March 17th, 2008
08:15 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama set to deliver speech on race, Wright

 Obama will deliver a speech on race and politics Tuesday.

Obama will deliver a speech on race and politics Tuesday.

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (CNN) - Far from putting the controversial issue of race behind him, Barack Obama has decided to address the issue head on in a speech Tuesday.

"I am going to be talking not just about Reverend Wright, but the larger issue of race in this campaign - which has ramped up over the last couple of weeks," Obama told reporters in Monaca, Pennsylvania.

Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod characterized the speech, to be delivered in Philadelphia, as "a discussion on race and politics."

"Given the events of the last few weeks, Obama felt it was time to address the issue of race and politics directly, and what it means in our country," Axelrod said.

News of the speech comes days after the Illinois senator formally denounced controversial sermons delivered by his former minister and longtime friend, Jeremiah Wright. The racially-charged remarks came under fire after being the subject of an ABC News report last week.

Axelrod described the Illinois senator as "a force for reconciliation" and said he wants the opportunity "to put this into context."

Speaking with reporters, Obama said the media is portraying Wright inaccurately.

"I think the caricature that is being painted of him is not accurate, and so part of what I will do tomorrow is to talk about how these issues are perceived from within the black church community for example which I think skews this very differently."

UPDATE: Axelrod later told CNN's Gloria Borger that the Illinois senator has "always contemplated giving a speech like this."

“He will address the broader questions of race and politics, these are complex issues that transcend Barack Obama, and are fault lines in our politics and society, and, ultimately, can be a barrier…They’re easily exploited, and hard to address," he said.

(Updated with Obama comments)

- CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux and Mike Roselli contributed to this report

soundoff (296 Responses)
  1. Jeff

    I look forward to the speech. Hopefully it will address why 1) A political speech is being given in church to begin with and 2) Why you wouldn't leave such a place that is supposed to be feeding your spirit. If that's what he's been feeding himself for twenty years, I don't see how he can unit a nation.

    March 17, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  2. ztormtra

    Nothing you can say can change the fact that you sat in that same racist, America hating, pew for 20 years.

    March 17, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  3. Rick in Florida


    March 17, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  4. Kareem from Hampton VA

    Well I hope he addresses it....then kills it and turn this election season back towards the issues while McCaing is making visits to Iraq like he is alreay president!

    March 17, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  5. obamamama

    Seems like the Democrats are headed for another defeat if they nominate Obama. His actions don't match his flowery speeches. If he expect people to believe that in the 20 years of his relationship with the pastor, he had NEVER heard the pastor preach in such hateful and unpatriotic manner to the pulpit,then he must think that everyone have drank the same cool aid as his supporters.His church's disdain for other race and religion is one thing.but hatred for the country he aspires to lead is another.He is the disaster wainting to happen and no amount of AA support can save him in the south and the heartland where such rhetoric will never be forgotten nor forgiven.

    March 17, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  6. GO HILL!!!!!

    Is he going to explain HOW he sat with his wife for 20 years in that church and also let his daughters hear this man??????????? WITHOUT GETTING UP AND LEAVING?

    If Hillary had been part of a white/women's church that ranted on about how horrible America and our Government is, said deplorable things about HIV and 9-11....and said horrible things about Obama and his wife...and was bashing men....the MEDIA would have a field day and she'd lose her senate seat....with Obama, again, he gets protected. WHY????????

    March 17, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  7. Frank

    It is excellent that Obama decides to come out with his own views on this issue. It speaks of his courage, his vision, and his intellectual, and ethical stature as a stateman.
    Obama, do not give up!

    March 17, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  8. La Bomb ba

    This is why experience counts! Not just his but our of him. Nobody knows Obama. When we find out what is behind the TALK, we find a different reality. He has no position just Talk and Hype so that he can swipe. He just another pack of false promices. Reality taking its toll on Obama but too late for the early voters to know.

    March 17, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  9. david

    Anything to divert attention from the church he's been contributing to for 20 years.

    Obama keeps playing the race card It may work at murder trials, but not in a presidential election.

    And yet another speech to fix things? I think the American public has already caught on to the "all speech and no substance" of Obama.

