White House hopeful Barack Obama suggests he would have left his Chicago church had his longtime pastor, whose fiery anti-American comments about U.S. foreign policy and race relations threatened Obama’s campaign, not stepped down.
"Had the reverend not retired, and had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws, then I wouldn’t have felt comfortable staying at the church," Obama said Thursday during a taping of the ABC talk show, "The View." The interview will be broadcast Friday.
In his sermons over the years, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright has railed against the United States and accused it of bringing on the Sept. 11 attacks by spreading terrorism. He also has said the government invented AIDS to destroy "people of color" and has shouted "God damn America" for its treatment of minorities.
Videos of his remarks circulated on the Internet and on television.
Also Thursday, Obama told ABC News anchor Charlie Gibson that "If all I saw of Rev. Wright … were the 30-second or one-minute clips that have been looped over the last two weeks again and again as opposed to the body of work for 30 years that he engaged in in building a church that is a pillar of the community on the South Side [of Chicago].
"It’s as if we took the five dumbest things that I ever said or you ever said … in our lives and compressed them, and put them out there, you know, I think that people’s reaction would be understandably upset.
"This is somebody who I knew for 20 years. He was my pastor," Obama said. "He wasn’t my political adviser. He wasn’t somebody who was, you know, shaping my thoughts about most issues."
In an attempt to quiet the controversy, Obama gave a speech last week in which he sharply condemned Wright’s remarks but did not repudiate him.
Obama said Wednesday he has spoken with Wright, who retired from Trinity United Church of Christ last month but remains as a senior pastor.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama’s rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, broke her silence on the matter Tuesday, saying she would have parted company with a pastor who spoke about the country the way Wright has.
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This is a true case of: "You can fool some of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all the people all of the time!!" …Abraham Lincoln. And I think the question now is, how big of a fool do you choose to be?!?