WASHINGTON--Sen. Barack Obama finally cut the cord on Tuesday with his minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, after Wright conducted a press conference Monday at the National Press Club here Obama called a "spectacle" and "appalling” that was a show of “disrespect” to him.
In an exercise of extreme damage control, Obama appeared at a hastily scheduled press conference in North Carolina to denounce the man who married him and baptized his daughters to say Wright’s comments were “divisive and destructive.”
“What became clear to me was that he was presenting a world view that -- that's -- that contradicts who I am and what I stand for and what I think particularly angered me was his suggestion, somehow, that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing,” Obama said.
Obama noted that when Wright, the senior pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago’s South Side, first surfaced as an issue, “I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church, he's built a wonderful congregation, the people of Trinity are wonderful people, and what attracted me has always been their ministry's reach beyond the church walls.
“But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS; when he suggests that Minister 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. 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. “
On Monday, Wright delivered a speech from a written text about the black church experience but then turned combative during the question and answer session at the National Press Club. Wright praised Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan as “one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century” (though he said “Louis and I don’t agree on everything”) and seemed to reinforce some past comments, such as "God damn America.”
A PBS interview with Wright was broadcast on Friday, followed by a speech Sunday night at the Detroit NAACP televised live on cable outlets and the final straw, appearing, at all places, the National Press Club, where Wright was guaranteed massive coverage and tough questioning.
“And the fact that Reverend Wright would think that somehow it was appropriate to command the stage for three or four consecutive days in the midst of this major debate is something that not only makes me angry, but also saddens me,” Obama said.
Obama said that while he gave Wright the benefit of the doubt, the favor was not returned.
“All it was, was a bunch of rants that aren't grounded in truth. And you know, I can construct something positive out of that. I can understand it. I, you know, the -- you know, the people do all sorts of things and, as I said before, I continue to believe that Reverend Wright has been a leader in the South Side.
“I think that the church he built is outstanding. I think that he has preached in the past some wonderful sermons. He provided, you know, valuable contributions to my family. But at a certain point, if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that's enough.
“That's a show of disrespect to me. It's -- it is also, I think, an insult to what we've been trying to do in this campaign.”