start at the very beginning, about the day he announced he was going to run for president and he was going to give the invocation and the President called to tell him what topics to talk about. My name came up in this moment. But we will run this tape.


REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: Black clergy got scared because of O'Reilly and Hannity and cancelled their meeting with me. So I spent the day with Paul, in his office. Paul Sorrentino, he's a chaplain at Amherst College. And while we were there Barack called.


WRIGHT: This is the day before the announcement.

KLEIN: Before, which announcement?

WRIGHT: In Springfield. That he was running for the presidency. And he called -- when he called. He called to warn me that -- I mean not a negative warning, the first time, the first call was not a negative warning. He said, Axelrod is going to call you because we go to Iowa tomorrow and in your invocation, I was on the program to do the invocation the next morning. Don't say anything that would upset Iowa farmers. And if anything, talk about my abilities as a community organizer to reach all kinds of people. I said, I got it. I got it.


HANNITY: So, the day before President Obama announces he's running for president, Reverend Wright gets a call, he was given the invocation up to that day.

KLEIN: Yeah. He was supposed to be the reverend, the minister --

HANNITY: His pastor.

KLEIN: His pastor who was going to give the invocation for the entire ceremony.

HANNITY: And he's getting instructions from President Obama what to say and not say.

KLEIN: That's right.

HANNITY: Yeah. Don't anger the Iowa farmers.

KLEIN: Don't scare the white guys in Iowa.

HANNITY: Is that what you think he meant by that?

KLEIN: Oh I'm sure he did, yes.

HANNITY: Alright. Now, from that point, he got another call from President Obama. And then he got disinvited. Now listen to this part of the tape.


WRIGHT: At 4:30, the phone rang again. I said, hello? He said, Rev, this is Barack. He said, Rolling Stone has gotten cold on one of your sermons, it's in the weekend edition. And they have already given it to Hillary's people. It's a big mess. And well you know, you could be kind of over the top at times. And David thinks it's best that you not do the invocation tomorrow. Because if you go out in front of the public then you are going to become the focus, you are going to become the media focus and all the attention will be deflected away from my announcing my candidacy and that historic moment.


HANNITY: You know what I took out of that? You can kind of be over the top at times. I guess the president -- after being there 20 years -- really did know what Jeremiah Wright thought.

KLEIN: Yes. Of course, he did. He knew more than what he even said in the church because he and the Reverend Wright met numerous times in his private office, and he knew exactly what he stood for.

HANNITY: All right. So, now what's interesting about this, so he's denied the invocation. He gives the prayer with the family, underneath. Now, we talked about how that Reverend Wright has this box, with an e-mail, with an offer to buy his silence from a close confidante of the president, Eric Whitaker. He didn't name him in the book, but it's mentioned in the tapes.

Alright. Moving on from that because we played that -- you asked if Obama knew that Whitaker offered the money. Now, he doesn't give the answer that I would suspect. But here's what he said.


KLEIN: How long have you (INAUDIBLE)?

WRIGHT: I would say now --

KLEIN: (INAUDIBLE) Was he aware that Eric Whitaker had offered you money?

WRIGHT: I don't know. I didn't mention that.

KLEIN: But he asked you not to appear at the NAACP or the National Press Club.

WRIGHT: The National Press Club.

KLEIN: Those two things?

WRIGHT: And, no, don't do no more public speaking.

KLEIN: And don't do anymore public speaking.

WRIGHT: Anymore!

KLEIN: When did you say then?

WRIGHT: I said, how am I supposed to support my family? I have a daughter and a granddaughter in college, whose tuitions I pay.

KLEIN: Right.

WRIGHT: I have to earn money. He said I really wish you wouldn't, the press is going to eat you alive.


HANNITY: But interestingly, Jeremiah Wright did not take the money.

KLEIN: He did not take the money.

HANNITY: He was offered it.


HANNITY: Do you think it's possible that Whitaker could have made that offer just independently on his own?



KLEIN: Because I don't think Whitaker would have done something as important as that without -- first of all, he was a confidante of Barack Obama's. I mean, they were as close as brothers could be. And I don't think he would have done something as dramatic as offering $150,000 bribe without checking with his pal, Barack, and saying, maybe we should do something about silencing this minister.

HANNITY: It's interesting because later, it sounds like when Barack met with Reverend Wright in the secret meeting that Reverend Wright thought he might be being taped at that point.

KLEIN: That's right. He wondered if Barack Obama was wired.

