FORSYTH, Ga. (CBS Atlanta) — The reverend who gave the benediction during President Barack Obama’s inauguration said America is “going to hell,” and white people may go with it.
Rev. Joseph Lowery, 91, made the comments at St. James Baptist Church in Forsyth, Ga., as part of a Southern Christian Leadership Conference tour to encourage African-Americans to vote for Obama, according to the Monroe County Reporter.
The paper reports that Lowery apparently told parishioners in the crowd that he is back to believing that all white people will not get into heaven because of what’s been happening during the campaign.
“I’m frightened by the level of hatred and bitterness coming out in this election,” Lowery said, according to the County Reporter.
Lowery blasted blacks for costing Obama the state of Georgia in the 2008 election because 390,000 African-Americans decided to stay home and not vote.
“I don’t know what kind of a n***** wouldn’t vote with a black man running,” Lowery extolled, according to the paper. “All that he did with the stimulus was genius. Nobody intelligent would risk this country with Romney.”
Lowery added that “America is going to hell in a hand basket.”
Lowery tells The Daily Caller that the white people comment was a joke and that he doesn’t remember saying the “n” word.
“Of course he doesn’t believe that all whites should go to hell,” Helen Butler, executive director of Lowery’s Georgia-based Coalition for the People’s Agenda, told The Daily Caller.
Forsyth Mayor John Howard, who took part in the event, told the County Reporter that he was “pretty shocked” by Lowery’s statement.
“The Bible doesn’t say anything about white or black to go to heaven,” Howard said. “I have great number of black and white friends. I’ve been in the military. I make friends with everybody. I’m too old for enemies.”
Lowery, along with Martin Luther King, helped founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957.
Obama awarded Lowery with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.