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. Gina C. Henderson

    You know the least you people can do when you are trying to slander the Reverend Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. is spell his name right. Isn't this the media? You people have no right to defame and slander this man's name because Obama is running for president. Who the hell wants to be in a country where you idiots ridicule one of the greatest men left on this planet. This is idiocracy.

    March 14, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  2. Paul


    March 14, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  3. NIC

    White seems to a very contraversal figure, I do believe in Freedom of Speech, but if you are a person in a position of power, a position of leadership, you have to watch your words sometimes. Just like Geraldine, things are taken out of context sometimes, then spun and twisted and then used incorrectly. These people dont have a bad bone in thier bodies, but what they say can be interpreted and percieved incorrectly sometimes, then as a result, they have to face a firestorm. The Media and general public should not link certain personas to certain presidental candidates. Let the candidates fight it out on the issues, the issues only. We all seem to forget very easily that the issues are important here, and not some supporter somewhere running his or her month. We do have the Freedom of Speech, and like Geraldine said, one candidates campaign shouldn't use their others supporters to hurt the candidate. And thats what going on here in both instances.

    March 14, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  4. PRS

    Look also at the statements from John McCain's preacher(s).... they are absurd!!... a google search will bring up many church/state 'statements'... We should get back to the issues at hand... Obama, Clinton and McCain can not be held responsible for everything their supporters believe and say...

    March 14, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  5. Joe

    Seriously. How many of us have attended church services and found ourselves not 100% in agreement with the remarks for the preacher? It happens. This guy is a private citizen (not involved in Senator Obama's campaign). It in no way is a reflection of Senator Obama's campaign. Can't the Clinton campaign find anything more important to suggest that the media cover.

    Here's an idea. Where are the Clintons' tax returns? Is Hillary filling out the forms herself (and that is why she can find time to release them)?

    This is the same old Washington political game and I hope we elect Senator Obama because it is time to move on.

    March 14, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  6. Jon Cruz

    Wait guys, wait. This campaign isn't about race! Didn't Obama's pastor get the memo? Only those who support Senator Clinton are supposed to be labeled as the folks who talk about "race." This pastor is messing up the spin plan!

    March 14, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  7. Leah DiMarco, TX

    It's time for Hillary to stop mud-slinging and start focusing on the issues. A person's religion is not important – this is America!

    All week long the Clinton campaign has been bringing things to distract people away from the issues – enough is enough.

    Release your tax returns and ear-marks Ms. Clinton so we can see what you are hiding from the American people.

    March 14, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  8. Lesley

    you know what they say.... "birds of a feather..."

    wake up obama supporters, you get mad at Ferraro's comments, and meanwhile this is going on?? you've got to be kidding me.

    March 14, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  9. My belief not yours

    Now who is the racist one. His own priest says that stuff and he sits and listens to it and probably has a smile on his face as he's saying it.
    What a disgrace. Church aint even sacrate anymore.

    March 14, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  10. Liz Marquez

    The old uncle argument just does not cut it. I have no uncles who have ever gone that far. I am not sure about Obama being in this church for many, many years and not having some of this man's ideas seep into his brain. Everyone is very quick to blame Hillary for anything, anyone says around her, what about Obama.

    March 14, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  11. Sam

    The neutrality of this article has to be examined. All the events reported happened long time ago. Why does this article suddenly show up, before the decicive battle of Penn? To me, this sounds more like from the Clinton campaign.

    March 14, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  12. Alexandra

    I am a black Obama supporter. However, if he doesn't fire or disaccosiate himself from this pastor i will support Hillary.
    Hate speech from any race is unacceptable.
    And this pastor is filled with so much hate.
    Obama, fire him and appologise to Hillary to keep my support.

    March 14, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  13. tony

    Well, I'msure it's only the two sermons in the past twenty years.
    Otherwise Obamma would not have tolerated it.

    March 14, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  14. citizen08

    "...tell me who your minister is and I tell you who you are."

    CNN, finally- you have a newsworthy article.

    March 14, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  15. Terry

    oh, right, Obama attended the "church" for 20 years, his latest book stated clearly what a great relationship he has with his "church". He also mentioned Wright was his mentor. ladies and gentlemen, this is a preview of what Obama's presidency is about. He has been dividing the country, Michelle Obama called the black community to "stand up". No wonder she is proud of America for the first time.

    March 14, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  16. Peter

    This is Obama's pastor, mentor, friend, the man he quotes "the audicity of hope', the man who married him, baptised his children. this is the man Obama has pledged allegiance to (see the church website, it is required). Now I understand the unpleasant feeling I had about Obama and his wife. The man is distasteful and Obama has felt compelled to spend 20 years of his life with this man. I hope everyone understands Obama is a Christian. He's a Christian that hates America.

    March 14, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  17. TERRY

    The fact that he would incorporate into his personal life, listen to, be married and have his children baptized by a man like this tells you what type of man OBAMA really is.

    You might change your acquaintances for the sake of a candidacy when you run for president, but the deep ingrained camaraderie and beliefs that kept you as a friend and a follower prior to running for office do not change.

    March 14, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  18. E. Levenson

    I was considering voting for Obama; however, I now believe that he seeks advice, solace and friendship from the wrong sort of people. Hillary will get my vote if she's nominated. I would vote for McCain before voting for Obama–and that's saying a lot!

    March 14, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  19. Chris

    This is all about Race.

    Reverse the roles. If McCain's pastor made these comments and substituted white for the black, the media and Obama would be up in arms and McCain would have to leave the race.

    Face it. Obama, will use race as a weapon when it benefits him.

    March 14, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  20. Terry Wood

    Comments like this have no place in our society and I believe neither candidate supports this kind of verbage. Leave it to the media to keep digging up tarnishing words on both sides. It's time the media reported on the issues and stopped trying to get one or the other candidates elected. Its time to let the people decide, on the issues of the day, not on who has the less dirt to report on.

    March 14, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  21. North Georgia Obama Supporter

    The last time I checked, Obama and Clinton were running for President of the United States – NOT Rev. Wright nor Ferraro. Shame on the media for taking voters off the issues most important to this campaign and America – the war, economy, affordable health care, etc. If you, the media, have nothing better to report on between now and the Pennsylvania primary, I will go back to watching Law & Order re-runs.

    March 14, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  22. andrea benini

    Rev Jerimiah White,Louis Farrakan and Mr Obama certainly seem to have a lot in common. Wake up America !

    March 14, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  23. Luis

    Hmmm, Obama mentor for 20+ years? Great foundation for a wanna be President. Let's see what happens. If Obama has any integrity or intestinal fortitude (I doubt it), he will distance himself from this racist and his church. These Liberals just keep on demonstrating their poor judgement and lack of leadership ability. Personally, I love it because the American people need to see how truly disfunctional the Socialist Party really is.

    Vote McCain

    March 14, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  24. Sophie

    I'm sorry who exactly is scrutinizing Obama here? CNN??

    I mean, yeah these are things that I would never say aloud to anyone. But I'm no idiot, I do think America has sponsored terrorism before. Anyone who would say otherwise doesn't know or is flatly in denial.

    These kinds of comments should not be scrutinized, I think this is what freedom of speech does at its best: tells the truth.

    March 14, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  25. Oh boy

    I can see where he's coming from, but he's sort of like Obama's version of Ferraro. Now, everyone just SHUT UP and let's focus on the issues! Thanks! 🙂

    March 14, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
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