Racial threats were hurled at one of the District’s most prestigious Black churches after a visit from President Barack Obama on Easter Sunday. Shiloh Baptist Church, in northwest Washington, became the target of criticism after a member of the FOX Nation, a national organization of White conservatives, linked statements made by the church’s pastor on another occasion to Obama’s visit.

“We received over 100 calls, from across the U.S., that were extremely nasty, disrespectful and challenging,” said Pastor Wallace Charles Smith. “Some were so outrageous and vulgar until we had to hang up.”

Shiloh also received faxes from a group called on Obama that depicted the president as an ape. The faxes labeled the church congregation as the “Obama Ass Sniffing Chimps of Shiloh Baptist.”

One fax kept referring to Obama and the congregation as the “N” word and called for their deaths.

The matter has been turned over to Secret Service because the threats were directed at President Obama, and could be considered a hate crime.

“The calls seemingly came from people who were opposed to Obama’s policies and presidency, in general,” said Smith. “They questioned whether our church was really Christian and claimed that I was racist.”

Pastor Smith gave a speech on Jan. 15, 2010, at Eastern University in Pennsylvania. In the sermon he said people with the mentality of the Ku Klux Klan wear pin-striped suits and might be talk show hosts on FOX-TV. This angered members of the FOX Nation when it was brought to their attention by FOX host Sean Hannity, well known for his outspoken remarks against Obama.

“There might not be Jim Crow anymore… wears blue pin stripes, goes to law school and carries fancy briefs. Now Jim Crow has become James Crow, Esq. He doesn’t have to wear the white robe anymore because he can wear the protective cover of talk radio or get a regular new program on FOX,” said Smith at the university.

Hannity hosted several heated shows following the church visit, which seemingly led to the backlash against the Shiloh minister.

Several calls and e-mails were sent to FOX-TV seeking their response. However, it did not respond by AFRO press time.

“This remark was only a few minutes of my speech yet it escalated because a television personality has decided to take it out of context and label my views as racist,” Smith said. “At best, the FOX coverage was the worst journalism I’ve ever seen.”

Some Shiloh members questioned why the church should be the target of insults when the minister made the remarks outside of the church. Shiloh has a history of welcoming Republican and Democratic presidents to its services.

“If these individuals did call, they are prime examples of what Pastor Smith said. However, they have no right to threaten our church. We have done nothing wrong. We were Christians long before there was a FOX-TV and will remain in perpetuity,” said Sammie Ellis, longtime member at Shiloh.

Clint Morris, professor of journalism and graduate professor of mass communications at Howard University, said that members of FOX Nation have targeted Obama since he became the Democratic nominee for president in 2008.

“When talk show hosts do not make any efforts to dissuade people from making negative racial comments or engage in wrongful acts, they are in fact promoting this behavior,” Morris said. “Look at Donald Trump. He spent months going around the country questioning the birth certificate of President Obama just to plant doubts in people’s minds.”

Morris said new technology allows people to disguise themselves. “The Internet and electronic communications allow individuals with this kind of hatred to hide themselves and gives them opportunities to spew their racial bigotry to a wider audience,” Morris said.

According to Hannity’s website, FOX Nation is for those opposed to intolerance, excessive government control of our lives, and attempts to monopolize opinion or suppress freedom of thought, expression, and worship.

 

Valencia Mohammed

Special to the AFRO