Catholic Priest Makes 'Snuffed Out' Comment to Gun Shop Owner at Jesse Jackson Led Protest in Chicago

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," May 31, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.


REV. MICHAEL PFLEGER, ST. SABINA'S CHURCH: He's the owner of Chuck’s, John Riggio, R-i-g-g-i-o. We're going to find you and snuff you out. You can't keep hiding because you're afraid. Obviously, you know you're doing something wrong. You wouldn't have your business in a truck. You wouldn't have a truck pulled in front of your door, because you know you've got to hide. Like a rat, you're going to hide, but like a rat we're going to catch you and pull you out. We are not going to allow you to continue to hide when we're here.


ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: That was Reverend Michael Pfleger, a pastor at St. Sabina's Church in Chicago. He was speaking at a Rainbow-PUSH rally, threatening to, quote, "snuff out" gun shop owner John Riggio. Joining us now is the attorney for John Riggio, Bill Howard.

Mr. Howard, do you accept the explanation of the reverend's spokesperson who went on to say that he didn't realize that the word "snuff" could mean murder and that he did not intend it in that way at all? Does the man get a chance to come back and clarify his statement after he makes it?

BILL HOWARD, ATTORNEY FOR GUN SHOP OWNER: Well, I don't know that I really accept it. He actually used that phraseology twice. And given the exigencies of the circumstances, how he was speaking, his conduct, his demeanor, it's hard to believe that there was any kind of innocent thought behind it. I think he was trying to raise the ire of the crowd.

COLMES: Do you think he really wants to go and kill somebody?

HOWARD: Let's hope not.

COLMES: Do you really believe that?

HOWARD: Well, I certainly think that if the situation was reversed, and someone from the gun store or somebody affiliated with the gun store would have said something to that effect, the reaction would have been significantly different. And there would be no benefit of any doubt being made.

COLMES: But you come back and clarify the statement, and say, "I thought snuff just meant to expose," which is what his spokesperson said, and isn't that a clarification? Why can't we move on?

HOWARD: I don't accept the clarification at this point. I should state that, at this point, we are doing our due diligence to see exactly all the details that were behind it. We do have the tape. We're analyzing it now, and we're assessing what our options are.

COLMES: And I love how — now conservatives will jump on this and say, oh, look, Jesse Jackson was standing next to him, playing a game of guilt by association, some of these same people who defended Ann Coulter when she said a baseball bat's the most effective way to deal with liberals, or the only question about Clinton is whether to impeach or assassinate, or that we should put rat poison in Judge John Paul Stevens' creme brulee. And yet nobody...


COLMES: Creme?

HANNITY: Creme brulee.

COLMES: I want to make sure I get the quote right, creme brulee, a dessert Sean Hannity will be having later on this evening. And I mean it seems to me there's a partisan thing going on here, because when Ann Coulter says those things, no one is going and suing her for those kinds of statements.

HOWARD: Well, first of all, we haven't stated whether we're going to sue or, if we do, under what circumstances and what relief we'll ask for. The point here, Alan, is that this was not invited or welcomed by Mr. Riggio or anyone with his establishment or association. And all he's doing is what he's legally allowed to do. He is a federally licensed firearms salesperson. And he's following the law.


HOWARD: And no one should be accused and no one should be attacked or assaulted or threatened for following the law.

HANNITY: Bill, this is a terroristic threat, and I would take it this way. He said "snuff out" passionately. Let's not parse words here. We know what he was talking about.

And one of the big issues for me is, the Reverend Jesse Jackson stood right next to him, where he said it not once, but twice. That seems to be — isn't a terroristic a threat, a threat of violence, a crime?

HOWARD: Again, Sean, I believe that if the circumstances were different, and it wasn't Father Pfleger but someone else who was perhaps not associated with the left, as he seems to be recently, I think we'd have a different set of circumstances. And, again, this goes to the double standard that we've heard about more recently in the press, depending on who the author or the commenter is of whatever is said, the scrutiny is raised or lowered in the media, depending on who it is.

HANNITY: But the danger here is — and tell me if you think I'm wrong, Bill. If it's Al Sharpton using the phrase "white interlopers" or, you know, Louis Farrakhan using the term "blood suckers," I'm not so much afraid of this guy that made the comment as I am his influence as a so- called leader, and people that may be susceptible to thinking, "Hey, that's what he wants me to do, snuff this guy out." And you would think by now that Reverend Jackson would demand a retraction and apology and that this guy would have apologized and clarified.

HOWARD: Well, we certainly would like to see that, but there's another component here which cannot be forgotten or lost, and that is that this is a man of the cloth. And as a man of the cloth, one would hope and expect that he has his own higher standard of personal conduct.

HANNITY: Reverend Jackson is, Reverend Sharpton, and supposedly the Minister Louis Farrakhan, and they've all said outrageous statements, and made outrageous statements in their lives. But, I mean, the fear is, this is an illegal product. Interestingly to me, they're not blaming the people that are committing the violence, but the people that sell illegal product here, but that is "snuff out" can only mean one thing. How do you interpret it any other way?

HOWARD: I'm not sure that I interpret it any other way than exactly the words that were spoken.

COLMES: Bill Howard, he said what he meant. He clarified it, as I did clarify it.

HANNITY: He's trying to cover his tracks.

COLMES: He didn’t mean to say, “extinguish.” He meant is something else. It should be clear.

HOWARD: He should be much clearer. And as I said, he did say it twice. And given the circumstances in which he said it, it was a highly charged and volatile situation. It was a poor choice of words.

COLMES: Well, he now has clarified it. I hope you'll accept it. It's a great Christian tradition of forgiveness. We thank you very much for being with us.

HOWARD: Thank you for having me.

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