Support for Sen. Burris wanes in black community
(Updates: White House says Burris should think about future; Editor defends Burris to Raw; Illinois governor calls for his resignation)Support for embattled Sen. Roland Burris from the black community, his chief defenders during his nomination tussle with Democratic Senate leaders, is now drifting away as the revelations of just how much he kept private about his conversations and fundraising efforts for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich continue to pile up around him.
A group of black ministers, who supported him in his January effort to be seated in the Senate, now plans to ask for his resignation, reported The Associated Press on Thursday.
Clergy Speaks Interdenominational, an umbrella group that includes hundreds of Chicago’s black churches, will meet today to discuss whether it will continue to support Burris.
The revelations from Burris that he had attempted to raise money for Blagojevich while at the same time campaigning for President Obama's vacated Illinois Senate seat has resulted in predictable calls from Republicans for him to resign. They are joined in their calls by a large number of Democrats.
"Some of Burris' most vocal supporters have been mum. Rep. Bobby Rush, who famously accused Democrats of being racist for refusing to seat Burris right away, has merely said he's monitoring the situation and is still friends with the senator" reported Politico.
Sentiment in the black community is not unanimous on whether Burris should resign, but the clergy’s silence as the criticism swells around Burris “speaks volumes,” said one minister, Ira Acree, of the Greater St. John Bible Church to The Associated Press.
“I’m a little disturbed, but because of his track record, don’t want to rush to judgment,” Acree said. “But neither will I attempt to defend his actions.”
The number of newspaper editorials calling for Burris to resign continues to grow. The Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Washington Post and State Journal-Register in Springfiled, Ill. have all called on Burris to leave the Senate.
An editorial in the longtime black-owned Chicago newspaper, The Chicago Defender stopped short of calling for Burris' resignation but did say it was "time to tell the truth" about his relationship with Blagojevich.
"The circus that has swirled around U.S. Sen. Roland Burris this past week has been nothing short of an exercise in political hubris," reads The Defender's editorial. "Just when we thought that Rod Blagojevich had set new standards for political gamesmanship, now comes Burris, doing back flips, somersaults and other linguistic contortions to explain his actions while he was openly campaigning to be appointed to the Senate seat he now holds. We’re not saying Burris lied to the state Legislature. But he certainly withheld the truth, which will probably save him from a perjury charge."
Illinois governor calls for Burris to quit
Things are getting even tighter for the freshman senator.
"At an ongoing press conference, Gov. Pat Quinn just asked Sen. Roland Burris to put the needs of Illinois residents before his own and step aside," the Progress Illinois blog reports.
The newly installed governor, a longtime friend of Burris, said, "There's just too much of a cloud of controversy over the appointment process."
"Quinn said he supports a bill to fill U.S. Senate vacancies with a temporary appointee by the governor and special primary and special general election within 115 days," The Chicago-Tribune Times reports.
Days after Presidents Day, Quinn added, "Let’s do what’s right for the Land of Lincoln. Let’s put this matter behind us."
Asked about whether President Obama believes Burris should resign, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a Friday afternoon White House Press Conference that he hadn't talked to Obama specifically about it but said "I think it might be important for Senator Burris to take some time this weekend to either correct what has been said and certainly think of what lays in his future."
Yesterday, responding to the same question, Gibbs was more cautious in his phrasing about whether Burris should resign but still claimed that he had not spoken to Obama about the matter. Support from Obama was a big reason why Senate Democratic leaders dropped their resistance to seating Burris in January.
In an interview with Raw Story, Lou Ransom, executive editor of The Chicago Defender said “nobody’s hands are clean when it comes to pay-to-play” and that he didn’t think the news that Burris had unsuccessfully attempted to raise money for Blagojevich while campaigning for the senate appointment was a “disqualifying thing.”
Ransom said he wants Burris to make a clean breast of it and reveal any remaining communications he had with Blagojevich about the senate seat. Whether Burris ever lied about these contacts is a much graver concern than any pay-to-play he said.
“If he lied about it, that’s a different thing,” Ransom said, adding that some people in the black community believe Burris is being unfairly preyed upon for pay-to-play practices that are all too common in Illinois.
“[Burris’ opponents] want to disqualify him at the same time they didn’t even want him to be in office,” Ransom said, adding that he also wants to know whether Quinn will appoint someone else to fill the senate seat or call for a special election.
He added, “In the history of the U.S. Senate, there have only been five black senators and three of them came from Illinois. It may not be a black seat but we think there certainly needs to be some consideration there.”
This video is from The Associated Press, broadcast Feb. 20, 2009.
Download video via RawReplay.com
Gibbs: Burris should think about his future
This video is from CNN.com, broadcast Feb. 20, 2009.
Download video via RawReplay.com
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