May 13th, 2012
01:07 PM ET

Across country, black pastors weigh in on Obama's same-sex marriage support

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Washington (CNN) - Addressing his large, mostly black congregation on Sunday morning, the Rev. Wallace Charles Smith did not mince words about where he stood on President Barack Obama's newly announced support for same-sex marriage: The church is against it, he said, prompting shouts of "Amen!" from the pews.

And yet Smith hardly issued a full condemnation of the president.

"We may disagree with our president on this one issue," Smith said from the pulpit of the Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington. "But we will keep him lifted up in prayer. ... Pray for President Barack Obama."

And Smith said there were much bigger challenges facing the black community - "larger challenges that we have to struggle with" - bringing his full congregation to its feet, with many more amens.

Days after Obama announced his personal support for same-sex marriage, pastors across the country offered their Sunday-morning opinions on the development, with the words of black pastors - a key base of support for Obama in 2008, that is also largely opposed to gay marriage - carrying special weight in a presidential election year.But black pastors were hardly monolithic in addressing Obama's remarks.

In Baltimore, Emmett Burns, a politically well-connected black minister who said he supported Obama in 2008, held an event at Rising Sun Baptist Church to publicly withdraw support from the president over Obama's same-sex marriage support.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

"I love the president, but I cannot support what he has done," Burns said at the church.

In an interview with CNN, Burns predicted that Obama's support for legalized same-sex marriage would lead to his defeat in November.

The Rev. Calvin Butts, an influential black pastor in New York City, did not endorse Obama's views but denounced those who are ready to "watch others be discriminated against, marginalized, and literally hated in the name of God."

"Our God is love," he said.

And like Smith in Washington, plenty of black ministers talked about distinguishing between opposition to same-sex marriage and views about Obama.

"I don't see how you cannot talk about it," the Rev. Tim McDonald, based in Atlanta, said earlier this week. "I have to. You can say I'm opposed to it (same-sex marriage), but that doesn't mean I'm against the president."

Though African-Americans provided Obama with record support in 2008, they are also significantly more likely to oppose same-sex marriage than are whites. That may be because black Americans are more likely to frequently attend church than white Americans.

A Pew Research Center poll conducted in April found that 49% of African-Americans oppose legalized same-sex marriage, compared with 39% who support it. Among whites, by contrast, Pew found that 47% supported gay marriage, while 43% opposed it.

African-American pastors have been prominent in the movement to ban same-sex marriage. In North Carolina, black leaders helped lead the successful campaign for a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage and domestic partnerships.

In California, 70% of African-Americans supported Prop 8, the 2008 state gay marriage ban, even though 94% of black voters in California backed Obama.

McDonald, who founded a group called the African-American Ministers Leadership Council, says he opposes same-sex marriage, but that he is more concerned about issues such as health care, education and jobs.

But he says more black pastors are talking about same-sex marriage than ever before. "Three years ago, there was not even a conversation about this issue," McDoland says. "There wasn't even an entertainment of a conversation about this."

In Atlanta, at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church - where Martin Luther King Jr. got his start - the Rev. Ralph Warnock addressed the president's remarks near the end of his sermon.

"The president is entitled to his opinion," Warnock said. "He is the president of the United States, not the pastor of the United States."

Warnock said that there is a place for gays in the church, and that "we don't have to solve this today."

Black churchgoers on Sunday appeared split on same-sex marriage, though many of those opposed to it said they still supported Obama.

"It's a human rights issue, not a gay issue. All people that pay taxes should get ... the same privileges and rights," said Terence Johnson, a congregant at Salem Bible Church in Atlanta.

At Shiloh Baptist in Washington, Shauna King said she does not support same-sex marriage, but that she respects the president's decision on it.

"I think he was very honest in what he was saying and personally he decided to do that," said the 38-year-old mother of two. "As individuals, we all have to make that decision for ourselves."

"I believe it speaks to what America is," she said. "That we all have different views and are respected for our views individually."

