The man who tried to soar above politics has been brought back to earth by the same media organizations that helped fuel his spectacular rise. After more than a year of mostly glowing coverage, Barack Obama is having to defend his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his temerity in not sporting a flag pin, even his arugula-loving, bad-bowling, let-me-eat-my-waffle persona that fostered what Newsweek has branded "the Bubba Gap." "The media have decided to get tougher on Obama," says St. Petersburg Times media critic Eric Deggans. "There was so much talk about him getting such an easy ride that some journalists got tired of it." When the Illinois senator denounced his former pastor last week, it followed days of saturation coverage of Wright's inflammatory, sometimes eccentric remarks. The press, which was slow to recognize the importance of the Wright controversy -- videotapes of his sermons could have been purchased months earlier -- was no longer willing to dismiss the reverend as a sideshow. Still, says David Greenberg, a Rutgers University professor of journalism and history, the coverage could be far worse. For journalists, he says, "there has been a real infatuation with Obama that has served as almost an unconscious restraint" as many became "taken with the idea of demonstrating their tolerance and America's tolerance by electing a black candidate."
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