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. James K

    It's a little troubling that someone that Obama is so close to has pretty militant views, although some of them make sense for a black man of his age and experiences.
    Hopefully Obama can put this behind him before the Pennsylvania primaries and come up with a big win that would finally put this race away for him.

    March 17, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  2. Democratic Soldier

    Good news! Show them why you're the man Obama!!

    March 17, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  3. RightyTighty

    Ra Ra Ree, kick him in the knee!
    Go Hillary!!

    Ra Ra Razz, kick her in the azz!
    Go Obama!!

    March 17, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  4. NEVEROBAMA

    THIS IS FUNNY OBAMA PRESIDENTIAL!!

    IT THINK NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    HILLARY IS OUR NEXT PRESIDENT!!!!

    OBAMA IS FINISHED!!!

    GO HILLARY
    GO HILLARY
    GO HILLARY

    March 17, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  5. Nicole

    Obama is doing the right thing. This country is long overdue for an open discussion on race. That preacher does not hate America....he just gives it tough love. We have a tendency to blind ourselves to our faults and then dumbfoundedly question why things happen to us? Whether it terrorist attacks, bad economy, worse war....? It is time to WAKE UP! So, lets have these conversations!

    March 17, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  6. Adam

    JUST WORDS Obama? For 20 years, JUST WORDS?

    March 17, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  7. W. Rick Garr, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

    The record will show that virtually everything Obama's pastor said in his rants is true. Dr. King said the same sorts of things about Vietnam and poverty, discrimination and violence. Rev, Wright was not speaking to white people and attempting to reason. He was condemning evil, which is what ministers do. And if you don't think America performs monstrous evils, every day, you are seriously ignorant.

    March 17, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  8. Jose

    Obama's positive message endures and will ultimately win out over the negative Clinton campaign. Face it folks, Obama is the new face of the Democratic party. Clinton should drop out now so we can focus on putting an end to McCain's presidential aspirations.

    March 17, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  9. Wayne R

    Obama's demons are starting to appear for all to see. Of course, black America doesn't care – we know this from past experience. For example: DC voters voting the crack smoking Mayor back into office. This is just one example of the history of tolerance by the black community when it comes to black politicians. Of course, the white community takes keen notice of these situations. This is not going away for Obama and it certainly is not leaving the minds of many of the white voters he has been counting on or may have already won.

    March 17, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  10. Tafoya A. Hubbard

    You all are missing the fact that he was not under a racist church/pastor for 20yrs. I have heard this Pastor preach severl times and NOT ONCE did he even mention politics. I think you all need to take a breath and hear the man out. Deep down you know this is NOT who Obama is or what he stands for. Nothing over the last yr has given you a reason to believe that Obama is a racist at heart. By the way blacks can be prejudice but not racist we dont have the power to keep another race down. Racist is a word that is so mis used in our socitey. Pastor Wright has been preaching for over 36yrs and NOT all of his sermons have been like the few sound bytes the media has been playing. This man lead Barack to Christ so he had to be preaching the gospel at some point in time. Think about it with an OPEN mind don't let the media play you.

    YES WE STILL CAN!!!

    March 17, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  11. Margaret Gilleran

    It is patently absurd that Obama did not know about Reverend Wright's beliefs.

    Obama attended Reverend Wright's church for twenty years. Reverend Wright married Obama and his wife; and Reverend Wright baptized Obama's children.

    In the highly unlikely – one might even say impossible – event that Obama did not know about Reverend Wright's beliefs, then Obama is not nearly as smart as he would have us believe.

    March 17, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  12. Kerry

    It's just so ironic that the very same week that a senior Clinton adivisor (Ferraro) makes a racists statement and Hillary partially apolizes for her husbands actions and words (a constant theme in their relationship), to balance things out, somebody tells the media to go after a CHRISTIAN church pastor of Obama's.

    Newsflash:

    A lot of African American's and ethnic groups have a lot built up anger from years of discrimination. Is what Wright said, right? No. But he has justifiable reasons for being angry. Blacks did not enslave whites.

    The only Presidential candidate that is willing and finally going to address and solve this problem is Obama. Everybody else has sugarcoated the issue.

    Thank you Obama! A true leader.

