March 17th, 2008
08:15 PM ET
7 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. marianna

    Obama to speak about race? Sure, about the presidential race.

    March 17, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  2. DeShaun Willingham

    What a joke. Obama isn't uniting anything, except the infatuated media elite.

    March 17, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  3. dAnnE

    I don't believe this will help (although I HOPE it will). The discussions about race in America has gotten America no where in the last forty years. People as a whole fail to recognize the plight of Black Americans as so different from White America's. I am 24 years old and KNOW that racism will never end, it's not cynical...just the TRUTH.

    March 17, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  4. Hattie

    What happen to freedom of speech?. What his Pastor said should not effect what Obama thinks about this country. This is the kind of politic that we need to get away from. That is why we need change in america.
    As a democrat, I will still vote for oboma regardless to what other people think of him. Wake up america, vote your heart not what the media thinks.

    March 17, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  5. Kelsey

    This speech will be historic...and the fact that Senator Obama has made the decision to deliver it shows his willingness to LEAD this country, even on the most open-wound, divisive issues. Would it be easier to let the uproar over Rev. Wright die down on its own? Of course. Is that how a courageous and veritable leader handles adversity? Of course not. Kudos to Senator Obama.

    March 17, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  6. Tim

    Thank god. This is long overdue. CNN has been far too biased in only reporting what Wright has said in the past and not what Obama has said about it in the present. Obama will easily handle this issue because it is so apparent that he doesnt agree with Wright and that most of what Wright says is taken out of context anyway.

    March 17, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  7. Brian

    "When asked how much damage the controversy over Wright's comments would have on his support from white male voters, Axelrod said, "I don't know. I don't think this has played out fully."

    Answer: Irrepariable damage. He WILL NOT be the next president of the United States of America. God Bless the United States and all of our military who protect and serve us. I am so proud of you and of our GREAT country.

    March 17, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  8. Amna

    I'm glad Senator Obama will address this. He has the skills to unite this country and allow dialogue and reconciliation. This country needs people of integrity like him. Many like me continue to support him and we are neither neither White nor African American.

    March 17, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  9. Jenny, Rio Vista, CA

    Barack Obama is our chance for a much better future. Please people don't throw it away because of 2 15second excerpts from sermons by a preacher who has been preaching for 35 years. The African-American culture is very different from ours and people should not be afraid of different. FOX news and Sean Hannity started this............ and you are playing right into their trap.

    You have nothing to be afraid of if Barack Obama becomes our president. However, if you choose either McCain or Clinton you can count on much of the same.

    March 17, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  10. matt

    Sadly i dont think anything he does can change the way I feel about him now..

    I haave been a strong hillary supporter, But now i have to think .. do I even want this man on the VP LIst? seriusly

    its just to much

    March 17, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  11. Greg

    FINALLY! The issue should have been taken on after the third election when it was obvious the Whites were voting fairly and Blacks were voting on race. Talk about race don't evade the issue. Let us see if Obama has sense or guts.

    March 17, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  12. NO OBAMA! NO CNN

    Obama, Anyone told you it is too late?

    We are all tired of your flip-flop! You are such liar!

    No Obama!

    March 17, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  13. Mike Brian

    Obama you are a lier!

    We don't believe your speeches any more!!!!!

    March 17, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  14. Kelly Anne

    Bravo Obama!

    We here in PA are ready for a change from the ways of the past.

    Especially the divisive and ugly Hillary campaign and rightwing smear machine.

    Just say no to GOP/FoxNews and their racist attacks and lies.

    March 17, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  15. EBK

    I admire Obama even more for addressing this issue head on. Although frankly, his supporters will support him and non supporters will always find an issue. I do thank Obama for wanting to address the issue to those that want to see him president of the US so we have no reservations about the kind of president he will be.
    This is a good start and I look forward to having a president who understands that people are talking and wants to address their concerns.
    Obama '08

    March 17, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  16. Cynthia L.A.

    I believe this is a great idea. I would like to hear from his own voice on this divisive issue. I am hopeful that what he has to say will demonstrate his ability to unify diverse thinking on such a potentially destructive incident to his campaign. There are good people in America who can think straight, hear and comprehend, use good judgment and elevate the discussion to a place where we can move forward toward a win for all of us. There are as well some narrow minded people with ulterior motives who would like to sabotage any progressive movement at all cost. Here is a challenge. Which are we?

    March 17, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  17. Monique

    Why couldn't he address the issue before it got way out of hand?

    I am sure this won't be answered for sometime now also!

    March 17, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  18. John

    NOTHING CAN EXPLAIN WHY THIS MAN SAT IN THE PEWS OF A RACIALLY HATEFUL MAN FOR 20 YEARS. GIVE IT UP OBAMA, YOU LOSE.

    March 17, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  19. Cosmic Comedy Queen - Go Hillary!!!

    Blah, Blah, Blah....let's see you talk, talk, talk your way out of this one.

    Bill Clinton will make a better First Lady than Michelle Obama anyday of the week. She flip-flops whether she is proud to be an American or not. Poooleeeze!

    March 17, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  20. Concerned Citizen

    Obama supporters don't seem have much to say about his spiritual advisor making such anti-American statements. It does put his wife's comments about not being proud of America in a whole new light doesn't it?

    This is the kind of stuff you can expect popping up before the General election...which is why it would be good to have a candiate whose history we know more about.

    March 17, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  21. Michiel W

    Sorry, I thought Senator Obama had made his case over the last few days? Is he now going to reveal that he did know what his mentor of 20 years was saying? That he did not agree with him, but saw no reason to attend a different church? That this man did not have an influence on him, after all? That it was another "boneheaded" moment? Or maybe that it was only in a couple of isolated "sermons" that the Rev. Wright preached the venomous hatred of America. That this church does not advocate a black separtistism. Or call Africa the homeland and advocate Africa first. Sorry, Senator Obama, I no longer find you credible or believe you have the judgement to be President of the United States!

    March 17, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  22. Kareem from Hampton VA

    The reason why Obama stayed at the church is because he has a right to! We've only seen ONE sermon! And churches are just a part of your life not the dictator of it! Lets ask some catholic democrats shall we?

    March 17, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  23. Gideon

    I can't help but wonder if the Obama-bashers posting comments here would be better served going back to elementary school, where they can learn to spell and get a basic grasp of the English language?

    March 17, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  24. Patrick for HILL!

    I thought we want to move on with this race issue? You said that in your interview last weekend??? Is there anything else you can offer us???? We're getting tired of this, HILLARY has just made her speech & solutions regarding Iraq war, a substantial one! What about you Obama, still caught up with the J. Wright non-sense?

    I wish all your supporters can see how weak you are in policy making, we are in recession, economy is down! We need solutions!!!!!!!

    GO HILLARY!

    March 17, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  25. MELMARIE

    OBAMA SHOULDN'T HAVE TO DEFEND HIMSELF BECAUSE OF HIS PASTOR. HILLARY HAS SO MANY RACIST PEOPLE IN HER CAMPAIGN, WE JUST DON'T HAVE THEM ON VIDEO. CAN WE PLEASE TALK ABOUT THE 14 DELEGATES THAT OBAMA JUST GAINED. THIS MUST REALLY THE CLINTON NEWS NETWORK.

    OBAMA '08

    March 17, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
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