March 17th, 2008
08:15 PM ET
6 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. Independent

    I applaud. This is eaxactly the right action that one looks from a president-to-be-elect. It is a smart move because he can take this case as a rare opportunity to foster mutual understanding and unity across racial divisions.

    The essence of Wright speech is right on target: condemning the government policy on the war; but its delivery is inappropriate to many who do not share his black hertage. It mirrors the problem of our society: people want the same thing but speak about it in difference languages. This mess must be cleared up so that people will reject the appearance that is divisive, not the essence, of this message.

    March 17, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  2. Amit

    If we can't overcome our differences and elect Obama as our next president, then we should not call ourselves Americans. I'm glad Obama is atleast trying to address issues that bother Americans but they usually don't want to discuss openly. Atleast give the man that much.

    March 17, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  3. Nic

    Hey, CNN, if you want to do a piece on how underlying, "hidden" racism is alive and well in America, you need look no further than your own comments pages. Obama's biggest mistake may be in giving the American people too much credit for their intelligence. I'm disgusted.

    March 17, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  4. Red Buttons

    Obama has made his whole campaign about judgment.

    Looks like he falls short there as well.

    The company you keep.

    March 17, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  5. LL, Atlanta

    This is being blown widely out of proportion, if Obama had said these things then that would be another story but for him not have been there and deal with the very same issue when it first emerged in December andnow have to deal with it again in March is completely ridiculous!

    How many things from December is being held against Hillary? She isnt even being held on her own promise to the american people to release her tax returns. Fully vetted, why is no one pusshing that issue, its almost as if the media are afraid of Hillary and what she might say next to hold them accountable for reporting the truth to the public

    March 17, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  6. Mandi Locke

    I am so glad he taking on this issue instead of letting the media and Hillary's camp deny racism by charging that HE is a racist. Hillary's camp knew about his pastor long ago, but they waited until the majority of black voters had cast their votes before they brought it to light. Interesting.

    March 17, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  7. Girl in SC

    NOBAMA! Get real, there is nothing he can say to justify 20 years and a close friendship to Wright. If America believes him , then we are in for some serious trouble.

    March 17, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  8. Lee W

    Hey Dems,

    All I can say is that Hillary's kitchen-sink aggressiveness in trying to win this nomination is going to sink the Dems chances to win the election in November. After these weeks of race talk, the national polls are showing McCain ahead of both Obama and Clinton. As for this 60-year-old white female, I am color-blind and gender-blind in this election, and my vote goes solidly to the candidate who is most unlike the Hillary-type old-school politicians we've had to stomach for years now. I look forward to Obama's speech and hope it will let Dems get back to the real issues and leave the kitchen sink at home.

    Obama '08

    March 17, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  9. Mia

    Obama HAVE to go!

    He causes too much diversity and controversy already.

    March 17, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  10. Ann

    I am not and will never support OBAMA, since I have a good sense about who he is.

    More and more people say now that HE IS A POLITICIAN, no matter what label he and his wife had been putting on them.

    Sham on all the OBAMA-MANIACS.

    Now it's time to wake up!!!!!

    Go Hillary, 08!!!!!!

    March 17, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  11. Kenneth

    All of you closet racist can grab on to this now and say why Obama should not be President. All of you who are saying you won't vote for Obama now were not going to anyway. White folks who already voted for Obama and still plan to do so are the White folks that were and are open minded enough and educated enough to see through this kind of political smeering that happens when someone gets close to winning and you just don't want them to win for whatever your bias reasons are.

    March 17, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  12. RAFAEL

    Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" – Samuel Johnson

    March 17, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  13. James

    We have heard enough speeches and lies to last us a life time. The tapes dont lie and you can not erase what was said in your own church by your ministers word mr. Obama. Like you said in one of your earlier speaches quote Words matter. To think that while millions of people all over the United States were in there homes and in there churches on the sunday after 911. Your minister and confidon was makeing such hatefull remarks about us as a country and to sugest that we deserved to be attacked. Try to tell that to the families that lost a loved one on 911 ant the workers who still suffer fromm the scars of that fateful day that will forever haunt our country. You owe our country an apolagy as well as your minister. we deserve nothing less from you. this is what we should be hearing not another speech.

    March 17, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  14. Speeches

    Anyone else see the desperation on this blog page because the HIllary supporters aren't making any sense–what is Hillary doing every day during the campaign (I mean besides creating spin)? Making speeches. That's part of running a campaign, they are called stump speeches, And I suppose Obama could just smile and wave on election night but generally the candidates have to say something–and generally those are called speeches, too.

    Regarding Obama's willingness to address the issue of race straight on: that's a really brave thing to do. If you don't understand it now, just give it a year or so. Sometimes people need a lot of hindsight for things to make sense–hang in there!

    March 17, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  15. Obama Supporter

    This will quite possibly be one of the most important speeches not only of the campaign, but history. If Obama can pull this off, which I have NO DOUBT he can, we are living in one of the most prolific times history has ever recorded. This is what we need in a leader, someone willing to take on the issues with a directness and depth inherent in the American spirit and worthy of its most important office. Some people will never be happy, but then again, these are mostly the people happy to remain uneducated (as evidenced by the spelling errors in their comments), so I'm not too sure we should be worried about meeting their standards. They can remain Hillary's base for all I care.

    Obama 08!

    March 17, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  16. Jeff in Chicago

    To say Rev. Wright "hates" America means that you believe America must love it's own history of brutal slave trading, subhuman treatment of many different races, centuries of unequal legislation, and the continuing de facto racism in schools, employment and housing.

    I'm proud to be an American, and this is the best country on Earth. But I will always hate America's history of racism. We all should.

    March 17, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  17. Jos/Memphis, TN

    What about he racist remarks other canidates backers make, the minister that McCain call an adviser, Ms Geraldine, the radio jock. And the inference that all Muslims are terrorist supporters.

    March 17, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  18. RAFAEL

    Wall Street waits for next domino to fall...

    March 17, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  19. RAFAEL

    Euro, Gold Hit New Records...

    March 17, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  20. Jonathan

    CNN is becoming the Fox News for Hillary Clinton

    March 17, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  21. RAFAEL

    Bush: 'We're in Challenging Times'...

    March 17, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  22. Miche

    I have decided to never watch CNN again. I used to have faith in your reporting but you are so bias and spin everything so much it becomes impossible to determine fact from opinion. Even as we discover that Obama, his wife and children have been attending a racist church for 20 years you have found a way to report this like he is a hero. It is a pathetic excuse for journalism. In addition you sat on this story for a year! I guess you didn't think it was important enough to tell the American people. I wonder if you would have squashed the story if it was McCain or Hillary attending a church that preached white supremacy?

    March 17, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  23. Ric

    When will TMZ release photos of Obama sitting in the front row of one of those speeches he so proudly rejects and denounces? Any day. Any day now. Obama = over.

    March 17, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  24. RAFAEL

    3-month bill yield seen lowest in 50 years...

    March 17, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  25. SC Voter

    I was an Obama supporter, till I heard Rev. Wright. You can't be a member of a church for 20 years and say you didn't hear these type of sermons. I would ask the Sen. Obama release his tithing records for the last 10 years so we know when he was in attendance.

    March 17, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
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