Obama ‘ou­traged,’ ‘in­sulted’ by pas­tor; calls Wright’s words ‘ap­palling’

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

Sen. Barack Obama on April 29 broke with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., say­ing he was “ou­traged” and “in­sulted” by his for­mer pas­tor’s racial and anti-gov­ern­ment rants — rhetoric he said he did not hear the pas­tor use in church.

“I want to be very clear that mov­ing for­ward, Rev­erend Wright does not speak for me. He does not speak for our cam­paign,” Mr. Obama said. “I can­not pre­vent him from con­tin­u­ing to make th­ese out­ra­geous re­marks. But what I do want him to be very clear about — as well as all of you and the Amer­i­can peo­ple — is that when I say I find th­ese com­ments ap­palling, I mean it.”

“It con­tra­dicts ev­ery­thing that I’m about and who I am.”

The pas­tor’s re-emer­gence on the na­tional stage rekin­dled the is­sue of race just as Mr. Obama’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign was try­ing to court skep­ti­cal white work­ing­class vot­ers for May 6 pri­maries in In­di­ana and North Carolina.

Mr. Obama, of Illi­nois, mov­ing to blunt the dam­age, re­buked his for­mer pas­tor the day af­ter Mr. Wright told re­porters at the Na­tional Press Club that crit­i­cisms of his ser­mons were “an at­tack on the black church” and sug­gested anew that the U.S. gov­ern­ment may have en­gi­neered AIDS to in­fect black com­mu­ni­ties.

Mr. Obama called Mr. Wright’s re­marks “a bunch of rants.”

“When he states and then am­pli­fies such ridicu­lous propo­si­tions as the U.S. gov­ern­ment some­how be­ing in­volved in AIDS, when he sug­gests that [Na­tion of Is­lam leader Louis] Far­rakhan some­how rep­re­sents one of the great­est voices of the 20th and 21st cen­tury, when he equates the United States’ wartime ef­forts with ter­ror­ism, then there are no ex­cuses,” Mr. Obama said at a press con­fer­ence in Win­ston-Salem, N.C.

“They of­fend me. They rightly of­fend all Amer­i­cans. And they should be de­nounced,” he said. “And that’s what I’m do­ing very clearly and un­equiv­o­cally here to­day.”

Mr. Obama stopped short of quit­ting the 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.”

A spokes­woman for Mr. Wright, who re­tired in Fe­bru­ary af­ter 36 years as church pas­tor, said he was not avail­able to re­spond to Mr. Obama’s com­ments.

Mr. Obama also re­jected Mr. Wright’s as­ser­tion that crit­i­cism of the ser­mons, which in­cluded de­nounc­ing the United States as the “U.S. of K.K.K.A.,” were an at­tack on the black church.

“What be­came clear to me was it was [. . . ] more than just him de­fend­ing him­self,” Mr. Obama said. “What be­came clear to me was that he was pre­sent­ing a world view that con­tra­dicts who I am and what I stand for. [. . . ] This has be­come such a spec­ta­cle, and you know, when I go to church, it’s not for spec­ta­cle, it’s to pray.”

He said the ear­lier crit­i­cism of the ser­mons pre­sented a car­ica- ture of Mr. Wright but in the pas­tor’s speech on April 28 “I think he car­i­ca­tured him­self.”

At the press club, Mr. Wright de­fended his re­mark that the U.S. bore re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Sept. 11, 2001, at­tacks, cit­ing Je­sus’ words: “Do unto oth­ers as you would have them do unto you.”

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

Mr. Wright also un­der­mined Mr. Obama’s past at­tempts to dis­tance him­self from the in­flam­ma­tory ser­mons, say­ing the can­di­date dis­avowed the ser­mons 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.”

Mr. Wright 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.”

As Mr. Wright threat­ens to im­pair Mr. Obama’s cam­paign, pun­dits and po­lit­i­cal blogs have pon­dered who is re­spon­si­ble for the rev­erend’s re­cent me­dia blitz.

Both the Na­tional Press Club and the Detroit chap­ter of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple said April 29 that they is­sued their own in­vi­ta­tions, and did not act on be­half of any cam­paign.

A colum­nist sug­gested the Rev. Bar­bara Reynolds, who or­ga­nized Mr. Wright’s press club ap­pear­ance, was a sup­porter of Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton. But Mrs. Reynolds, a friend of Mr. Wright’s, said that’s not true.

“The fact is I don’t sup­port the Clin­tons, and right now I am not even crazy about Barack. I just want one of them to win so we can go out and beat McCain. I am not a sur­ro­gate,” said Mrs. Reynolds, a mem­ber of the club’s speak­ers com­mit­tee.

An­drea Billups and Brian DeBose con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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