The invocation delivered by the Rev. Gene Robinson, an openly gay Episcopalian bishop, during a Jan. 18 inauguration event was heard by the hundreds of thousands who assembled at the Lincoln Memorial — but not by the rest of the nation who tuned in to watch the event live on television.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced several weeks ago that Robinson would deliver the opening prayer to kick off the inauguration ceremonies, a move that was lauded by LGBT advocates. Obama had been under fire from the LGBT and ally communities after selecting antigay pastor Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the prayer during the Jan. 20 inauguration.
HBO reportedly paid $2 million for exclusive rights to “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial.” Robinson delivered his prayer at 2:25 p.m., but the HBO coverage did not begin until five minutes later.
The PIC took the blame for the gaffe, saying it mistakenly categorized the prayer as “pre-show” rather than the actual program.
“We had always intended and planned for Rt. Rev. Robinson’s invocation to be included in the televised portion of [the] program,” said Josh Earnest, PIC communications director. “We regret the error in executing this plan — but are gratified that hundreds of thousands of people who gathered on the Mall heard his eloquent prayer for our nation that was a fitting start to our event.”
An HBO statement released Jan. 20 concurred that the scheduling decision was made by PIC and not the network.
“Rev. Robinson’s invocation was not included in the live presentation due to a miscommunication within the Presidential Inaugural Committee,” it stated.
HBO re-aired the entire program, including Robinson’s invocation, Jan. 21 and will show it again at 6 p.m. tomorrow and 3:30 p.m. Jan. 25. The network also posted the updated version of “We Are One” on its Web site beginning Jan. 21.
Robinson made headlines in 2003 after he was elected bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire, a move that caused numerous Episcopalian parishes across the country to split from the church.
Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].