Obama Friend Whitaker Denies Wright Allegation of Bribe

Jun 1, 2012 5:03pm

One of President Obama’s closest friends denied to ABC News a charge against him made by the president’s former spiritual adviser, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

In a new book by conservative author Ed Klein, The Amateur, Rev. Jeremiah Wright says “after the media went ballistic on me, I received an email offering me money not to preach at all until the November presidential election.”

The friend is not named in the book, but on his media tour, Klein has said the individual about whom Wright made the allegation is Eric Whitaker, a close Obama friend since graduate school and from Chicago, and Associate Dean and Executive Vice President of the University of Chicago Medical Center.

In an email to ABC News responding to Wright’s charge, Whitaker wrote: “I have received your message asking whether I’d offered any sort of a bribe during the 2008 campaign. The answer is no. Thank you for giving me the chance to respond.” He didn’t respond to a follow-up question.

Rev. Wright did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

In his book, Klein recounted a conversation with Wright in which he described an email “from one of Barack’s closest friends.’ Klein asked: “He offered you money?” Wright responded: “Not directly. He sent the offer to one of the members of the church, who sent it to me.’” The offer was for $150,000, Wright told Klein.

When ABC News asked the White House to comment about Wright’s allegations, press secretary Jay Carney pointed to Ed Klein’s oeuvre and said the author “lacks a certain amount of credibility.”

He does. Some of Klein’s charges in previous books – many too outlandish to even repeat — have led his fellow conservatives such as Kathleen Parker,  Peggy Noonan, and John Podhoretz to disparage his journalism.

In this instance, Klein had audiotapes of his conversation with Wright, tapes provided to ABC News by the publisher. The conversation above is not among the tapes, but a different section was included, in which Wright described a 2008 meeting with then-Sen. Obama. Klein asked Wright if then-Sen. Obama was “aware that Eric Whitaker had offered you money?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t mention that,” Wright responded, saying that Obama told him it would hurt his campaign if he continued to speak in public.

The Amateur has reached the top of New York Times non-fiction best-seller list.

-Jake Tapper

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