News Headlines

Obama Responds to Jeremiah Wright Row

Barack Obama has issued a definitive statement on the controversy surrounding his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

A report this week by ABC News — showing Wright saying such inflammatory things as "God damn America" — sparked interest in Obama's relationship with the fiery Chicago pastor.

Earlier today, Obama posted a response on the Huffington Post blog. It reads, in part:

"Let me say at the outset that I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it's on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.

The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.

With Rev. Wright's retirement and the ascension of my new pastor, Rev. Otis Moss, III, Michelle and I look forward to continuing a relationship with a church that has done so much good. And while Rev. Wright's statements have pained and angered me, I believe that Americans will judge me not on the basis of what someone else said, but on the basis of who I am and what I believe in; on my values, judgment and experience to be President of the United States."

Read the piece in full, and tell us what you think.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Muslims Against Sharia call on Senators McCain and Obama to cut all ties with their racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic supporters.


Sent by Muslims Against Sharia | 6:37 PM | 3-15-2008

How can he denounce a man who has for the past 20 years instilled in Obama his so-called "values,judgement and experience to be President of the U.S." The HateMonger with radical views has no Hope, no unifying Vision. Just pure ignorance and Hatred. And who is responsible for the public that has been sleeping up to now? THE MEDIA.

Sent by paraskeve | 10:53 AM | 3-16-2008

I'm a person who believes in giving a person the benefit of the doubt and the same goes for this latest controversy with Obama. My doubt stems from how could Obama be involved with a church for 20 years and not ONCE hear some damning statements from Rev. Wright that wouldn't exemplify the teachings of Christ?

On the other hand, I ask myself who among us have not heard a Pastor's statements that go in one ear and out the other because we knew that was the PASTOR's personal view - separate from how we lead our lives? I know I have. But just because of a few disagreeable statements I just don't up and leave the church; there has to be some level of consistency in disagreeable statements and actions to make such drastic decision for leaving a church. But I don't have a lot at stake like oh, a chance as the President of the United States.

So I commend Obama's loyalty to his church in the face of this controversy. But I hope he's not showing a character flaw of being loyal to a fault and I hope such blind loyalty does not cost him the Presidency.

Sent by Moji | 7:19 PM | 3-16-2008

I just don't get it - leave the man's church alone. Sounds like mostly the place seems to do a lot of good. You can't raise some bar of political correctness about the type of church a person belongs to. I am a white protestant, and got a lot of spritual inspiration from a pastor in my adolescence who then fell in with the notion that it would be better to split the whole Episcopal church than tolerate homosexuals. I didn't realize the extent that his views might take until I stood at my own wedding cringing for the offense of my friends, gay and straight, who had to listen to his homily. I also know plenty of white Catholics who'd say if they had to defend professed statements of their preachers, they'd be in very hot water. Religious communities by their nature accept the imperfection of people as forgivable in the larger service of doing the work of their God. If a community leader can't speak his or her mind to the community, and have them figure out where his or her expertise falls short, then the community may be getting more mush than passion. Most religious communities can use the passion, and practice a little forgiveness.

Sent by Ed | 10:35 PM | 3-16-2008

I do not believe that it is right for the media to attack Obama nad his ties to Rev. Wright. The media cannot stand the fact that so many people love Obama and they are just trying to bring him down. There are great many preachers so say more inflammatory things than Rev. Wright in both white and black churches. Just because they do not have anything else on Obama and they cannot stand his message of hope, they want to destroy him.

Sent by Lynn | 9:46 AM | 3-17-2008

Look, I've been a member of my church for more than 20 years. When it comes to socio/political issues and concerns, my pastor frequently says things that I don't agree with. Does that mean that I should disassociate myself from his/my church? Absolutely not. I'm not there for political guidance; I'm there for spiritual guidance, and in that realm, he's second to none. I find it incredible that the public cannot apply this same logic to Sen. Obama and his relationship with Rev. Wright. It's as though they've never been in the audience of or had long associations with people disseminating viewpoints that they happen to disagree with. I believe this "controversy" simply provides a pretext for people already inclined not to vote for Obama.

Sent by anthony | 2:55 PM | 3-17-2008

Jeremiah Wright was simply Obama's pastor; not his God. We all have pastors that of which we do not agree with completely. I am cetain that Obama thinks for himself. Give me a break!