Black opposition to same-sex marriage has dropped dramatically in recent years. In 2008, Pew found that 63% of African-Americans opposed gay marriage, 14 percentage points higher than the proportion who expressed opposition this year.

On Friday, a handful of black leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton and former NAACP leader Julian Bond, released a letter supporting Obama's position on same-sex marriage but expressing respect for those who disagree.

"The president made clear that his support is for civil marriage for same-sex couples, and he is fully committed to protecting the ability of religious institutions to make their own decisions about their own sacraments," the letter said.

"There will be those who seek to use this issue to divide our community," it continued. "As a people, we cannot afford such division."

But the letter itself was an implicit acknowledgement of discord within the African-American church community on gay marriage.

Black pastors who preach in favor of same-sex marriage know they may pay a price if they take Obama's position, says Bishop Carlton Pearson.

The Chicago-based black minister says he lost his church building and about 6,000 members when he began preaching that gays and lesbians were accepted by God.

"That's the risk that people take," he told CNN. "A lot of preachers actually don't have a theological issue. It's a business decision. They can't afford to lose their parishioners and their parsonages and salaries."

Pearson navigates the tension between the Bible's calls for holiness and justice this way: "I take the Bible seriously, just not literally," he says. "It's more important what Jesus said about God than what the church says about Jesus."

In Obama's interview with ABC this week, in which he announced his personal support for same-sex marriage, the president talked about squaring his decision with his personal religious faith.

"We are both practicing Christians, and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others," Obama said, referring to his wife, Michelle.

"But, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it's also the Golden Rule," he said. "Treat others the way you would want to be treated."

- CNN’s John Blake, Chris Boyette, Meridith Edwards, Dan Merica and Stephanie Siek contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Gay marriage • Politics

soundoff (3,700 Responses)
  1. WillieLove

    And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly

    May 15, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • YeahRight

      "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow"

      Now go read Ezekiel to understand the REAL sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, it has nothing to do with what we now know and understand about gays today.

      May 15, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  2. WillieLove

    The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God

    May 15, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      That would would only deal with Gays and Lesbians who crossdress.

      May 15, 2012 at 1:01 am |
  3. WillieLove

    Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination

    May 15, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • Jupman


      May 15, 2012 at 1:10 am |
    • WASP

      @Willie: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination"

      the spelling of LIE that you used; was it copy and paste? because that word means to not tell the truth. lye is what you do when you sleep.
      lay is what you do when put something down.
      lye is also used as a type of soap.
      so if lieing with a man is an abomination, the term you used has nothing to do with intercourse.

      May 15, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  4. GOD

    It is more acceptable to have a gay-marriage supporting president rather than a lunatic thinking that his underware has magical powers.

    Relogion is a big circus where:

    Jews are the owners
    Catholics are the beasts
    mormons are the clowns
    all others are the one that pay for the show

    GOD has Spoken

    May 15, 2012 at 12:17 am |
  5. WillieLove

    Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
    "Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
    For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
    And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet." Romans 1:24-27

    May 15, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • YeahRight

      "Romans 1:24-27"

      Don't you just love it when Christians cherry pick their bibles. Well of course you would not include 23 because it's in that scripture that the rest is put into context. They were worshiping a pagan god using sex. It has nothing to do with what we now know and understand about gays today. Part of reading comprehension 101 is you have to put it into historical context. Duh!

      May 15, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • DragonSlayer Lights Your Fire

      All this idiot WillieLove does is quote the BIBLE


      May 16, 2012 at 2:13 am |
  6. WillieLove

    But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.

