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Obama denounces Wright press conference April 29, 2008 Transcript.

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Barack Obama Press Conference
Winston-Salem, NC
4.29.08

OPENING REMARKS:

Before I start taking questions I want to open it up with a couple of comments about what we saw and heard yesterday. I have spent my entire adult life trying to bridge the gap between different kinds of people. That’s in my DNA, trying to promote mutual understanding to insist that we all share common hopes and common dreams as Americans and as human beings. That’s who I am. That’s what I believe. That’s what this campaign has been about.
Yesterday we saw a very different vision of America. I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday. You know, I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992. I have known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.


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. They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if Reverend Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought either.

Now, I’ve already denounced the comments that had appeared in these previous sermons. As I said I had not heard them before. And 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.

Let me just close by saying this, I -- we started this campaign with the idea that the problems that we face as a country are too great to continue to be divided; that, in fact, all across America people are hungry to get out of the old, divisive politics of the past. I have spoken and written about the need for us to all recognize each other as Americans, regardless of race or religion or region of the country; that the only way we can deal with critical issues like energy and health care and education and the war on terrorism is if we are joined together. And the reason our campaign has been so successful is because we had moved beyond these old arguments. What we saw yesterday out of Reverend Wright was a resurfacing and, I believe, an exploitation of those old divisions. Whatever his intentions, that was the result. It is antithetical to our campaign, it is antithetical to what I am about, it is not what I think America stands for, and I want to be very clear that moving forward Reverend Wright does not speak for me, he does not speak for our campaign. 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. And anybody who has worked with me, who knows my life, who has read my books, who has seen what this campaign's about, I think will understand that it is completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take this country.

Last point, I’m particularly distressed that this has caused such a distraction from what this campaign should be about, which is the American people. Their situation is getting worse. And this campaign has never been about me. It’s never been about Senator Clinton or John McCain. It’s not about Reverend Wright. People want some help in stabilizing their lives and securing a better future for themselves and their children, and that's what we should be talking about. 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. So with that, let me take some questions.

Yeah, go ahead.

Q and A:

Q: Why the change in tone from yesterday when you spoke to us on the tarmac yesterday –

BO: I'll be honest with you, because I hadn't seen it yet.

Q: That was the difference?

BO: Yes.

Q: Have you heard the reports about the AIDS comment?

BO: I had not. I had not seen the transcript. What I had heard was that he had given a performance and I thought, at the time that it would be sufficient to re-iterate what I had said in Philadelphia. Upon watching it, what became clear to me was that it was more than just a -- it was more than just him defending himself. 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. Anybody who knows me and anybody who knows what I'm about knows that I'm about trying to bridge gaps and that I see the commonality in all people. And so when I start hearing comments about conspiracy theories and AIDS and suggestions that somehow Minister Farrakahn is -- has been a great voice in the 20th century, then that goes directly at who I am and what I believe this country needs. Jeff?

Q: What do you expect or what do you plan do about this right now, to further distance yourself? Do you think you need to do that? What does that say about your judgment for superdelegates who are trying to decide which democratic nominee is better? Your candidacy has been based on judgment. What does this say?

BO: Well, look, as I said before, the person I saw yesterday was not the person that I had come to know over 20 years. I understand that I think he was pained and angered from what had happened previously during the first stage of this controversy. I think he felt vilified and attacked, and I understand that he wanted to defend himself. You know, I understand that, you know, he's gone through difficult times of late and that he's leaving his ministry after many years. And so, you know, that may account for the change but the insensitivity and the outrageousness of his statements and his performance in the question and answer period yesterday, I think, shocked me. It surprised me. As I said before, this is an individual who has built a very fine church and a church that is well-respected throughout Chicago. During the course of me attending that church, I had not heard those kinds of statements being made or those kinds of views being promoted. And I did not vet my pastor before I decided to run for the presidency. I was a member of the church. So, you know, I think what it says is that, you know, I have not -- you know, I did not run through -- run my pastor through the paces or review every one of the sermons that he had made over the last 30 years, but I don't think that anybody could attribute those ideas to me.

