March 14th, 2008
02:01 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama minister under scrutiny


CNN's Susan Roesgen reports on the controversy surrounding Obama's minister.

(CNN) - Barack Obama's Chicago minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is under fresh scrutiny, after an ABC News report Thursday shed light on some of his controversial sermons.

In one delivered last December, Wright argues Hillary Clinton's road to the White House is considerably easier than Barack Obama's because of his skin color.

"Hillary was not a black boy raised in a single parent home. Barack was," Wright says in a video of the sermon posted on YouTube.

"Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary! Hillary ain't never been called a 'nigger!' Hillary has never had her people defined as a non-person," a fiery Wright also says.

Wright, who retired from his post earlier this year, also is seen saying in the video, "Who cares about what a poor black man has to face every day in a country and in a culture controlled by rich white people?"

Wright's sermon shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorism attacks is also under scrutiny, during which he said America had brought on the attacks with its own practice of terrorism.

"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," he says. "We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant. Because the stuff we have done overseas has now brought right back into our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost."

Obama and Wright have long been close. Obama has been a member of Wright's church since his days in law school, and Obama's bestselling book, The Audacity of Hope, takes its title from one of Wright's sermons. Wright also married the Obamas and baptized their two children.

But Obama has long maintained he is at odds with some of Wright's sermons, and has likened him to an "old uncle" who sometimes will say things he doesn't agree with. He has also specifically denounced Wright's 9/11 comments.

An Obama campaign spokesman also said Thursday the Illinois senator "deplores divisive statements whether they come from his supporters, the supporters of his opponent, talk radio, or anywhere else."

UPDATE: Speaking with the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Obama said, "I profoundly disagree with some of these statements."

"Here is what happens when you just cherry-pick statements from a guy who had a 40-year career as a pastor. There are times when people say things that are just wrong. But I think it's important to judge me on what I've said in the past and what I believe," he also said.

- CNN's Susan Roesgen contributed to this report

soundoff (345 Responses)
  1. Liberty

    The "old uncle" analogy makes sense, because the Reverend is like family to the Obamas.

    When John McCain's mother made offensive comments about Mormons last year, nobody expected McCain to disown his own mother.

    I never expected Hillary Clinton to "fire" Geraldine Ferraro- I just thought she should have been quick to publicly rebuke her.

    March 14, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  2. Bob NH

    So Obama is "at odds with some of Wright's sermons"? Shouldn't he "denounce" and "reject" them? Oh that's right, he denounced Wright's 9/11 comments made nearly 7 years ago but Wright remains his spiritual advisor and pastor of his "unashamedly black" church to this day.. I think I'd feel better about it if Obama denounced his white-hating racist Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his racist church and returned to his early Muslim roots. After all, Islam is a respected religion which millions of people embrace. I have never understood Obama's distancing himself so forcefully from Islam. Just recently a second Muslim was elected to Congress, a sign of religious tolerance in our nation. One last thought, since it is illegal to promote any political agenda in a tax-exempt organization (church, school, etc.), shouldn't Wright's church lose it's tax-exempt status?

    March 14, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  3. Charlotte

    OOPs, I guess CNN made a mistake in the name White as above, when it is actually Wright. This guys is anything but right.

    March 14, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  4. Corey, Maryland

    I think this incident has Barack between a rock and a hard place. On one side, I don't know why the media or anyone would be attacking Rev. Wright for just preaching his viewpoints. Obama has already said he doesn't agree with it, what else do you want. On the other side, Obama could just reject AND denounce what Rev. Wright is saying, but in my view, how could you reject someone who has had a profound impact on your life. Rev. Wright married Barack and Michelle, and has been a close friend for 20 years. Even if they say some crazy things now and again, could any of you just cast away a friend and reject everything they say, simply from pressure from the media? I know I couldn't!

    Obama Richardson 08!!!!!!

    March 14, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  5. Mark

    So, I saw a similar story on ABC's Web site; I'll just re-post my comments here:

    My closest friend is Indian and holds many of the same views as Mr. Wright. For example, he believes the U.S. orchestrated 911 and so on. We have argued on many occasions over what I consider his ridiculous claims. Yet, we remain very close friends. I am a veteran and a patriot but I am not blinded by my patriotism. We need to understand that Wright's thoughts and remarks are his to have and make. That is the beauty of living in the U.S. These remarks do not provide insight into Senator Obama's own thoughts. Perhaps he has had a few arguments of his own with Mr. Wright.

    March 14, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  6. WhoKnows

    I am confused. Can someone explain to me the relevance of this information? What does this have to do with the economy, health care, gas prices, or ending the war in Iraq?

    March 14, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  7. Rose - Baltimore, MD

    He already said he is like an "old uncle" who says things that at times you do not agree with. You can't erase your relatives.

    March 14, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  8. Kathey

    Enough with the crazy surrogates. Let me know when you guys at CNN want to discuss the real issues, I'll tune back in then.