Sent by Alta J. Cannaday | 3:28 PM | 3-17-2008

I truly believe that we can find the real truth in this mass distraction by Barack Obama's Minsiter Dr.J. Wright. I for one, will give Obama the benefit of the doubt that he personally doesn't view the same as his Minsiter on all topics. Tomorrow Barack gets the chance to explain himself and his position on what he honestly feels on Pastor Wright and his comments. I hope that he gives it to the american people openly and honest because this is his moment of truth! He must take advantage of this opportuntiy and put a nail in this cauphin. If I'm babrack, I will start my speech by apologizing for the embarrassment this has caused him and him family and campaign, then i would surely ask America, The Government and the American people to hear him out and give him the open-mind to hear his addressment of what he knows and feel concerning the controversy that surrounds him at this time. Secondly I would immediately address the "REAL" issues that are important in this country- like the economy, Oil and gas inflation and the saftey of our Country. He must speak with honesty and conviction on all these issues and make clear that he is not..I repeat IS NOT!! a person whom have radical views or issues concerning not only America but white America as well. I'm praying for you Obama, I hope you're sincere and God serves you well as you address the troubeling nation..God Bless!!

Sent by Terry in South Carolina | 3:44 PM | 3-17-2008

My question to everyone is this: can anything the minister said be proven completely false? When compared to past venomous, polarizing comments spoken by the likes of Jerry Falwell and other members of the conservative religious right - long strong supporters of the Republican party, by the way - as well as evangelical Christians like Billy Graham (spiritual adviser to multiple U.S. presidents) is there anything here that warrants all the noise that???s been filling up our airwaves for the last week? Might some of us be behaving just a tad hypocritically? Or are the majority just really na??ve?

Sent by TAMBAY OBENSON | 5:03 PM | 3-17-2008

An article from the Huffington Post I thought worth sharing...

"When Senator Obama's preacher thundered about racism and injustice Obama suffered smear-by-association. But when my late father -- Religious Right leader Francis Schaeffer -- denounced America and even called for the violent overthrow of the US government, he was invited to lunch with presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush, Sr...."

Read the rest of it here:

Sent by TAMBAY OBENSON | 5:10 PM | 3-17-2008

I agree with many of the statements of Rev. Wright and I do not see any just reason for Obama to disassociate himself with the passionate pastor over words. Unfortunately, if he doesn???t, the media and opposition will not stop until both Wright and Obama are in GITMO. The USA has done some very smelly things in recent history. Does this mean I hate America? Absolutely not. I am an American and a patriot. I want ours to be the greatest country in the world, which it is not now. The gap between rich and poor grows, and the number of homeless and incarcerated climbs dangerously. US Foreign policy has been a selfish bully, motivated by profit rather than peace. Corporations control our lives, tie us to "jobs," trap us in a tired reality show. We work more for less pay, and shovel pills down our throats to cure our depression. A country's greatness should be measured by its quality of life, not GDP. Obama & Wright want to restore the US to greatness, and the past is a great teacher. Should we ignore history lessons (Iraq)? Am I denouncing the USA, as the talking-heads would claim? I refuse to sit back and say good enough. My eyes are wide open -- the country is suffering. We must all demand a better life for our fellow Americans, and we must feel the urgency to speak out against misdeeds. Stop the non-sense; political-correctness and fear-mongering is a death sentence for liberty!

Sent by Jonathan | 5:17 PM | 3-17-2008

This is addressed to Juan Williams. We all know Obama is not in agreement with the rhetoric of his Reverend. It is an abomination for him to go on right wing tv and radio and condemn Obama. No one talks about the christian based services of the Rev., only the firestorm ones. Obama was aware of some of those sermons, but for the good of America he had to act like it is the first time he is hearing them because he would forever have to answer to the media about his radical pastor. If Obama thought this way, someone would have come forward already. He spoke of one America and we should believe him at his word, until proven otherwise. For the really terrible sermons, it would be easy to prove he was in the audience, why not delve into that issue. Mr. Williams have helped to end the promising career of a progressive politician. No one is squeaky clean. Now people that needed an excuse not to vote for a black person can be justified, because here we go again, just another angry black man. When Obama gained prominence he wasn't black enough and he didnt want to sever all ties with his pastor, because he didnt want to alienate his potential black audience. I sincerely hope Mr. Williams will get some royalties from "Uncle Tom"-Larry Elders.
A devided America hurts us all.

