Rev. Wright stands by his re­marks, and then some

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By S.A. Miller

Sen. Barack Obama’s for­mer pas­tor on April 28 de­fi­antly em­braced his racial and anti-gov­ern­ment ser­mons, call­ing the crit­i­cisms of his re­li­gious philoso­phies “an at­tack on the black church” and sug­gest­ing anew that the U.S. gov­ern­ment may have en­gi­neered AIDS to in­fect black com­mu­ni­ties.

“I be­lieve our gov­ern­ment is ca­pa­ble of do­ing any­thing,” the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. told re­porters at the Na­tional Press Club in Wash­ing­ton.

Rekin­dling the is­sue of race just as Mr. Obama’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign courts skep­ti­cal white work­ing-class vot­ers, Mr. Wright sug­gested that Mr. Obama dis­avowed his pas­tor’s com­ments for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons.

“He had to dis­tance him­self, be­cause he’s a politi­cian, from what the me­dia was say­ing I had said, which was anti-Amer­i­can,” Mr. Wright said. “I of­fered words of hope. I of­fered rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. I of­fered restora­tion in that ser­mon. But no­body heard the ser­mon. They just heard this lit­tle sound bite of a ser­mon.”

The speech marked the third time in four days that Mr. Wright has claimed the na­tional me­dia spot­light, ap­pear­ing April 25 on PBS’ “Bill Moy­ers Jour­nal” and April 27 as the key­note speaker at a fundrais­ing din­ner for the Detroit branch of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple.

Mr. Wright, who re­tired in Fe­bru­ary af­ter 36 years as church pas­tor, said he was speak­ing out now not to de­fend him­self or Mr. Obama but to counter what he called “an at­tack on the black church launched by peo­ple who know noth­ing about the AfricanAmer­i­can re­li­gious tra­di­tion.”

But the rev­erend’s me­dia blitz threat­ened to rekin­dle ques­tions about Mr. Obama’s 20-year re­la­tion­ship with the pas­tor and his church, Trin­ity United Church of Christ, which pub­licly de­clares that its min­istry is founded on a 1960s black-power the­ol­ogy book that es­pouses “the de­struc­tion of the white en­emy.”

“I don’t think hav­ing Jeremiah Wright pop up a week be­fore the votes are cast [in In­di­ana and North Carolina] is help­ful to Obama,” said po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist G. Terry Madonna, di­rec­tor of the polling cen­ter at Franklin and Mar­shall Col­lege in Lan­caster, Pa.

He noted that exit polls from the April 22 pri­mary in Penn­syl­va­nia — which ri­val Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton of New York won by a nearly 10-point mar­gin — showed a grow­ing racial di­vide in the elec­torate af­ter me­dia scru­tiny of Mr. Wright’s ser­mons.

About 12 per­cent of white vot­ers in Penn­syl­va­nia said race in­flu­enced their vote, a group that over­whelm­ingly backed Mrs. Clin­ton, 76 per­cent to 12 per­cent. White vot­ers in gen­eral picked Mrs. Clin­ton 63 per­cent to 37 per­cent while 90 per­cent of black vot­ers chose Mr. Obama, exit polls show.

“There is clearly some­thing go­ing on with the racial as­pect of the vot­ing,” said Mr. Madonna.

In­di­ana and North Carolina vot­ers go to the polls on May 6.

Mrs. Clin­ton took a nine-point lead over pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Sen. John McCain of Ari­zona in a gen­eral elec­tion matchup, ac­cord­ing to an As­so­ci­ated PressIp­sos poll out April 28 that aided her ar­gu­ment that she is the most electable Demo­crat.

The poll showed Mr. Obama roughly tied with Mr. McCain, the same spot that both Democrats were in four weeks ago be­fore Mr. Obama’s loss in the Penn­syl­va­nia pri­mary raised new con­cerns about his abil­ity to win over white work­ing­class and rural vot­ers.

At the press club, Mr. Wright did lit­tle to as­sist Mr. Obama’s run.

He de­fended his re­mark that the U.S. bore re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Sept. 11 at­tacks, cit­ing Je­sus’ words: “Do unto oth­ers as you would have them do unto you.”

“You can­not do ter­ror­ism on other peo­ple and ex­pect it never to come back on you,” Mr. Wright said. “Those are bib­li­cal prin­ci­ples, not Jeremiah Wright bom­bas­tic, di­vi­sive prin­ci­ples.”

He re­fused to apol­o­gize for his in­fa­mous “God damn Amer­ica” ser­mon, say­ing the U.S. gov­ern­ment owed blacks an apol­ogy for slav­ery.

The pas­tor stood firm in his praise of Na­tion of Is­lam leader Louis Far­rakhan and said he would not “put down” one of to­day’s most in­flu­en­tial black re­li­gious lead­ers.

“Louis Far­rakhan is not my en­emy,” he said. “He did not put me in chains, he did not put me in slav­ery, and he didn’t make me this color.”

Mr. Wright also said he gave a warn­ing to Mr. Obama: “If you get elected, Novem­ber 5 I’m com­ing af­ter you, be­cause you’ll be rep­re­sent­ing a gov­ern­ment whose poli­cies grind un­der peo­ple.”

Astrid Riecken / The Wash­ing­ton Times

Mak­ing him­self very clear: Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.

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