    March 17, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  10. kathy in ohio

    face it people he is just a minister himself you have not noticed that at his rallys. that is is career future.

    many of us opposed the war but didnt have a vote and neither did obama how would he really have voted he cant even keep his stories straight now. he is inexperienced and definately cant handle washington yet. he cant even handle 8000 members of his church.

    March 17, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  11. Theresa

    More "Just Words" from charismatic Nobama..... save the rhetoric...
    Hillary 08

    March 17, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  12. Boomer:White Female Supporter for Obama

    Let's see if CNN can give a balanced review of this speech and let the voter's decide on its merit. The media in America is becoming too biased and slanted in their reporting, jumping to be the first to report without doing their due diligence.

    March 17, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  13. End of Obama

    Obama you are a lier. We don't believe your speeches any more. Do you think you can fool American people. Whose words are you itending to copy again to give a speech? Are you not done? For American people you are done. You are a lier and you keep whining. You don't have any accomplishments and you are beating on Hilary's accomplishments.


    I know CNN Will bring all the facts about you before PA primary!!!!!

    March 17, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  14. Chris

    I can't wait to be lied to! First Obama lies about the amount Rezko gave him. Then he flip flops on if he was at his pastor's controversial sermon. Spin it Obama! Spin it good!

    March 17, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  15. Adam Orlando Florida

    More Speaches??? Doesnt he understand that people want to see actions, they want more then speeches. I need solutions, I need more then talk!

    Hillary Clinton 2008!

    March 17, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  16. NC4Obama

    Obama is so presidential.....he does not pretend like a problem doesn't exist when it clearly does.


    March 17, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  17. Wayne, Greenville TX

    I hope he tells the right-wing morons like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin that are now constantly attacking him about this to just shut their pieholes.

    March 17, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  18. Linda

    Wow, I gotta give him credit – that's pretty ballzy! He could easily just let the issue diffuse and put it behind him, but to decide to address the issue full on is a pretty bold move. Kudos to him for not running from it. I think this is a perfect example of how he wants to be a uniter: in order to unite we have to be willing to openly discuss the very issues that divide us.

    March 17, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  19. Phil, KC, MO

    Well, Hillary's campaign has finally found something that stuck – a way to tear Obama down. She has him off-message. Too bad, because I think it will only hurt the Democrats in the fall.

    March 17, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  20. Vig

    Obama's behaviors now are a precursor of how he will handle crisis if he ever gets elected President. He will distort the facts, distance himself so as not to get doo-doo on his shiny image and then use his gift of gab to spin a yarn. Why do we have to deal with this at all? Obviously, the man is not ready to lead this country – he can't even put his hand over his heart when he says (does he say it?) the pledge of alligence. He'll not get my vote – I'll stay home on election day.

    March 17, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  21. JT

    Good to see a candidate address concerns about them directly, rather than what is usually done by sweeping it under the rug.

    I'll give him his fair chance to explain this.

    March 17, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  22. Alice Brian

    He'll make his case? I don’t think anyone can make a case out of it giving his ‘mentor and longtime friend’ is so anti-America. It makes much more sense why those Obama followers are always so hateful and mean.

    March 17, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  23. CharlotteP


    Glad to know that Obama is addressing this race issue in is the right move to speak it open with philadelphia public. .Then the voters should judge and decide to elect the right candidate to the white house..

    OBAMA 2008...!!!

    March 17, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  24. Mike

    Yes Obama. I want you to answer all that negative race issue you created and your wife comment that she never proud of her country until now! I wish you can get out from that brainwashing idea from Jeremiah Wright!

    I want you to make sure and give your commitment that you will never and ever invited Dr. Jeremiah Wright to the White House if you are a president of United States, All of us don't like those kind of people set his foot in WH.

    March 17, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  25. Enrique

    I applaud Senator Obama for addressing this issue. Despite what Bill Clinton said in New Orleans regarding his comments in South Carolina, the Clinton campaign has been shameless in its race baiting. This election was supposed to be about issues that we Americans are facing. Hillary decided to make it about race and gender.

    We are losing our soldiers in Iraq, spending billions of dollars funding the war, All the while Americans are losing their homes and jobs. It's a pity that Senator Obama has to devote his attention to a matter that shouldn't even have relevance in this election.

    March 17, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
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