Sent by Roger Chung | 6:19 PM | 3-17-2008

Barack is now officially the Black candidate with the focus turning to his former minister and away from ending the war, reducing crime and improving the economy.

Americans need to stand-up to the race-baiting and hating that has become prevalent during this election season. Hell, we thought the OJ Simpson case was about the race card.

Sent by michael | 7:31 PM | 3-17-2008

SHAME on the people, not the media?

The ONLY way this ridiculous story has legs is to continue commenting on it, turning it over & over..dissecting it, itemizing it, etc. I will only comment about US: We fall right in line with this kindergarten, people magazine right into whatever is framed for us then BLAME the media for what we consume. There is a segment of America without the ability to think critically, they're going to run with this, foxnews it; what's the point in trying to 'win them over', 'get them to see our side', 'let'm know, 'yeah you tell'm'; why bother? Off message pursuing something futile; are we a serious nation folks...I mean there's real work to be done?

And who takes Britt Humes' lap dog (JW) serious?

Sent by Jon J | 9:58 PM | 3-17-2008

PS: I didn't listen nor do I intend to listen to Juan Williams on this story.

Sent by Jon J | 10:31 PM | 3-17-2008

To be quite honest about this latest news regarding Obama's pastor's words, his beliefs - it disappoints me. If this were an article about some preacher saying vociferous things about America or caucasians etc, that would be another item altogether. The problem is that Barak Obama is tied to even connected to this racist in that he is a continuing member of his congregation. If my pastor were to begin spewing forth racist remarks from the pulpit, I'd get up from the pew and leave the church and not come back until a change had occurred. Knowing what was being said should have been understood by the Senator and immediately shunned. The words of this pastor were not coming from the love of Christ, but of hate.

I have had much respect for Barak, but the news that keeps coming forth is painting him in a different light. The news about his connections to the Weather Underground's William Ayers, another mentor. This begs the question for those of us who don't really know Obama to ask, "why is he connected to a former terrorist and why is he connected to a pastor who preaches hate openly?" Furthermore, why does his wife state that she has not been proud of our country until Barak's recent involvement? What's up with all this feedback? Am I voting for someone who believes in a positive change environment for all or someone who has a hidden agenda of hate backing him?

Again, I want to believe he's wanting to be a positive change agent, a light bearer for the nation - not one who desires to tear it apart.

Sent by Greg McCurdy | 11:45 PM | 3-17-2008

This is exactly why I knew the presidential candidacy of a black man would always be bittersweet. When Barack Obama announced that he would run for the presidency of the United States a little over a year ago, no one thought he stood a realistic chance. He doesn???t have the experience his critics said. He???s too liberal others said. And of course, the obvious question: was America really ready for its first black president? But then, Obama won a primary in a 97% white state and soon after, the field of eight Democratic candidates dwindled down to just three. As the race heated up, Obama went on to win in eleven consecutive states forcing former North Carolina Senator John Edwards to end his bid for the presidency. Obama???s impressive string of victories forced Americans to really ask themselves if they were ready to move beyond the issue of race, a notoriously divisive issue that has plagued the country since the infamous institution of slavery. And while Shirley Chisolm, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton preceded Obama as blacks who had run for president, Obama is the first with a legitimate chance of earning the country???s, and some would argue, the world???s highest position.

But being the first to have a legitimate chance has not come without a cost.

I knew from the beginning that Obama would have to distance himself from the racialized rhetoric of a Jackson or a Sharpton. Both men are seen as ???race-baitors??? in the minds of most white Americans. Whenever there was a racist incident or a racial issue affecting black Americans individually or collectively, into the spotlight appeared Reverend Jesse or Reverend Al. While some believed that there should be spokespersons for the African-American community, some wondered who had nominated Jackson and Sharpton, as if the two spoke for the entire African-American population. Whether one agreed or disagreed with the politics of Jackson or Sharpton, the names of both would be forever synonymous with racial animosity.

