Shiloh Baptist Church receives threats after comments from Sean Hannity

Shiloh Baptist Church in the District said it has received threatening phone calls and e-mails after an Easter visit from President Obama and a conservative television commentator’s subsequent playing of a videotape in which the pastor said that those espousing racial prejudice do so “under the protective cover of talk radio.”

The Rev. Wallace Charles Smith said the church has received more than 100 threats since Fox News channel’s Sean Hannity aired a tape Monday of a speech Smith gave in January 2010 at Eastern University in Saint Davids, Pa.

“We received a fax that had the image of a monkey with a target across is face,” Smith said. “My secretary has received telephone calls that have been so vulgar until she has had to hang up.”

Smith, who shared several of the e-mails with The Post, said he had not notified authorities but is consulting with church leaders about what to do.

On Sunday, Obama and the first family visited the church, founded in the 1860s by former slaves. On Monday, Hannity aired a clip of a speech Smith gave when he served as president of Palmer Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

“It may not be Jim Crow anymore,” Smith says in the videotape. “Now, Jim Crow wears blue pinstripes, goes to law school and carries fancy briefs in cases. And now, Jim Crow has become James Crow, esquire. And he doesn’t have to wear white robes anymore because now he can wear the protective cover of talk radio or can get a regular news program on Fox.”

Smith, 62, said that he had been asked to give a speech on racism and that he “was giving some background on what I thought were some of the issues regarding race in this country.”

Hannity compared Smith to Obama’s controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whom Obama denounced after YouTube videos surfaced showing Wright saying that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were “America’s chickens . . . coming home to roost.”

(See a Washington Post interview with Wright from March 2010.)

“Wright’s contentious sermons hit the airwaves and forced Obama eventually to denounce his spiritual leader of more than 20 years,” Hannity said. “Now, here’s the twist: Dr. Wallace Charles Smith doesn’t think that there’s anything wrong with what Jeremiah Wright preached.

“I don’t believe that it is a coincidence out of all the churches in the country that Obama finds himself sitting in, why is he always in pews listening to such controversial spiritual leaders?” Hannity said.

In an e-mail Wednesday, Hannity said he sought out comment from Smith and offered him “an open invitation to explain his comments on our show and he refused. We played his own words in full context but now it’s time for him to explain.”

Several presidents have worshipped at Shiloh over the decades, including Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Hamil Harris is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of The Washington Post.
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