President Obama will sit down Tuesday with about 20 black religious leaders, including representatives of the major African American denominations, in the second White House meeting in three months to discuss the needs of the black community.
The president has faced growing questions about whether he has done enough to help African Americans deal with the nation’s economic downturn. Blacks have been hurt more than other communities by the lack of jobs and the difficulty in obtaining bank financing, among other issues, and some — including political commentator Tavis Smiley and some members of the Congressional Black Caucus — say that Obama has not responded urgently.
As the criticism intensified last month, the White House paid little public attention to the critics while aides privately pushed back, citing examples of the president’s agenda, such as health care and education that specifically benefit African Americans.
Tuesday’s meeting appeared to be a clear sign that Obama has heard the complaints, especially because it precedes a gathering with a larger group of ministers in the East Room for an Easter prayer breakfast. But a White House spokesman rejected the conclusion.
“This meeting is not about politics,” spokesman Corey Ealons said. “It is about connecting with key faith leaders on the challenges impacting our nation. President Obama appreciates the acute challenges facing African Americans across the country and respects the work these pastors are doing to support the communities they serve.”