Lowery Defends His Criticism of Bush at Coretta King Funeral

By Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Responding to charges that he used Coretta Scott King's funeral to mount a partisan attack on President Bush, the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery said yesterday that his conservative critics do not understand black funerals and are seeking to insulate the president from independent views.

"The Republicans who are criticizing me don't understand the [tradition] of a black funeral," Lowery said in an interview. "At a black funeral we always celebrate the life of the deceased and take up the causes that the decedent championed. Mrs. King's cause was peace and racial justice, and I challenged the living to do likewise."

Since the King funeral, conservative bloggers and pundits have railed against Lowery, saying that his comments and those of former president Jimmy Carter were out of place at what was supposed to be solemn occasion.

"We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there," Lowery said during the service as Bush listened, sitting only a few feet away. "Coretta knew and we knew that there are weapons of misdirection right down here."

But, Lowery said the criticism reflects a feeling among Bush's advisers and defenders that the president should not be confronted in public by people who hold opposing views -- a sentiment, he said, that explains why the audience at so many of Bush's events is so carefully screened.

"The problem is the Republicans always want to protect Bush," Lowery said. "They don't want to expose him to independent-thinking audiences. They want to shelter him from the truth."

He added: "The Republicans played politics during Reagan's funeral. Look how political it was. They are just trying to shelter Bush from reality."

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