As the issue of race is still a sensitive issue that America has yet to fully address, everyone knew that neither Jackson nor Sharpton could ever be taken seriously as presidential candidates. If Americans still could not deal with the issue of race, they definitely would not deal with two men who had built their careers on that very issue. Thus for Obama, the choice was simple. Play the ???race card??? like Jackson and Sharpton and meet the same fate. Of course Obama knew better than that. In order to ascend to the nation???s highest honor, he had to ascend beyond the issue of race. So try as he might, Obama knew that he could never become race-less so he went the alternative route: post-race. For in an America that still could not honestly deal with the issue of race, in Obama it saw an alternate route: passing over it.

In the beginning, black Americans were seemingly indecisive about supporting a candidate that many of us deemed not black enough. This, interestingly, after supporting a white president who we accepted as the nation???s first ???black??? president. Truth be told, it was this ???love affair??? with the first ???black??? president that made us hesitant to support the ascent of a possible black president. It was only after the first ???black??? president showed his true colors in South Carolina that black folks saw the black candidate as black. While ???Master??? Clinton didn???t mind hanging out in the ???slave quarters??? when he was in the ???Big House???, when one of the ex-slaves had earned his place inside the house, he was quick to remind him that ???master???s room??? still belonged to him and the First Lady.

In the beginning, Hillary Clinton maintained that the presidential race was not and should not be about race or gender. But when she suddenly realized that she could actually lose the race, she suddenly showed her full hand of ???race cards???. First, her husband, ???Master??? Bill, compared Obama???s victories in South Carolina to that of Jesse Jackson. If it wasn???t about race, why did Bill choose to compare Obama to Jackson when there have been so many other Democratic candidates that have won in South Carolina primaries? Then we hear Hillary basically tell Obama that he could sit on the back of her bus as a vice president, seemingly ignorant of the fact that Obama continued to lead her in the Democratic race. Next, Hillary supporter and former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro says that Obama???s success is due to the fact that he is a black man. Interesting; if being a black man is the key to Obama???s success, why didn???t being black and male propel Jackson or Sharpton to the presidency? Then we have Ferraro accusing the Obama campaign of trying to portray her as the racist when she was the one who totally denigrated Obama???s achievements by suggesting that his race was the only reason he was winning. And to add injury to insult, Hillary refuses to even denounce Ferraro???s comments. Perhaps Hillary???s own words would suffice here: ???Shame on you, Hillary Rodham Clinton???.

As shameful as Hillary???s anti-Obama campaign has proven itself to be, Obama has had to deal with America???s fear of black men on all fronts. First, journalist Tim Russert questions Obama about Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan???s endorsement. Farrakhan has been consistently portrayed in mainstream American media as a racist demagogue. Obama, having consistently run a campaign by diffusing white America???s fear of the radical black man, distanced himself from Farrakhan as he had previously distanced himself from Jackson and Sharpton. Obama has known from the beginning of his campaign that in order to win, he must make white America believe that he believes that there is no black America or white America.
Now the media is playing up Obama???s connection to Reverend Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church in Chicago. As Obama had been a member of Trinity United for 20 years, the media was anxious to get Obama???s reaction to comments Wright had made concerning the 9/11 attacks, Hillary Clinton???s white privilege and America???s treatment of African-Americans. In what has become an almost calculated response, Obama distanced himself from the preacher he once looked to as a mentor. To paraphrase comedian Chris Rock, I think it???s a shame how much Obama has had to put his tail between his legs, but I understand. I hope black folks understand too.

I say it???s a shame because, in his ???audacity??? to ascend to the nation???s most prized position, Obama has to go so far to de-negro-lize himself. In order to get to the White House, he has to whiten himself as much as possible. And while I don???t subscribe to the ideology that one has to be like Malcolm X, Allen Iverson or 50 Cent to be black, in order to be truly acceptable in mainstream (i.e. white) America, a person of color must come across as being as non-threatening as possible. That???s the trade-off. The comments of Reverend Wright that have been demonized in the media are nothing more than the typical barber shop talk that one can hear in any ghetto across the US. But if one has the audacity to become the first real black president, that type of talk has to stay there: in the barber shop and in the ghetto.
I almost feel sorry for brother Obama. In order to be America???s president, he cannot march in Jena, Louisiana, or admit that he agrees with any controversial comments made by Jesse, Farrakhan or Reverend Wright even if he actually agrees with them. Earlier today I heard a white Republican voter on the radio saying that he thought Obama was a great candidate???that was until he heard Obama???s former pastor speak. ???We can???t support him if he???s like that???, according to the caller. The logic here being, if his pastor thinks that way and he???s been a member of that church for 20 years, surely Obama must think that way too. Funny, I didn???t hear many Americans labeling President Ronald Reagan a racist when he supported South Africa???s racist apartheid regime.

