The man who delivered the benediction at President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration said that he believes, as he once did in his “militant” youth, that all whites are hell-bound.

The Rev. Joseph Lowery, a patriarch of the civil rights movement and close ally of the president, said at a weekend rally in central Georgia that the “level and hatred and bitterness” borne of this election had made him a believer that whites were going to hell.

Lowery said, according to the Monroe County Reporter, it was the same belief he held at the height of the civil rights movement. Eventually he mellowed, believing that not all whites, rather only “most,” would get their brimstone comeuppance.

“Now,” the local newsweekly reported, “he is back to where he was.”

He also said he could not imagine any African American not voting for the president’s reelection.

“I don’t know what kind of ni**er wouldn’t vote with a black man running,” the frail 91-year-old said, according to the paper. “Nobody intelligent would risk this country with Romney.”

Lowery was one of Obama’s earliest supporters in Georgia in 2008 and has remained comfortably in the president’s orbit since his ascension to the White House four years ago.

He was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 2009 by Obama and was elected earlier this year to lead the state’s delegation to the Democratic national convention.

Still, he’s managed to cause an outsized degree of heartburn locally. Just last week Lowery said at a Democratic rally that President Obama would necessarily win reelection if he “was white.”

UPDATE: Lowery says his comments were a joke, misconstrued by an overly-ambitious reporter.

– James Richardson

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