Q: What affect do you think it's going to have on your campaign?

BO: That's something that you guys will have to figure out. Obviously we've got elections in four or five days. So we'll find out. You know, what impact it has. Ultimately, I think that the American people know that we have to do better than we're doing right now. I think that they believe in the ideas of this campaign. I think they are convinced that special interests have dominated Washington too long. I think they are convinced that we've got to get beyond some of the same political games that we've been playing. I think they believe that we need to speak honestly and truthfully about how we're going to solve issues like energy or health care and I believe that this campaign has inspired a lot of people. And that's part of what, you know, going back to what you asked, Mike, about why I feel so strongly about this today. You know, after seeing Reverend Wright's performance, I felt as if there was a complete disregard for what -- for what the American people are going through and the need for them to rally together to solve these problems. You know, now is the time for us not to get distracted. Now is the time for us to pull together, and that's what we've been doing in this campaign and you know, there was a sense that that did not matter to Reverend Wright. What mattered was him commanding center stage.

Q: Did you have a conversation with Reverend Wright?

BO: No.

Q: What's going to happen with the distraction?

BO: I want to use this press conference to make people absolutely clear that obviously whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed, as a consequence of this. I don't think that he showed much concern for me. I don't -- more importantly -- I don't think he showed much concern for what we're trying to do in this campaign and what we're trying to do for the American people and with the American people And obviously, he's free to speak out on issues that are of concern to him and he can do it in any ways that he wants. But I feel very strongly that -- well, I want to make absolutely clear that I do not subscribe to the views that he expressed. I believe they are wrong. I think they are destructive. And to the extent that he continues to speak out, I do not expect those views to be attributed to me.

Q: I'm wondering, I don't know what -- I'm wondering -- [inaudible]

BO: Well, the new pastor, the young pastor, Reverend Otis Moss, is a wonderful, young pastor. And as I said, I still very much value the Trinity community. This -- I'll be honest, this obviously has put strains on that relationship, not because of the members or because of Reverend Moss, but because this has become such a spectacle. And, you know, when I go to church, it's not for spectacle, it's to pray and to find -- to find a stronger sense of faith. It's not to posture politically. It's not to -- you know, it's not to hear things that violate my core beliefs. And so, you know, and I certainly done want to provide a distraction for those who are worshipping at Trinity. So as of this point, I'm a member of Trinity. I haven't had a discussion with Reverend Moss about it, so I can't tell you how he's reacting and how he's responding. Okay? Kathy?

Q: Senator, I'm wondering to sort of follow on Jeff's question about why it's different now. Have you heard from some of your supporters, you know, you have supporters who expressed any alarm about what this might be doing to the campaign?

BO: Look, I mean, I don't think that it's that hard to figure out from if it was just a purely political perspective. You know, my reaction has more to do with what I want this campaign to be about and who I am. And I want to make certain that people understand who I am. You know, in some ways what Reverend Wright said yesterday, directly contradicts everything that I've done during my life. It contradicts how I was raised and the setting in which I was raised. It contradicts my decisions to pursue a career of public service. It contradicts the issues that I've worked on politically. It contradicts what I’ve said in my books. It contradicts what I said in my convention speech in 2004. It contradicts my announcement. It contradicts everything that I've been saying on this campaign trail. And what I tried to do in Philadelphia was to provide a context and to lift up some of the contradictions and complexities of race in America of which, you know, Reverend Wright is a part, and we're all a part, and try to make something constructive out of it. But there wasn't anything constructive out of yesterday. 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.

Q: Did you discuss with your wife after having seen Reverend Wright …

BO: Yeah, she was similarly angered. Joe?