    March 17, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  13. Douglas, Columbus, Ga.

    How about a " SPEECH " and then a press conference to answer questions.....??? How long have your peeps been writing this MLK dream?

    March 17, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  14. korn

    HIS SPEECH AND ACTION IS CONTRARY TO EACH OTHER!!!!!!

    NO MATTER HOW MANY SPEECH HE WILL GIVES , THE SCAR OF HIS WRONG JUDGMENT AND LIES ARE STILL THERE AND THE WORLD ALREADY KNOW THIS!

    March 17, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  15. Jenny, Rio Vista, CA

    What an ignorant bunch of fools you are. If Barack Obama doesn't become our president then you will deserve the miserable lives that you will continue to live.

    March 17, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  16. jkk

    Just like Obama always say that American people are smart and no one can tell them how to think, l think this is the right thing to do. We all know that he didn't come out as a black candidate (though he is black) he is a geniune American and patriotic as everyone else.The clinton campaing may have stealthly reduce his candidacy to that which is unfortunate.Obama is willing to go beyond that so that this country can be what it used to be. but that is not what the clintons want. they are joined in a battle with the bush of which family will have the white house the longest. America is on the brink of collasp on all front we cannot afford that kind of costly joke of bush-clinton.I believe that Obama has the judgement and the capability to lead us in the right direction.

    March 17, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  17. Brian

    Obama was a member of this Church for 20 years. Obama claims this is all brand new to him. Are we lead to believe that Mr. Obama
    is this blind as to what is going on in his own Church? If it is true
    How can this man be trusted to know what is going on in a Country as big as the United States ?
    It looks like Mr. Obamas chicken have come home to roost !!!

    March 17, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  18. Lou

    Come on...if you read this article and still just spew out hateful words, that is pretty close minded. You aren't even going to give the guy a chance to finally speak for himself? Or maybe you just don't want to hear it. I had no idea the real feelings many Americans harbor about blacks. Some of the hatred in these blogs are unreasonable and scarey. And I'm a white guy.

    March 17, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  19. SGS

    Openness, Honesty, Transparency–How PRESIDENTIAL OBAMA. Keep the standards HIGH. You're up against so much including the media, you have no other road to take BUT the high one...IF ONLY THIS COUNTRY COULD SEE WHAT THE REST OF THE WORLD SEES.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA '08

    March 17, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  20. J. Stone

    You see the difference between Obama and Hillary. Hillary refuses to open her White House records nor Tax returns. She obsfucates, hides, lies and denies.

    Obama is confronting his problem up front and is facing the music.

    Niether one has real experience but at least Obama addresses his problems like a real leader should.

    March 17, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  21. ohbama

    this is an excellent teaching moment.

    March 17, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  22. Realistic

    I'm sure that the Mad Old Feminists and Geezers With Wheezers who constitute Hillary's core constituency will have a field day with this. As evidenced by the many posts on this board, most of them are closet racists anyway.

    March 17, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  23. Norman

    What is really in order is not another speech about race.Its about why the "post-racial " candidate who has moved "beyond race":attended and supported financially ,a bigoted and paranoid preacher for almost 20 years and and him as part of his campaign until yesterday.
    All of the politicians make nice exculpatory speeches after they are outed.Same old.Same Old.

    March 17, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  24. stacy

    how can he now wiggle out of this mess after 20 years of listening
    to this insane non-religious nonsence and giving this "church"
    aprx $25,000 annually on behalf of himself for mentorship, his wife
    and his two children, for heaven's sake.

    March 17, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  25. Dan , TX

    A discussion of race, religion and poltics. This is going to be very interesting. Can we understand why Obama's reverend is well respected and highly thought of by one segment of America based on 30 years of work, but hated by another segment based on 5 or 10 minutes of videotape. Will this tell us how radical white evangelicals shown spewing hatred towards gays and calling AIDS and 9/11 a result of America's sins should not be judged too harshly either? Is there a way out of hatred and division that Obama sees, or are we just doomed to have extreme and hate be the hallmarks of the far left and the far right.

    I don't believe for a second that Obama's views are anything like Rev. Wright's views. But what does Obama see that let's him stay in that church. What does the black community see that makes that church one of the most successful in America?

    March 17, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
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