    May 15, 2012 at 12:14 am |
  7. WillieLove

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.John 3:16

    He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. Romans 4:20 & 21
    To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."Romans 3:26

    Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law."Romans 3:28

    May 15, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • DragonSlayer Lights Your Fire

      [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KayBys8gaJY&w=560&h=315%5D


      May 16, 2012 at 2:15 am |
    • DragonSlayer Lights Your Fire


      May 16, 2012 at 2:17 am |
  8. brantv

    If the Christian community choose to support Mitt Romney, will you please keep in mind that the previous position of his faith was that black and whites could not marry. If you were examining the totality of both men, you will see who is the most honorable person, as it relates to the integrity of heart. The Bible teaches us that man looks at the outward appearance and God looks at the heart. The New Testament where Jesus stated I came that we may have life more abundantly gives a complete look at Jesus's character of heart. The greatest commandment is that we love ye one another. We, as African Americans, must look at how we should render those things that belong to Cesar and those things that belongs to God. We should be mindful of the fact that when the end of time comes, what questions God shall ask each one of us. When I was hungry, did you feed me? When I was thirsty, did you feed me? When I was sick, did you visit? When I was in prison, did you come unto me? When did I not do these things, when you did until the least one of you? Therefore, we must elect a president who will try to provide health care, education, affordable housing, and other important necessities.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
  9. Fred Wains

    What a joke. Watching these old black windbags trying to put a spin on Obamas support of what used to be the ultimate abomination in the black community is hilarious. The Church has been mortally wounded by Obamas statement. Over half of the Black churches are actually going against the Word and supporting Obamas generalization of this topic. This is Obamas second attack against the Church in The U.S. Wake up America, this guys a true Communist.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Aw, shut up, Chicken Little.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  10. Lizzie

    race girl, your comment shows your a person that the liberals/democrats love, follow blindly and repeat what they tell you. Have you ever watched Fox News, do you know the differance between news, commentary or political ads, or do you take everything that Maddow, Schulz, Mattews and even Maher tell you as the truth and nothing but the truth.

    May 14, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It's "YOU'RE" ya dumb azz. Really, as if anyone takes you hillbillies seriously.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Jupman

      Fox has admitted to being bais already every news orgnization is bais. Sean H. needs to get off Obama's "rooster"

      May 15, 2012 at 1:25 am |
  11. TeaPatriot

    This is a front put up by Barack HUSSEIN Obama to make you think he is cool and all..

    remember, he is part of the Obama Bin Biden team. Beware! keep up teh efforts to boot him.

    ABO! ABO! Anyone But Obama!!

    May 14, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Ignorance is bliss!

      May 15, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  12. margot wyss

    Hahahahahaahahaha good job " president Obama"

    May 14, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Did you think you were making a real comment her, idiot?

      May 14, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"It's "YOU'RE" ya dumb azz. Really, as if anyone takes you hillbillies seriously."

      I think that you meant:

      "Did you think you were making a real comment here"

      and not...

      "Did you think you were making a real comment her"

      May 15, 2012 at 1:04 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Piddler, when you figure out the difference between a typo and poor grammar, alert the media. Meanwhile, nobody cares what you think.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Scott

      tomtom...typical name calling from the left...how non-original.

      May 15, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  13. Michael

    What a paradox. This being a country founded on Christian principles. What a paradox!!! We have a professing "Christian" president supporting gay marriage and a want-to-be Mormon (non-christian) opposed to gay marriage. What is God up to? Will He convert the non-Christian? or convict and condemn the professing Christian? God is able. Maybe He is testing the character of this country. If we say that we are a Christian nation, what will we stand for?

    May 14, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • momoya

      We're not a christian nation.. You don't have any special privileges for believing a stupid myth book.

      May 14, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • BT

      Well said!

      May 14, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • BT

      Well said, MICHAEL!

      May 14, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • Ephrem Johnson

      He who is without sin let him cast the first stone

      May 14, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      OK. Momoya is the only one of you who made an iota of sense.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Jupman

      Many of the founders were secular and so was the nation what christian values? Many values christian have any being able to see the affects of his own actions she be able to do that.

      Also once founded it quckly rejected and morph it values to enslave and entire race of people and hate the for the next 250 years.

      May 15, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • YeahRight

      "Maybe He is testing the character of this country. If we say that we are a Christian nation, what will we stand for?"

