Election 2008

Minister Off Obama Team for Controversial Sermons

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Barack Obama's minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was removed from his honorary post on the senator's Spiritual Advisor Committee. The move comes after broadcast and publication of some of the pastor's more controversial speeches and sermons. Obama refused to repudiate the Rev. Wright but strongly condemned his remarks.


Barack Obama's minister, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, has been removed from his honorary place on the candidate's African-American religious leadership. That move comes after broadcast and publication of some of the pastors more controversial speeches and sermons. Obama refused to repudiate his minister, but he condemned the remarks.

NPR's Wade Goodwny has a report.

WADE GOODWYN: If you cherry pick from the sermons of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, former pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ, you can create quite the audio clip.

(Soundbite of sermon)

REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT (Former Pastor Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago): The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law, and then wants us to sing "God Bless America." No, no, no. Not "God Bless America," God damn America. It's in the Bible. We're killing innocent people. The government lied. The government lied.

GOODWYN: The controversy came to a head this week when a 2006 speech Wright gave at Howard University was dug up in which the pastor said, quote, "Racism is how this country was founded and how this country was run. We believe in white supremacy more than we believe in God." Last night on MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann," Barack Obama rejected Wright's language.

Sen. BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): These particular statements that have been gathered are ones that I strongly objected to, strongly condemned. Had I heard them in church, I would have expressed that concern directly to Reverend Wright. So I didn't become familiar with these until recently.

GOODWYN: Reverend Wright married Obama to his wife and baptized his two daughters, and despite the political damage the Illinois senator will not turn his back on his former pastor.

Sen. OBAMA: No, I would not repudiate the man. As I said, this is somebody who I have known for 17 years, helped bring me to Jesus and helped bring me to church. I would describe it as a member of your family who does - says something that you really disagree with. They don't stop being a member of your family, but you have to speak out forcefully on the issue.

GOODWYN: Obama acknowledged that these clips of Wright will be used to try to damage him through guilt by association. In fact, that is underway. On this week's Wall Street Journal op-ed page, Ronald Kessler, Chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com, a conservative political Web site, condemned Obama for his ties to this pastor. Kessler believes that Obama's vision of a new body politic is a fraud. That Obama really believes in Reverend Wright's more inflammatory rhetoric.

Mr. RONALD KESSLER (Chief Washington Correspondent, Newsmax.com): I just cannot visualize how anybody could be close friends with someone, not to mention going to these sermons, unless he did, in fact, agree with some of those comments. And to this day he has not denounced Wright.

GOODWYN: Hillary Clinton's campaign has complained that Barack Obama has benefited from an unfair honeymoon with the mainstream media. Since the week before the Texas and Ohio primaries that honeymoon has seemed to be over.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News.

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