Rev. Joseph Lowery gave the benediction at President Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009. (Photo credit: Reuters)
The reverend who delivered the benediction at President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration said Saturday he believes all white people are going to hell, according to a local Georgia newspaper.
Rev. Joseph Lowery, the civil rights icon who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said during a rally at St. James Baptist Church in Forsyth, Ga. that he's arrived back at the same view he held as a "young militant," according to the Monroe County Reporter:
Lowery said that when he was a young militant, he used to say all white folks were going to hell. Then he mellowed and just said most of them were. Now, he said, he is back to where he was.
The Reporter paraphrased Lowery's comments and did not provide a direct quote relating to those remarks. It should be noted that the reverend appeared to be using hyperbole to drive a point home, not stating a factual theological conclusion. That being said, the statement is still extremely controversial and divisive.
TheBlaze contacted St. James Baptist Church for clarification on Lowery's comments. Pastor Antonio Proctor told TheBlaze that he did in fact speak at the church but said Lowery should be the one to provide clarity to his comments, not the church.
Attempts by TheBlaze to contact Lowery were unsuccessful.
The 91-year-old Lowery was speaking at St. James Baptist Church to encourage others vote for Obama, according to the Reporter. Saying that Obama lost Georgia in 2008 by 200,000 votes, with 390,000 black people not voting, he couldn't imagine why any black person wouldn't support him for re-election.
"I don't know what kind of a n---er wouldn't vote with a black man running," Lowery said. "All that he did with the stimulus was genius. Nobody intelligent would risk this country with Romney."
Lowery also decried the harsh tone to come from this campaign cycle, saying: "I'm frightened by the level of hatred and bitterness coming out in this election."
Lowery's remarks came after he indicated last week that Obama's race would be a deciding factor in the November election, the Augusta Chronicle reported.
“If Obama was white, there would be no question on who was going to win,” Lowery said at a similar get out the vote event.
Forsyth Mayor John Howard, who reportedly opened Saturday's program at the church, said he was "pretty shocked" by Lowery's comments. He said he would have gotten up and left if a speaker had made the same remarks about black people. He also said the Bible makes no mention of skin color when talking about Hell.
"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," the mayor said.
Obama awarded Lowery the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, the nation's highest civilian award. Here's the video of Lowery delivering the benediction at Obama's 2009 inauguration:
UPDATE (10 p.m. ET): Rev. Joseph Lowery told The Daily Caller that he was only joking when he said all white people are going to hell.
“It was a joke...When I said it, I said it was a joke, I identified it as a joke,” he said.
Lowery also told TheDC that he didn't "remember" saying "I don't know what kind of a n---er wouldn't vote with a black man running."
The Blaze's Jason Howerton contributed to this report.