HANNITY: Yeah, and Wright actually explains Obama had to distance himself. He was toxic, I think is the way Wright describes himself. Let's roll this tape.


WRIGHT: I'm on record. A year before he ran, saying that he would have to distance himself from me. Then I knew as a politician, if he is going to play the political game, he's going to have to distance himself from me. If you want to get elected, you want some votes - these votes -- I am toxic.


HANNITY: And this goes to that meeting where, you know, that he says to -- where Obama says to him, you know what your problem is, you have to tell the truth.

KLEIN: That's right. Exactly.


KLEIN: I mean, the whole thing is, as you say, a very shrewd and subtle disassembling of Barack Obama in front of me and describing him and showing him as the -- this kind of a sleazy politician that --

HANNITY: He goes into this. You ask him. Has he changed since he's been elected? And Wright's answer is, yes, he has.

KLEIN: Yes, he has.

HANNITY: Listen to this.


WRIGHT: He's a politician. And when I said that, people got upset. And politicians have a different set of principles.

KLEIN: But you just said he was a man of integrity and heart?

WRIGHT: Before he got in that circle.

KLEIN: Which circle?

WRIGHT: That circle of -- once you get in that -- sucked into that world.

KLEIN: Are you talking about in Springfield or later on?

WRIGHT: No, at the national level.


HANNITY: He was a man of integrity, of heart, of principles. But Reverend Wright, in this interview, knowing an important re-election is coming up and saying, he is no longer --

KLEIN: No longer that man. No longer the man that you thought he was in 2008, that the public thought he was in 2008. He has changed. He has become a different person.

HANNITY: Now, Wright did say that Obama told him that, quote, "they don't want a black man with his finger on the nuclear trigger." He is quoting Barack Obama on that, right?

KLEIN: Yes. Yes.

HANNITY: Listen to this.


WRIGHT: I remember, him saying this to me, in my home, he said, they don't want a black man with his finger on the nuclear trigger. Rev., that's what they want.

KLEIN: They don't.

WRIGHT: They don't.

KLEIN: They don't want a black man with his finger on the nuclear trigger.

WRIGHT: And that's what being the President of the United States means.

KLEIN: That's right.

WRIGHT: And that's why there is so much hatred. And that's why -- well, you say that now, but after you are elected and you are in that circle. You sit in the war room and watch a hit. That's when justice has been done. That's a professional hit. That's an assassination --

KLEIN: He said that in the living room?

WRIGHT: No, no, no, I am saying --


WRIGHT: Hey! You just sit in your war room with Hillary and Michelle and whoever else and watch with the cameras on this helmet of the Navy SEAL team, pull off a professional hit! Why don't you give the man a trial? Could it be that you don't want him on the stand telling what he knows. Why -- why murder? That's not justice! That's murder.

KLEIN: Assassination.

WRIGHT: Assassination.

KLEIN: Right.

WRIGHT: That is not the Barack - (INAUDIBLE) that's not the Barack I knew. That's not the Barack I knew across the years, that's not the Barack I knew before he got political aspirations.


HANNITY: Again, that's not the same Barack. But more importantly, what does this reveal about the president's views on race? Do you think -- what was he trying to communicate there? You were there with him?

KLEIN: Well, it was pretty clear to me that the president was saying that if he allied himself with the Reverend Wright, who was perceived as an angry black man, that the white electorate would be afraid to turn over to him the position of commander in chief in charge of nuclear weapons.

HANNITY: All right. Coming up, more of my interview with Ed Klein, some fascinating stuff coming up after the break. I am going to ask him why he -- meaning Klein, referred to me as a right-wing crazy. This answer may surprise you. Later on tonight, after Jon Lovitz made headlines with his vicious tirade against President Obama. And now in a shocking twist, he's receiving calls of support from his Hollywood friends. He's here to explain why. And did Mitt Romney make the wrong decision by saying that Wright should be off limits? That and more coming up tonight on "Hannity."


HANNITY: And welcome back to "Hannity." Here is more of my exclusive interview with author Ed Klein on the tapes of him and his interview with Reverend Wright.

Alright. He wouldn't take back the issue, this is the Sunday after 9/11, America's chickens, come home to roost. Wouldn't take it back.


HANNITY: Let's roll the tape.


KLEIN: If you had to do it over again, would you give that same sermon?

WRIGHT: Which sermon?

KLEIN: The one that was just --

WRIGHT: That was eight years ago. No! That sermon was 10 years ago.

KLEIN: Ten years ago.

