Is Rev. Wright Helping or Hurting Obama? At his third public appearance in four days, Rev. Jeremiah Wright addressed the National Press Club. We examine how Republicans and the Obama campaign are reacting to the outspoken reverend's remarks.
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Washington Editor Ron Elving: Reaction to Wright

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Is Rev. Wright Helping or Hurting Obama?

Washington Editor Ron Elving: Reaction to Wright

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This is Day to Day. I'm Alex Chadwick.


And I'm Madeleine Brand. Senator Barack Obama's former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, spoke at the National Press Club in Washington today. He spoke from prepared remarks and then took audience questions, and let's listen to some of what he had to say.

Reverend JEREMIAH WRIGHT (Former Pastor of Barack Obama): This most recent attack on the black church is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright. It is an attack on the black church.

(Soundbite of applause)

Rev. WRIGHT: It is our hope that this just might mean that the reality of the African-American church will no longer be invisible.

BRAND: And joining me now is NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving. Hi, Ron.

RON ELVING: Good to be with you, Madeleine.

BRAND: So it's not the usual turn of events, is it, at the National Press Club, to hear someone like Jeremiah Wright speaking, speaking so forcefully, and getting lots of cheers in the audience?

ELVING: This was not a true National Press Club event. It was held there, and it was held at their podium, and he was introduced by the current president of the National Press Club, but he was actually there to address a breakfast of people coming to town for a symposium on the black church. So the people in the audience were people coming to hear him, and also coming for the symposium on the black church.

The reporters were standing around the edges of the tables and the room, up against the wall, and then directing their questions at him. So it was not the usual National Press Club luncheon. That's actually coming up later on today with Dan Glickman as the guest, the former secretary of agriculture.

BRAND: And current head of the Motion Picture Association of America. Wright seems to be on a bit of a speaking tour. He did give an interview to Bill Moyers that aired on Friday, and he spoke before the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, and now he's at the National Press Club. What is he talking about? Is he actually addressing some of the more incendiary snippets of his sermons that have been all over YouTube and everywhere else?

ELVING: Not so much in his speeches, but very much so in terms of answering the questions from reporters, and he is saying, when a reporter asks about some of the more incendiary things that people have all seen on YouTube, did you see the whole sermon? Did you see which of these things was actually quoting somebody else? Did you see what I said in its fullness, and they, of course, say, well, no. I've seen what's on YouTube. And then, he says that nullifies your question. You have to go back and see the whole sermon, the whole speech, then you will see what I was trying to say.

BRAND: So interesting. He's at the National Press Club actually, you know, attacking the media in some way.

ELVING: Yes, and, of course, many people do come to the National Press Club to do that. It's the ideal place to do it. You get a lot of targets. It's a target-rich environment. But, in this particular instance, it was really kind of a hybrid of an event, and the National Press Club was concerned that the enthusiastic response of the people sitting at the tables, and who were there to see him and were shouting out their support and applauding, would be mistaken for the reporters themselves, particularly for people who were hearing it on the radio.

BRAND: Now, any sense how Barack Obama is responding to Reverend Wright's, you know, recent public comments and his publicity campaign?

ELVING: Officially, the Barack Obama campaign feels that Reverend Wright must do what he must do, that he's not controlled by the campaign, that he can speak out any time he likes, and they would certainly not try to restrain him. Of course, unofficially, they would prefer that he not be quite such a widely seen figure, and they would prefer that he didn't keep showing up in the media again and again and again. What happens after this particular flurry, we'll have to see.

BRAND: NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving. Thanks for joining us.

ELVING: My pleasure, Madeleine.

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