After weeks of defending the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s good works, Senator Barack Obama heaved his former pastor overboard, hoping to end a damaging controversy that was threatening to sink his historic bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Obama angrily denounced his former pastor for “divisive and destructive” remarks on race, trying to tamp down the uproar over Wright at a tough time in his campaign. He is coming off a loss in Pennsylvania to Senator Hillary Clinton and trying to win over white working-class voters in Indiana and North Carolina in next Tuesday’s primaries.
“I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday,” Obama told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday.
His strong words come just six weeks after Obama delivered a speech on race in which he sharply condemned Wright’s remarks but did not leave the church or repudiate the minister himself, who he said was like a family member. After staying out of the public eye while critics lambasted his sermons, the former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago made three public appearances in four days to defend himself.
On Monday, Wright criticized the US government as imperialist and stood by his suggestion that the US invented the HIV virus as a means of genocide against minorities.
“Based on this Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything,” he said.
He also suggested that the church congregant secretly concurs.
“If Senator Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected,” Wright said. “Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls.”
Obama stated flatly that he doesn’t share Wright’s views.
“What became clear to me is that he was presenting a world view that contradicts who I am and what I stand for,” Obama said. “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 am about trying to bridge gaps and I see the commonality in all people.”
“I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992, and have known Reverend Wright for 20 years,” Obama said. “The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.”
“Obviously, whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed,” Obama said. “I don’t think he showed much concern for me, more importantly I don’t think he showed much concern for what we’re trying to do in this campaign.”
“All it was was a bunch of rants that aren’t grounded in truth,” Obama said.