Wright is Wrong Apr 30, 2008 13:22:18 GMT -5
Post by Flash on Apr 30, 2008 13:22:18 GMT -5
BARACK Obama expressed outrage at his former pastor yesterday and effectively ended his 20-year relationship with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright as he attempted to quell a controversy that has engulfed his campaign.
Senator Obama called a press conference yesterday to denounce Mr Wright, the man who married him and baptised his children, after the controversial clergyman repeated sensational claims this week that the US Government was responsible for the creation of the AIDS virus and US foreign policy was to blame for the attacks of September 11, 2001.
"I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened by the spectacle that we saw yesterday," Senator Obama said, referring to Mr Wright's performance before the country's media at the National Press Club in Washington.
In the past few days, Mr Wright has made a series of public appearances - he has a book coming out later this year - that have infuriated the Obama campaign, which hoped it had put the Wright controversy behind it.
The storm over Mr Wright and his most famous parishioner erupted in March when videos of the pastor's sermons emerged on the internet and on television showing Mr Wright make some of his more incendiary claims.
The pugnacious pastor didn't back down before the national media this week in a combative and playful performance in which he damaged Senator Obama directly by suggesting the senator's previous rejection of some of the things the pastor had been saying was simply a politician talking.
"If Senator Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected," Mr Wright said.
A grave looking Senator Obama, who is vying to be the first black president, said yesterday: "At a certain point, if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally and then he questions whether or not you believe it - in front of the National Press Club - then that's enough. That's a show of disrespect to me. It is also, I think, an insult to what we've been trying to do (in the campaign). Whatever relationship I had with Mr Wright has changed as a consequence of this."
Mr Wright had been asked on Monday about a speech in which he claimed the September 11 attacks were retaliation for US foreign policy and said: "You cannot do terrorism on other people and not expect it to come back to you."
And on AIDS - he once suggested the US government might have created the virus to kill black people - Mr Wright similarly did not back down this week: "Based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our Government is capable of doing anything."
Senator Obama said yesterday that when he watched the tapes of Mr Wright's "performance" he felt compelled to come out strongly against his former close friend.
"The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago," the senator said.
"What became clear to me was that he was presenting a world view that contradicts what I am and what I stand for."
Privately, many senior Democrats have been urging Senator Obama to cut the pastor adrift before now.
One of his most prominent backers, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, bluntly said yesterday that Senator Obama should have done it earlier.
In a speech on race in March, the Illinois senator sharply condemned Mr Wright's remarks that had been aired on the internet but said he had never heard those kind of sermons while he attended the church. Nor did he denounce the man, saying that while he disagreed with him, he was like family.
"I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia explaining that he's done enormous good ..." Senator Obama said yesterday.
"But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the US government somehow being involved in AIDS ... There are no excuses. They offended me. They rightly offend all Americans and they should be denounced."
The controversy comes at a bad time for Senator Obama as he tries to close out the Democratic presidential nomination over Hillary Clinton.
North Carolina and Indiana hold their primaries on Tuesday. If he wins both, it is likely Senator Clinton would withdraw from the race, given she is trailing her rival in the votes so far.
But while Senator Obama is expected to win in North Carolina, the polls show a dead-heat in Indiana. The latest controversy with Mr Wright is likely to give Senator Clinton the edge.