Q: Reverend Wright said it's not an attack on him but an attack on the black church. First of all, do you agree with that? Second of all, the strain of theology that he preached, black liberation theology, can you explain something about the anger and the sentiments, how important a strain is liberation theology and why …

BO: Well, the – first of all of all, in terms of liberation theology, I'm not a theologian. So I think to some theologians there might be some well worked out theory of what constitutes liberation theology versus non-liberation theology. I went to church and listened to sermons, and the -- in the sermons that I heard -- and this is true, I do think, across the board in many black churches -- there is an emphasis on the importance of social struggle, the importance of striving for equality and justice and fairness, a social gospel. So a lot of people would, rather than using a fancy word like that, simply talk about preaching the social gospel and that -- there's nothing particularly odd about that. Dr. King, obviously, was the most prominent example of that kind of preaching. But you know, what I do think can happen, and I didn't see this as a member of the church, but I saw it yesterday, is when you start focusing so much on the plight of the historically oppressed that you lose sight of what we have in common, that it overrides everything else that we're not concerned about the struggles of others because we're looking at things only through a particular lens, then it doesn't describe properly what I believe in the power of faith to overcome but also to bring people together. Now, you had a first question that I don't remember.

Q: do you think [inaudible]

BO: you know, I did not -- I did not view the initial round of sound bites that triggered this controversy as an attack on the black church. I viewed it as a simplification of who he was, a caricature of who he was. And, you know, more than anything, something that piqued a lot of political interest. I didn't see it as an attack on the black church. I mean, probably the only aspect of it that probably had to do with specifically the black church is the fact that some people were surprised when he was shouting. I mean, that is just a black church tradition. And so I think some people interpreted that as somehow, wow, he's really hollering and black preachers holler and so that, I think, showed a cultural gap in America. The sad thing is that, although the sound bites I, as I stated, I think, created a caricature of him and when he was in that Moyers interview though there were some things that, you know, continued to be offensive, at least there was some sense of rounding out the edges. Yesterday, I think he caricatured himself and that was -- as I said, that made me angry, but also made me sad. Richard?

Q: [inaudible] talk about giving the benefit of the doubt or the Philadelphia speech and trying to create something close to that. Did you consult with him before the speech or after the speech in Philadelphia to get his reaction?

BO: I tried to talk to him before the speech in Philadelphia. Wasn't able to reach him, because he was on a -- he was on a cruise. He had just stepped down from the pulpit. When he got back, I did speak to him and the -- you know, I prefer not to share sort of private conversations between me and him. I will talk to him perhaps someday in the future. But what I can say is that I was very clear that what he had said in those particular snippets, I found objectionable and offensive. And that the intention of the speech was to provide context for them but not to excuse them because I found them inexcusable.

Q: on Sunday you were asked to respond [inaudible]

BO: There's been great damage. You know, I -- it may have been unintentional on his part, but, you know, I do not see that relationship being the same after this. Now, to some degree, you know, I know that one thing that he said was true was that he was never my, quote/unquote spiritual adviser, he was never my spiritual mentor, he was my Pastor. And so to some extent how, you know, the press characterized in the past that relationship, I think was inaccurate. But he was somebody who was my pastor and married Michelle and I and baptized my children and prayed with us when we announced this race. And so, you know, I'm disappointed. All right? thank you, guys.

##


15 Comments

This is just awful. The Rev. Wright is working for the Clintons.
Shame on him

James
Los Angeles, California

I don't believe a word he says!

Sen. Obama is still claiming he unaware of the extent of Rev. Wright's views over the course of 20 years, and didn't attend church to see a "spectacle", but only to hear the sermons. This fellow is some politician to be able to whip up his own version of the truth day in and day out, like his ongoing claim that he doesn't take money from oil companies and special interests (after a gazillion articles and watchdog reports claiming this isn't so). And still thousands of people flock to hear his speeches. Surely Rod Serling is standing just offstage talking about the American electorate.

