c. 2008 Religion News Service
WASHINGTON _ Using some of his strongest language to date about his former pastor, Sen. Barack Obama said Tuesday (April 29) that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s comments in a speech on Monday were “destructive” and contradict “everything that I’m about and who I am.”
Obama, who had already distanced himself from Wright in a Philadelphia speech on race last month, said the minister’s remarks at the National Press Club on Monday had taken the controversy to a new level.
“I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday,” Obama said at a news conference in Winston-Salem, N.C. “His comments were not only divisive and destructive but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church.”
In remarks before journalists and ministers on Monday, Wright, who will retire from Trinity United Church of Christ of Chicago in June, declared that the media focus on his sermons was not an attack on him or Obama but an “attack on the black church.”
A day later, the Illinois Democrat and presidential candidate disagreed.
“I did not view the initial round of sound bites that triggered this controversy as an attack on the black church,” Obama said. “I viewed it as a simplification of who he was, a caricature of who he was. … Yesterday I think he caricatured himself.”
Obama seemed particularly incensed at comments Wright made in a question-and-answer period.
Asked if he believed that the U.S. government could have had a role in inventing the virus that causes AIDS, Wright said, “Based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything.”
Wright also called Nation of Islam founder Louis Farrakhan, who was given an award by a magazine affiliated with Wright’s church, “one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century.”
Obama quickly rejected those comments. “They offend me. They rightly offend all Americans and they should be denounced. And that’s what I’m doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.”
The senator noted that Monday’s comments marked a new juncture in his perspective on the man who had been his minister for 20 years, married him and his wife, and baptized his children.
Despite Wright’s decades of building an “outstanding” church and preaching “wonderful sermons” in the past, Obama said Monday’s comments by Wright were “a bunch of rants that aren’t grounded in truth.”
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Obama agreed with Wright that their relationship had changed.
“He was never my `spiritual adviser,”’ the senator said. “He was never my spiritual mentor. He was my pastor.”
Asked if he would continue attending the Chicago church, now led by the Rev. Otis Moss III, Obama said he, “as of this point,” remains a member.
“I still very much value the Trinity community,” he said. “I’ll be honest: This obviously has put strains on that relationship, not because of the members or because of Rev. Moss but because this has become such a spectacle. And when I go to church, it’s not for spectacle. It’s to pray and to find a stronger sense of faith.”
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A file photo of Wright and Obama is available via https://religionnews.com