      We are not a Christian nation. If you look back at our history the Christians murdered and stole the land from Native Americans, they supported slavery and denied African Americans their civil rights, the oppressed women and denied them their civil rights. It's been a long hard battle but we are now becoming a more moral nation and by giving gays their civil rights we continue down the path of better morality. The experts have shown that being gay is not a choice, it's not a mental illness and it can't be voluntarily changed. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured."

      May 15, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Scott

      It is amazing that people are equating God with slavery (which has absolutely nothing to do with this topic). The Bible never calls for the mistreatment of slaves...ever. Anyone who says otherwise is simply lying.

      May 15, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  14. demrules

    Whether Black, White, Asian, Latino, etc., no one person- including the president cannot please more than 300,000,000 people. He stated what was in his own heart realizing the potential cost, but he freed his conscience. This is more than I can say for his predecessors! As a Christian and former pastor, I can truly say that to pull support because of one issue when there are other issues that are favored is a journey that Jesus Christ himself would not venture into. When people tried asking Jesus about State or political issues concerning Caesar, He referred them back to Caesar without providing them any cause for controversy. Pastors should take heed and train their people to pray for those in authority as the Bible so instructs them to.

    May 14, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  15. racegirl1

    You may think if you don't vote for Obama you are hurting him, who you will be hurting are the 99% because if the republicans win they will take medicare, medicaid, social security, meals on wheels etc and the list goes on and on. So don't vote for the President, but I hope all of you ministers are willing and can afford to help all the people who will lose their homes, jobs and lively hood. And don't forget your contributions on Sunday will all but disappear because without jobs and money people will not be able to put much in your basket on Sunday. So ministers enjoy that big house and nice car while you can because it will soon be all gone. With Romney you can rest assured that will be the case.

    May 14, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Lizzie

      That's right race girl all the liberals and democrats have left is distortion, lies and put fear into people, but you what people are not as dumb as you believe they are, at least I hope not, otherwise we all will be in trouble.

      May 14, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • WASP

      @lizzie: "That's right race girl all the liberals and democrats have left is distortion, lies and put fear into people, but you what people are not as dumb as you believe they are, at least I hope not, otherwise we all will be in trouble."

      hmmm now let's do a count on which party has lied more, shall we? weapons of ma.ss destruction in iraq, yup them evil democrates.
      starting two wars over said weapons and spending billions in the american war machine, yup again those dastardly democrates.
      balancing the american budget and attempting to comprimise with the other party to see the american people pull through, nah democrates didn't do any of that; they blocked ever piece of paperwork that was aimed at helping their people.

      May 15, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  16. Free Your Mind And The Rest Will Follow

    What is ironic is that these people still groan under the whip of slavery.
    I read their groans and complaints in the news and shake my head in disgust at their unwillingness to release themselves from this slavery.
    This slavery is mental slavery. They are chained, mentally and emotionally, to the bigoted cults of their religion.
    The exact same religion that was used by whip-wielding slave-owners to justify their hatred of dark skin, of a foreign people they had enslaved by force.
    Yet these descendants of those slaves never escaped the mental and emotional slavery of the slave-owner's religion.
    The chains are still there.
    They chafe and bruise and break their bones with hypocrisy and bigotry and racism, just like for those long-gone slave-owners who also were slaves in this way.
    Mental chains of bigotry and delusion. Emotional chains of group identlty, of hate, of false comfort, of having no ability to think for themselves because they were born into this slavery.

    It is slavery born of ignorance, of indoctrination, of the brutal emotional "beat-downs" of their own family members and neighbors.

    Born into this slavery, or caught and sold to the slave-owning churches from outside the group, these people have no hope for freedom.
    They have had their hope for freedom stolen from them, covered over with lies, fooled into thinking their chains are freedom, that their chains are made of hope.
    But chains are chains.
    They remain slaves who have been brainwashed to refuse freedom, brainwashed to refuse real hope, brainwashed to fight against anything that goes against their slavery!
    Religion has made them slaves that forge the chains of their own bondage, their own servitude to the bigoted delusions of their religion.
    How can I blame them in their ignorance and seeing the delusional strength of their mental chains?
    I do not hate them. I very much want them to be free and happy to the greatest extent possible.
    But I do not have anything but words like this to saw away frantically at those chains...those chains upon my brothers and sisters no matter who they are or what they look like.
    I attack their chains over and over with my words of truth, of honesty and compassion. I use much of my strength and love to attack the chains that destroy their lives and warp their minds. I spend hours of my life doing this for them.