James--this is nuts. If Hillary had a minister like that--she wouldn't have been given slow pitch questions about the minister. She would not have been treated like a person in mourning.
She was ATTACKED by the media every chance they got.
Having said that, look at how mean the posts are about this elsewhere. Does anyone not see the Greek tragedy here? I mean, why would the Reverend act like that-kind of harming a parishioner he shuld harbor almost like a son!
I think of Bill Clinton losing it in a similarly self-indulgent manner harming Hillary too.
I think Barack and Hillary should unite against the people who no doubt love them and man wel, but then, well, just can't control themselves in the face of a stupid, snarling predatory 'news' media.
If you didn't find something sad about the whole thing--you're not a human.
It's not a chess game when the media can use a personal tragedy of a public person as a 'peg'--just be glad, since you think Hillary's someone you have to continually kick--that the media was FAR nicer to Obama than they would have been to Hillary over far less inflammatory material.

When did Wright announce his candidacy. I did not know he was running for office. What are his policies. What is he going to do about high gas prices, the economy, and how will he get us out of Iraq. Since the media seems to know something that we don't know that he is running for office.

Rev. Wright found his 'shtick' using the victimization card,
telling his parish what they want to hear, WHY they are poor, why they are under-trodden ,why they are underprivileged, why they have AIDS;
The WHITE MAN ! The Government ! The Police ! , ad nauseum.
The things I find truly disturbing is that there was complete and enthusiastic acceptance of Wright and his views by the NAACP,
and that for twenty years Obama was attending these sermons being exposed to this hate mongering, self-aggrandizing 'Reverend', who continually harps on the negative.
How can these extremist views not have been internalized by Obama and ultimately which must influence his attitude ?

Frankly, I much prefer the clarity of Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan.
They do tell it like it is, as Cassius said to Brutus in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar",
'The fault lies not in the stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings'.

I fear that we have not fully seen all the personas of Obama.
I get a disturbing picture of Rev. Wright whispering into Obama's ear in the White House.

Why does Obama continually refer to Wright as retired? Wright hasn't retired yet. He is listed as the "Senior Pastor" on Trinity's website. Moreover, the National Press Club's announcement stated that Wright is still the Senior Pastor at Trinity and won't be retiring until June. That announcement can be viewed on Ms. Sweet's blog:

http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2008/04/rev_jeremiah_wright_press_offe.html

"the person I saw yesterday was not the person that I had come to know over 20 years"

I doubt that Wright changed overnight. His statements yesterday were in keeping with the sermons that have previously been released.

This is all too little, too late. As Obama himself has previously stated, Obama knew about Wright's divisive and nutty statements when he first started running for office. If Obama had the great judgment that he claims to have, he would have distanced himself way back then.

In addition, in Philadelphia Obama boxed himself into a corner when he stated: "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can disown my white grandmother. . . . These people are a part of me." For him now to say that Wright is merely his pastor is disingenuous.

It's pathetic that the media continues to build a bridge between Obama and Rev. Wright. This presidential campaign is about very real issues; paying $4 a gallon for gas; who can negotiate this oil crisis; who can build relationships torn down by Bush's administration; why have my groceries tripled in the past 3 months; the cost to heat my home this winter; what about the devalued dollar in Europe. THESE ARE THE ISSUES - NOT REV. WRIGHT. Is there a competent journalist out there in America that can deal with the issues and not the bickering crap. STAY FOCUSED AMERICA. THE ISSUE IS NOT REV. WRIGHT - IT IS HOW DO WE RECOVER FROM BUSH AND THE CANDIDATE WITH THE BEST LEADERSHIP QUALITIES AND CAPABILITIES. Wright isn't a candidate for president but he will be as long as the media continues to fan the flame. Clinton can't remember when she lands in gun fire.. You never forget or misconstrue your words about when you've been shot at. The media doesn't continue to put Monica in the front page, but oh, a testosterone imbalance is excusable. Whose got the family values here. A Commander and Chief has to be able to distinguish between landing under gun fire or welcome picnic. There's only one.

