Wright Hurts Obama's Notion of a Post-Racial World
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Today, Senator Barack Obama tried to contain the political damage form comments made by his former pastor. The Reverend Jeremiah Wright has been speaking out in the past several days, and standing by many of his inflammatory comments. For example, Wright again suggested the U.S. government could have created the AIDS virus to kill minorities.
NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr says, this is a challenge for Obama.
DANIEL SCHORR: Senator Barack Obama did today what he manifestly had hoped to avoid having to do. He called a news conference in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and he denounced the Reverend Jeremiah Wright for his characterizations of government and race relations. He accused his former pastor of ranting, and said that his speeches were objectionable and offensive. Clearly, the silver-tongued Reverend Wright is bad news for Senator Obama, if not for the whole country.
Wright has challenged the central thesis of the Obama campaign that the racial divide is history, and that in the 21st century, a candidate can transcend race. In his Philadelphia speech on March 18th, Obama said that America can change, and that is the true genius of this nation. Young voters born since the racial excesses of last century have generally embraced the Obama thesis.
I have met young African-Americans who don't know about the Tuskegee study titled, "Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male," from the 1930s-1970s. It was the public health service - let victims die while they were being studied. Wright invokes Tuskegee as though it happened yesterday. And to Wright, an attack on him is an attack on the black church. Senator Obama may dismiss Wright as a throwback to some long ago time. But Wright is not easily dismissed.
In his press con speech yesterday, Wright served notice on Obama: If you get elected November 5th, I'm coming after you, because you are representing a government whose policies grind under people. So Obama has reason to worry about Wright's ability to re-evoke a period of race hatred in American life. Indeed, Wright may be the greatest threat that Obama faces today.
This is Daniel Schorr.
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