    And no, they did not ask me for this. Such slaves as they have become would never ask for freedom because these are chains upon their minds and emotions. The chains are always disguised, always made of lies, and are almost unbreakable.

    Yet I try. I seek their freedom from the lies they cannot break, the lies they cannot and will not fight.
    I seek to release them from their mental slavery even as they attack me for daring to even touch their chains.
    It is very sad and horrifying to see the sheer scope of what I am attempting to do.
    I have shed tears more than once over the plight of those who are mental slaves to lies, to bigotry based on lies, to hate born of fear and ignorance.
    But I will keep hacking away at those chains. I can do nothing less if I want them to be free. And I do. Very much.

    May 14, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • BJ

      Our minds are free. Hopefully you can free yours.

      Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

      Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 1 Corinthians 6:19

      For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:20

      May 14, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship"

      Sacrifice to what? God? Why does god need so many sacrifices? If god is truly perfect god should not need or want anything, otherwise god is not perfect. So which is it?

      May 14, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • BJ

      God is perfect. We are not. He does not answer to us. We must answer to Him. Sin was introduced to the world and then imperfection came upon us. It was a choice. Our forefathers made the choice. Not God. But He is waiting for you to return to Him. He has not moved. He is always there to receive you.

      The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs 1:7

      May 14, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Quote scripture all you wish, honey, but none of your drivel while matter a whit is you can't provide any support to the mother o fyou progeny.

      Are you going to deny him forever?

      May 14, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • BJ

      –God sacrificed for us. Is He asking too much of you?

      "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

      But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
      New Living Translation (©2007) Romans 5:8

      May 14, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • BJ

      Tom, Tom

      God loves you too! All of my children are grown and successful and Christians. What do you have to say. Not to worry though because:

      And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:19

      May 14, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims


      You didn't answer the question, if god is perfect why does he need sacrifices or worship?

      Quoting the bible is useless to the arguement..

      May 15, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  17. Henry Edge

    "Those who stand for nothing will fall for anything". I'm black and if you back a President who opposes your religious and spiritual convictions just because he's of the same color as you, then you've got some racist mentality that ought to be cured... the unintended consequences of Obama's proclamation will cost him this election.

    May 14, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • momoya

      Why will it cost him the election.. I would think that the majority of people who would be offended by his recent remarks wouldn't be voting for him anyway.. Do you think that he should have lied about his views in order to retain his political vantage point?

      May 14, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims


      People like yourself get the idea of supporting someones rights to a freedom and condoning the action of the freedom confused. I can support a racists freedom of speech and hate what he actually says. You need to have the maturity to allow freedoms even though you may not like the result.

      May 14, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • DrDoITT

      Amen, Bro

      I'm either abstaining or voting for Romney for this same reason. Last time I voted for Obama. Will be sad to see someone of my background be a one term president.

      May 14, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Rina


      " Will be sad to see someone of my background be a one term president." You are NOT of Obama's background obviously. He is a finer person

      May 14, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  18. Bisoncookie


    OBAMA VS. OBAMA (Fox News)


    May 14, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • racegirl1

      If it is on faux news it's not worth watching or the time of day. The rest of us live in the real world, faux live in a racist hate infested environment that hate this President because he is black.

      May 14, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  19. Solo

    Why is it necessary for Black pastors to offer an opinion? Is there a racial difference that I am now aware of?

    May 14, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  20. Joe

    To Sam stone, It is cal seperation I guess between private and public. It is a private group ,the to allow the beliefs to dictate their life. That is the purpose of the word of god is to dictate your walk and how you Live. Read Psalm 1:1-3.

    May 14, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.