THIS IS IN RESPONSE TO DORATHEANCHORBABY....IF RUDY GIULIANI AND JOHN KERRY WERE SITTING IN A CATHOLIC CHURCH LISTNEING TO A SERMON GIVEN BY A PRIEST WHO WAS SAYING '' MOLEST CHILDREN IT'S ACCEPTABLE'' THEN I COULD UNDERSTAND WHERE YOU WERE GOING WITH YOUR IDEA, NO PRIEST HAS SAID THAT. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ACKNOWLEDGED THE PROBLEM AND ARE WORKING TO TAKE CARE OF IT. ARE YOUR TRYING TO SAY THAT THIS IS THE ONLY RELIGION WHERE THIS PROBLEM HAS OCCURED? I THINK NOT. FIND ONE YOUTUBE VIDEO OR TAPED SERVICE TO SHOW WHERE CATHOLIC PRIESTS THINK THE ABUSE WAS OKAY?

Dr. Wright failed God by posturing arrogantly. And he failed Barack by addressing beliefs that werent substantiated with facts. But Dr. Wright had EVERY right to defend himself. He just didnt do it with grace and dignity. And he didnt consider Barack, or the very Christian thing that Barack is trying to do for America. Wright was selfish. But consider what the Clintons did to him.... He had a right to go for his. He is human, and you have to cut him some slack. He comes from a generation where "certain people" did what they wanted to you, and you couldnt fight back.

DOES HILLARY EVEN HAVE A HOME CHURCH?
EITHER VOTE FOR OBAMA OR SUFFER THROUGH A DEPRESSION!
DON'T LET FOX NEWS DICTATE THIS ELECTION!

This deserves repeating: In his speech last month in Philadelphia, when referring to Rev. Wright, Obama said: "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can disown my white grandmother. . . . These people are a part of me." This did not really explain why he attended a church for 20 years and yet never heard a sermon when his spiritual mentor ranted and raved about how America should be dammed!! Things changed, his numbers went down in the polls, so he threw Rev. Wright under the bus along with his "typical white" Grandmother. This is important to remember, as it reflects on his truthfulness and his character. The Wright incident will not and should not be ignored.

OBAMA IS PICKING UP MORE SUPER-DELEGATES, DON'T BE DISTRACTED,
YOU IN INDIANA AND NORTH CAROLINA VOTE FOR THE RIGHT MAN NEXT
TUESDAY!

Obama is embarrassing.
He is still not explaining whether he believes what Wright says about Black Theology or if he believes Wright.
He is still not saying "goodbye" to Wright.
He is talking in little circles.

Obama is embarrassing. Period.

In Obama first publication " Dreams from My Father", in 1995, there were two pictures on the cover, him and his sister. Obama republished " Dreams from My Father in 2004. On the cover of the second publication is three different picture. One with a military picture... In the second publication "Dreams from My Father" he deleted approximately 50 pages to build his case for presidency ,to misslead the reader that he was a military veteran, and to reduce his exposure so no one would know about his background..... In 2006 he publish " The Audacity of Hope" building his candidacy for president even more, and building his case as a military veteran even more. His Presidential Candidacy is based around Lies, and his military background is to misslead the readers... In 2008 he, also ,indicated that in one of his debate , he first began to run for presidency 1.5 years back. His candidacy began long before 1.5 years back. From the second publication of "Dreams from My Father", you can see that his candidacy for president began as early as 2004, which is more than 3 years.

Certain things in Obama book " Dreams from My Father" were fabricated and some things were used to protect his African Father and White Mother , by his Mother. His mother didnot want some things published in Obama Book. Obama did it for the money. Nor had he tithe (10% )of his books earning. He made over 4.2 million dollars in 2007, and only gave 5.7% to charity.

I believe if he would have Tithe ($420,000) to his Church, then Reverend Wright wouldnot have call him "Just a Politician".

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on April 29, 2008 3:38 PM.

Obama cuts ties to Wright at press conference in North Carolina. Says Wright comments "divisive and destructive." was the previous entry in this blog.

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