WRIGHT: It was a Sunday after -- there are two different sermons. The sermon where I quoted what I heard on CNN, that (INAUDIBLE) writes about, that the Iraqi ambassador said maybe America's chickens are coming home to roost. They put those words in my mouth. (INAUDIBLE) says, you need to stop quoting people (INAUDIBLE).

KLEIN: Right.

WRIGHT: That was preached 10 years ago! 9/16/01. No, I wouldn't take it back. It's like taking back stuff I have been preaching since 1959.


HANNITY: He won't take it back.

KLEIN: No. He actually is doing two things in this interview, he's taking apart Barack Obama --

HANNITY: And defending himself.

KLEIN: -- and defending himself.

HANNITY: Yeah. Interesting. Alright. Now, you did ask, because this issue comes up about when he became a Christian. He tells a story in his book "Dreams from My Father" about how he found the black value system and he was reading it and he was fortified by tapes of Reverend Wright. I mean, very familiar with Reverend Wright.


HANNITY: And you ask about the issue. He did also talk in one of his books about, you know, how he did study the Koran and et cetera and that prayer at sunset was one of the most beautiful things in the world, but when he was a kid. And you asked Wright if he thought that Barack Obama at some point was a Muslim and this is the answer Reverend Wright gave.


KLEIN: Do you think he ever thought of himself as Muslim?

WRIGHT: No, never. It's like, I am sure he got some grief not politicizing grief, but some grief from that part of his family. And I say that based on my wide range of Muslim friends.


HANNITY: What do you think of that?

KLEIN: Well, I was very interested in another part of that, as well, which is, when I asked the Reverend Wright about this whole question of Islam and Christianity. He said, well, you know, Barack Obama was steeped in Islam. He knew a lot about Islam from his childhood. But he knew very little about Christianity. And I made it easy for him to feel not guilty about learning about Christianity without turning his back on his Islamic friends?

HANNITY: What does that mean?

KLEIN: So then I said to him, well, did you convert him from --

HANNITY: You did ask him that. I remember.

KLEIN: Yeah. I said, did you convert him? He said, it's hard to tell.

HANNITY: Interesting. Because, you know, anyone that ever -- you know brought up the fact -- because he did say in his book that he studied the Koran. OK. He studied the Koran, he didn't say he was a Muslim

KLEIN: Right.

HANNITY: He did say the prayer at sunset was beautiful. He doesn't say he was a Muslim. But if you bring it up -- oh the right wing is trying to say, you know. But, all right, I have one last question for you. You do pander throughout this interview --

KLEIN: Yes, do I.

HANNITY: To Reverend Wright.


HANNITY: You suck up to him big time.

KLEIN: Right?

HANNITY: And I don't know if you meant it. And then at one point, you even attacked me in this interview, which I was a little surprised to hear. But I'll let you explain yourself, in fairness. We will let everybody hear that as well.


KLEIN: The right-wing crazies like O'Reilly, Hannity, Glenn Beck -- I could give you a thousand of them, accuse Barack Obama of quote -- now I am just quoting them now, as having, quote, "sat in the Trinity United Church for 20 years, listening to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright." And how could he have done that without being, quote, "infected with" -- and I am quoting now -- because I don't believe this and I want you to understand that -- with his, the Reverend's "anti-American, anti-Semitic," anti -- you know, basically anti-white point of view.


HANNITY: You call me a right-wing crazy. You say you don't believe what I am saying. And yet, you are asking every question that I would have asked. And then you say, I don't know, I can't imagine, Reverend, how you could sit down without being terribly pained by this. I don't understand -- he sat in your living room. And you were so calm and he called you Reverend, you know, et cetera, et cetera. You suck up to him. You attack me. What's the story with that?

KLEIN: The story with that is to get from the Reverend Wright what I needed to get from him, I felt I needed to win over his confidence. And in doing so, I think I went too far, quite frankly. But it worked.

HANNITY: So you want to apologize to me?

KLEIN: Yes, I do.

HANNITY: Oh, I'll accept your apology. But you know, it sounded to me like you were just trying to play along -- give me more, give me more, give me more.

KLEIN: Well, I was trying to get it out of him, of course. And it worked.

HANNITY: And it worked. Wow! Fascinating three hours. This is -- we're just - - I like to listen to it in its entirety. But we obviously, we don't have enough time for a three-hour show. Ed Klein, the book is called "The Amateur." Thanks so much for being with us.

KLEIN: Thank you.

HANNITY: I appreciate it.

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