But guilt by association should not be the issue here. The real question should be if black Americans have truly realized what a Barack Obama presidency would be, and if so, would they still support him. White America has consistently proven that it cannot deal with racial issues, thus, in supporting Obama, there is a tacit agreement: don???t put race in their face and they won???t put race in his face???sort of. Thus far, white America has already shown that it can support a black candidate as long as he isn???t anything like Stokely Carmichael. Black Americans should know this too. Will they support him?

Sent by Marques Travae | 1:23 AM | 3-18-2008

Let's face it. How many of our former Presidents have openly belonged to churches or even professed beliefs themselves that smack of hate? If this were a white candidate who belongs to a church who speaks abusively of gays and utterly abandons the call of Jesus to serve the poor and raise up the oppressed, who would say a thing? And yet here we have a black candidate belonging to a black church, preaching things some of us disagree with, and it becomes a smear campaign. Besides, how many of us have ever gone to a church were we believed everything we heard? If you have not had that experience, perhaps its time to study the scriptures and use your own mind. Barack Obama is not his pastor. Let's not judge him as if he were.

Sent by thaxtons2003 | 6:50 AM | 3-18-2008

Welcome to America mr Obama. Say nomore and get back on your message. The more you say , the more the worst this crap become.Do you se McCain sweating over what those crazy minsiters of his say.

Sent by Fred Sims | 9:32 AM | 3-18-2008

GUILT BY ASSOCIATION the Pastor Jeremiah Wright: My response to the good ole' boys at Fox News, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly. Sean & Bill constantly brag about being Irish. The irish created the KKK in this country. They are the people you will see in the pictures and postcards(yes they took pictures)with their children in tow, watching the lynching of innocent black people. Lynching raping and killing was a family affair for generations for people like Sean Hannity & Bill O'Reilly and their kind.The irish were considered the lowest of all the white immigrants. The irish loved to drink moonshine more than eat. Bill O'Reilly admitted his mother feared Black people. What did she do to Black people that was so bad that she became fearful of them?

Good ole' boy Sean brags about being a catholic. The catholic church is a haven for pedophile priests who molest and harm children daily,taking their innocence and destroying their lives forever.

This is the "heritage", the DNA of Sean Hannity & Bill O'Reilly.

Will they denounce the atrocities commited by their relatives, of course not. Jeremiah Wright is a product of that era. Don't blame the victim for telling the truth. Jews are very vocal about the holoacaust in Germany. Jeremiah Wright is very vocal about the atrocities and the holocaust which occured in this very country to people like him.

Sent by ashley wings | 10:25 AM | 3-19-2008

I am a fan of News and Notes because it affords me the opportunity to hear the ideas and opinions of people from a variety of backgrounds often quite different than my own. Because I am white, I welcome the chance to listen to the black perspective on the news I listen to every day. I have only one complaint - why do you have such interesting, sometimes controversial, guests and then prevent them from speaking their minds; and why do you have so many segments in your program? I can count on one hand the number of times I felt a segment was going on too long, and I have been listening to your program virtually every weekday for the past 3 years. Your Blogger's Roundtable would be a wonderful full program. These people are knowledgeable, interesting, intelligent, witty and smart - they have things to say, more in fact than they ever get a chance to say. The same is true for the week's news wrap-up and for your recent program on Rev. Wright views and your recent series on mental health. Each of those would have benefited from more in-depth conversation. I know you want to cover many topics and I understand there are certainly a lot of topics to cover, but might it not be more informative and more interesting for your listeners to get more depth and perspective on a single topic than a sound byte on five or six topics? I for one would love it! Thank you.

Sent by Cynthia | 11:10 PM | 3-20-2008

Our country is in the worst condition ever in its history. Obama appears to be the only candidate intelligent enough to make our nation great again. Our country needs a president who has the abilty to reach out and gain control of our spiralling downward descent which George Bush and his administration place us in. Obama is the man for that job...

Sent by ashley | 7:55 PM | 7-7-2008