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. Joe Duscherer

    Go ahead and keep burying the real stories that the American people care about. It's too bad only one network is fair and balanced. That's why CNN's ratings are as low as Rev. Wrights comments.

    March 14, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  2. Ric

    What a lie. Obama looked up to this guy. Otherwise, he wouldnt have named his book after the guy's sermon. Racism goes both ways. And, sadly, it isn't going to go away because we have a black president. My advice is to vote 'none of the above'.

    March 14, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  3. a joke

    Is this a surrogate war? This old sermon was from 2001. These dumb democratic identity attacks will end up putting the Republicans back into the White House for another 8 years.

    March 14, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  4. Lawrence Ogoigbe

    Yes,job well done CNN.Is that the only one? look for more to pull down Obama.continue ........Clinton Network News

    March 14, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  5. janet in wv

    ok wake up out there do you still want obama in the white house? if hillary minister had said these thing's obama would be haveing a fit,

    March 14, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  6. hopeful

    I thought there wasn't a religon a test, where would I get such a foolish idea?

    You can be friends with someone and still disagree with their politics.

    March 14, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  7. linchristi

    It took 2 days of other media to pound ths for CNN to pick up..Deplorable..THis man has been with Obama for 20 years..As a catholic, when they criticized Kerry here at my church I left..WHy hasnt Obama??

    March 14, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  8. Richard in Texas

    With all this focus on race, gender and devisive surrogate comments that do not reflect the candidates, we have lost track of the important issues.

    This election is turning into a circus.

    March 14, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  9. Mark

    ..and this is news.. why? Come on CNN..

    This man is not involved in any way with Obama's campaign, and clearly does not embody the spirit if unity that has been an integral part of the campaign for change since day one. This is like reporting that his mothers friends daughters cousins uncle once said something divisive..

    Again.. CNN.. responsible journalism beckons..

    March 14, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  10. Cheryl Emelle

    My pastor says things I dont agree with as well as most pastors. I 'm just really sorry the old politics is showing is head in a race thats really cut and dry. Obama is in the lead so he should be the candidate for the Democratic party. Lets call this game off. Most americans like myself are tired of hearing the finger pointing. The sooner this is over the better, so we can get with america's business.

    March 14, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  11. Rovian

    Karl Rove playbook tactics don't care how old or how many times these things are denounced. The game is to try to tear down your opponents electibility with fear. They are trying to destroy Obama as a candidate through a loony surrogate.

    March 14, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  12. Mike D


    March 14, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  13. Paul, Charlotte NC

    I also hear a high-school friend has doesn't like apple pie! And a lady who bumped into him at a bookstore didn't buy the magazine she was reading! Also, his old barber doesn't return phone calls in a timely fashion!

    Really, people? REALLY?

    March 14, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  14. HOOCRS

    Didn't ABC also report on the reverend Wright expresing some outragious things about America? Is CNN doing a screening of some sort for the sake of possible minor age or patriotic readers?

    March 14, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  15. Gary in CT

    Is this the way things are going to be during the slow-down of the campaigning leading up to the Pennsylvania primary? 'Let's see, now.....nothing nasty coming out of the Obama or Clinton camp....I know let's report about some wrongful things said by Obama's retired preacher.'

    Come on, CNN. This isn't effective reporting. Senator Obama has already said, and you have already reported, that he does denounced many of Reverand White's stances.

    Quit trying to stir up the racial issue.

    March 14, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  16. Monte

    Interesting...this has been known for the past year, and you are just now reporting on it....once again, proves how bias the media has been.

    March 14, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  17. Chris

    I'm waiting for Hillary and her supporters to demand that Obama "DENOUNCE and REJECT" Wright's comments just like she did Ferraro's comments. Oh wait, she never did that. My bad. She simply said "I don't agree with".

    March 14, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  18. CarolynMccauley

    I am waiting to hear anyone from the media ask why Obama stayed in a church all those years that preached all that hatred and racism. I think he must have the same views,or he would've left long ago. I can think of no other reason for staying. Stop treating him like a rock star.He is running for President , not auditioning for the Rolling Stones. I'm an Independent, and I can tell you I will not vote for Obama. The public needs to know a lot more about this guy! He needs to be asked some touch question. He calls for change, but It's still not clear what his changes will be. Maybe he will ask his minister.

    March 14, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  19. EBK

    Gosh. I am getting so sick of the back and forth. This is getting so ugly! I don't agree with Wright's statements and don't agree with Ferraro's statements. I am an Obama supporter and frankly Wright's statements make him look bad.

    I would like to encourage everyone to not let these statements affect your vote. If you're a Clinton supporter, don't let Ferraro's comment change your mind and if you're an Obama supporter, don't let Wright's comments get to you. And if you're a McCain supporter, don't let that priest, what's his name again?

    Afterall, we all have friends, love ones and supporters who we care for dearly but may not agree with all of their sentiments. I don't agree with all my husband's sentiments.

    Now if Obama and Clinton are echoing the statements themselves, that's another story.
    I hope we move away from all this. It's ugly and I couldn't even watch CNN last night or this morning. From Ferraro, Spitzer, Wright etc. Let's move on please!

    March 14, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  20. Schroeder

    This "old uncle" (as referred to by Obama) seems to have played an important part in Obama's life. I wonder, after having heard Michelle Obama stating that it was first time she was proud of this country ( I guess because of the support the Obama campaign is receiving), coupled with the rantings of this minister, is not a louder statement of what Obamas truly feel about our country. That is not to say that Obama's minister doesn't make a few good points but I truly question the impact of the man that married the Obamas, baptized their kids, lectured and preached to Obama since law school could somehow not impart the hateful rhetoric this guy, and Louis Farrakhan (the minister's daughter and the minister celebrated with an award in January) spew forth. Race most definitely is a factor in this race but it is unfortunate that racial bias is too – in both camps.

    March 14, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  21. Mp

    It's about time the Media exposed this story. This preacher has been Obama's spiritual adviser and mentor for 20 years. Talk about judgment!

    March 14, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  22. Sandra

    WHY is this coming up again? Is the media doing this just to balance the foolishness from Geraldine? This was more than a month ago. Senator Obama has already addressed this. Can YOU, the media, keep the focus on more substanative issues. We, the public, want to know what the candidates will do about things that MATTER: economy, healthcare, immigration, security, etc. When the candidates denounce, repudiate, or reject the foolish comments of others LET IT GO.

    The media should stop trying to fuel the flames of foolishness.
    Tyler, TX

    March 14, 2008 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  23. Fraser

    It's good that Obama came out and denounced Wright's comments immediately. I understand that he denounced them immediately after they were made. Obviously due to his own background (White mother, Black father, Asian sister), he is inclusive when it comes to the issue of race and unity.

    March 14, 2008 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  24. Roberta

    Who has not heard thier minister same something that might be offensive too them. Does, that make you in agreement with the minister's comment. Rev. Jeremiah White like all americans has the right of freedom of speech. As well as all the members of any church have the freedom of agreeing or disagreeing, with comments made by thier church leaders. Barak Obama, Hilliary Clinton and John McCain are not responsible for the personal beliefs of thier ministers. Give these presdential hopefuls the benefit of respecting thier ministers right of speech, without adopting thier every belief.

    March 14, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  25. karen hussein

    What this Pastor White said is very very wrong and not helpful to our current democratic nominee but at the same time this pastor is not working for Obama's campaign and he not a chief fundraiser like.....

    March 14, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
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