By Felicia Sonmez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 30, 2010; A4
Conservative commentator Glenn Beck voiced sharper criticism of President Obama's religious beliefs on Sunday than he and other speakers offered from the podium of the rally Beck organized at the Lincoln Memorial a day earlier.
During an interview on "Fox News Sunday," which was filmed after Saturday's rally, Beck claimed that Obama "is a guy who understands the world through liberation theology, which is oppressor-and-victim."
"People aren't recognizing his version of Christianity," Beck added.
Beck's attacks represent a continuing attempt to characterize Obama as a radical, an approach that has prompted anxiety among some Republicans, who worry that Beck's rhetoric could backfire. The White House has all but ignored his accusations, but some Democrats have pointed to the Fox News host to portray Republicans as extreme and out of touch.
Beck made the remarks in answer to a question about his previous accusation that Obama was a "racist" who has "a deep-seated hatred for white people." He contended that that statement "was not accurate" and that he had "miscast" Obama's religious beliefs as racism.
Obama told NBC's Brian Williams on Sunday that he hadn't watched the Lincoln Memorial event but that he supported the right of Beck and his supporters to rally.
Obama said that given the country's economic and national security woes, "it's not surprising that somebody like a Mr. Beck is able to stir up a certain portion of the country."
The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., the onetime pastor of Obama's former church in Chicago, is an adherent of black liberation theology, which centers on the struggles of African Americans and the importance of empowering the oppressed. Obama severed ties with Wright during the presidential campaign after some of the minister's inflammatory language drew controversy.
Beck, on his Fox News show last Tuesday, said that liberation theology is at the core of Obama's "belief structure."
"You see, it's all about victims and victimhood; oppressors and the oppressed; reparations, not repentance; collectivism, not individual salvation. I don't know what that is, other than it's not Muslim, it's not Christian. It's a perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ as most Christians know it," Beck said.
Earlier this month, a Pew Research Center survey revealed widespread confusion over Obama's religion. A plurality of the poll's respondents, 43 percent, said they did not know which religion Obama practices. The White House responded in a statement after the poll's release, reiterating that Obama "is a committed Christian."
Obama, asked on NBC about polls showing confusion over his religion, pointed to "a network of misinformation that in a new media era can get churned out there constantly."
In the wake of Saturday's rally, Democrats have gone on the offensive against Republicans by claiming that the event was evidence that the GOP has been overtaken by extreme elements in the party. Republicans have taken a more muted approach to the event, with some avoiding any mention of it altogether.
On CBS's "Face the Nation," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said that the rally made clear that "there is a raging battle going on within the Republican Party for the heart and soul of the Republican Party."
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, head of the Republican Governors Association, responded that the rally was a reaction to the Obama administration and congressional Democrats, who he said "have taken the biggest lurch to the left in policy in American history."
Estimates on the size of the rally have varied widely. According to one commissioned by CBS News, 87,000 people attended the event. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R), who also spoke at the event, told a reporter afterward that she thought more than 100,000 people had attended.
Beck said that the crowd was between 300,000 and 650,000, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), speaking at her own event after the rally, said that no fewer than 1 million people had been in attendance.
Also in Sunday's interview, Beck dispelled rumors that he might be considering a run for president in 2012, with Palin as his running mate.
"Not a chance. I don't know what Sarah is doing. I hope to be on vacation," Beck said, adding: "I don't think that I would be electable."