    March 14, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  9. mary, Dallas, Tx

    It appears that CNN will do whatever they can to ensure that McCain and Hilliary end up running . This is the pits.

    March 14, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  10. Jim in CT

    Senator Obama has been a member for 20 years and is still a member of this church. This minister is toxic. How can any serious political candidate get away with attending, but even worse making donations to, a congregation that supports this kind of hate?

    March 14, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  11. Cathy Griffin

    Show the video that Jon Stewart played last night on his show. It gives the public the truth about the minister's views on America.

    March 14, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  12. Peter

    Rev. White is an "old uncle." Geraldine Ferraro's comments are "patently absurd." Obama needs to work on his consistency.

    March 14, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  13. Debo

    In all fairness, let's get out the speeches of Revs. Hagee and Parsley, two McCain supporters so that we can hear the rantings of wild eyed ministers (e.g. we need to nuke Iran to get at the anti-Christ). And let's find out where Clinton's pastor is about in jail. Come on CNN, ABC, if you're going to start down this road, let's really do the job.

    March 14, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  14. Indie in Iowa

    is he going to denounce and reject him? He will lose votes for having such a vitriolic and hate filled "SPIRTUAL ADVISOR" and yes he no longer is obama spiritual advisor, but he was for 20 years. I have never doubted Obama was a christen, now I just doubt as to the KIND of christen he is.

    March 14, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  15. JC

    This is old news.

    Here come the hate from Billary supporters trying to tie this to Obama, even though he has rejected and denounced these statements.

    March 14, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  16. Sam Gonzales

    WOW! This is not a surrogate, a supporter, someone you can fire and get rid of or replace. This man is Barack Obama's spiritual advisor at the "Christian" church has been attending for the past 20 years. His hatred is obvious. When will America open their eyes to the reality of Barack. Obama will now try to distance himself from this man, but you can't distance youself from the teaching of your beloved church from the past 20 years, can you? Dear Lord, what have you all done?

    March 14, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  17. Sue

    The fact that Obama attended this church for 20 years, was married there and had his children baptized there says a lot about him and his beliefs. Most people would leave the church if they were offended by their minister's blantant racism, Anti Americanism and Anti Semitism. Obama has done just the opposite. This hateful, disgusting person is Obama's mentor and is one of the most influential people in his life. Do you people really want to elect this man as our President?

    March 14, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  18. chris

    And this is the person who will give our next president spiritual guidance? The hate in this man for whites and country is disturbing.

    March 14, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  19. George Andrew

    Barack Obama has spent 20 years listening to his pastor. I am sure he is influenced at least partially by what his pastor has been preaching.

    Michelle Obama told that she is truly proud of America for the first time in her adult life seeing the wins Obama has been having. I think we can trace the source of this to their pastor's centiments.

    March 14, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  20. Tolu, Minneapolis, MN

    On fair grounds, I think Obama ought to distance himself from this guy. Such vitriol has no place in our civil society, regardless from whose mouth it comes!

    March 14, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  21. Eli, Milwaukee

    I have seen the entire video and there is nothing that he said that was wrong. The guy was actually telling the truth. Sad as it is, that is reality of the country we live in. His words are just not good for the political spin of today.

    March 14, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  22. JR

    Here we go again! When someone sheds light in any way negative to the Obama campaign, they say "oh, we don't like that, no matter who says it", wink, wink, but the Clintons are bad and dirty. Come on people, WAKE UP!!! Also leave it to to divide the democrats by playing against others on the same team. I thought the Democrates pride themselves on being inclusive and having a bit of common sense.

    March 14, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  23. Slick Hilly

    Even I know this is a non-story. Mostly because it's true. I'm not black and the country is controlled by white people. As for 9/11, he's right on: you play with matches and you'll get burned.

    But I'm still going to milk this and demand that Sen. Obama not only denounce these comments, but drop out of the race. This is sort of divisiveness is not what we want when I go up against McCain as the nominee, which we all know I'm entitled to.

    March 14, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  24. Means and Ends

    The fact that this minister is in no way affiliated with Obama's campaign should not be lost on people who will inevitably choose to ride this story for days/weeks/months.

    March 14, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |

    OK, the last sentence says: he deplores divisive statements whether they come from his supporters, the supporters of his opponent, talk radio or anywhere else.

    Enough said. Move on.

    Can we PLEASE have the MSM start demanding Clintons' PAST tax returns and the list of donors to the Clinton library so we can see IF she is in anyone's pocket or debt.

    Do the people of PA deserve to know that the royal family of Saudi Arabia – you know, the country where most of the 9/11 hijackers come from, the country that has PUBLIC BEHEADINGS, where women are not even allowed to drive a car or even get a job without her husband's permission – donated $10M to the Clinton Library.

    Obama released his tax returns; Obama released his earmarks. Where are Clinton's???

    March 14, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
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