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. Thomas

    It is amazing how many people are buying the garbage that the conservatives are throwing out. They told Paul Begala that if Obama is the nominee that Kerry's swiftboat will look like nothing and you are buying into what they say hook, line and sinker. Really unfortunate tha the US economy, the housing market and the reputation is in the hole and many people would prefer to dwell on something that is a total non-factor with what we face. This is a conservative attack designed to turn attention away from what really matters, much like abortion and flag burning. Issues that go to emotions and not the pocketbook that really matters. congrats on falling in line behind it. Hope that you are happy when you are paying $4-5 a gallon for gas and other items that require fuel to make or get to market continue to rise. Way to take your eye off the ball over bogus emotional issues.

    March 17, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  2. Henry - Florida

    He's addressing this issue too late. He knew about Wrights sermons for over a year. Why would he wait until now to remove him from his campaign. You just wait more and more of this kind of stuff will be comming out. Your candidate isn't as shiny clean as you think he is.

    To all you Obama fanatics. You jumped all over Geraldine Ferraro for her comments, and now you want to simply disregard Wright. Once again Double Standards.

    March 17, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  3. Manuel TX

    Axelrod is good.

    And really, this is their only option...to give a speech to try to pivot out of this mess. :)

    The only problem is that while spin may work in the primary race, it won't work in the general election. This guy is toast.

    And one more thing. Wright's comment about Hiroshima and Nagasaki is just so stupid, and insulting to all the American's who fought in WWII that I just can't get past it personally. My dad and uncle fought in that war and if alive, they too would not be pleased.

    March 17, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  4. Angela

    WHY HE DIDN'T GIVE A SPEECH IN 2007, WHEN THIS CAME OUT FOR THE FIRST TIME!

    HE IS NO BETTER THEN HIS CHURCH!

    March 17, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  5. Carol Rippy

    Shame on you Obama you are a liar and a racist and you are dividing this country like no one has in my lifetime... Take your pastor and your racist wife to AFRICA maybe you'll be happier there I know America will be better off... If you get the nomation everyone will vote for MCCain back out now and save the party PLEASE DON'T TRY AND TELL THE AMERICAN PEOPLE THAT YOU ARE NOT A RACIST AFTER ATTENDING YOUR RACIST CHURCH FOR 20 YEARS!!!!!!!!!! You are a liar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 17, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  6. Fred O, Lincoln NE

    Senator Barack Obama is doing the right thing, because unfortunately there are entirely too many folks out there, who are easily misguided, and thus Senator Obama's speech can help to get them back on track and focused accordingly.

    March 17, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  7. Mike

    It is sad but the dear Rev. Wright has provided the Republicans a sure ticket to the White House. Just keep on playing the good Reverend's tapes between now and the election and Obama is Toast.

    March 17, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  8. Cherryl

    Well...I for one can't wait to hear what he has to say. First he says he wasn't sitting in the pew when his pastor made those racist remarks. But then a writer comes forward and says he saw Obama and Michelle in church that day. Obama has lost all credibility. His campaign has played the race card and when it comes back to bite them, they flip and play the race card again. Their campaign opened this can of worms and now they're trying to put it back into the can. Racism, no matter what the color, is simply racism. We are all for putting this behind us, but it will take Hillary to do it, not Obama. Her record is clear when it comes to supporting minorities and the underprivileged. Obama doesn't have a record. He is trying to paint us a picture of himself (through his books and speeches) which now appears to be very inaccurate as more and more of mainstream media gives him more in depth scrutiny. If you think the Republicans aren't going to use these issues (Wright/Rezko, etc.) in a general election, you're fooling yourself.

    March 17, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  9. Adam "Hussein" SC

    It's sad that the Hillary campaign and the Republicans have made race such an issue in this nomination process that Obama (who has tried to completely rise above racial issues) now has to make a speech completely about race.

    March 17, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  10. Sharon

    This should be interesting to hear. To me, Senator Obama has become such a disingenuous candidate. If you bother to take the time to research his background, you find that most of the time his words and claims do not match his track record. Unfortunately for him, I think he is going to be fighting even more negative news as the Rezko trial continues, and as numerous people dig for any evidence that he attended one of those anti-American sermons.

    March 17, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  11. Joanne

    A little to late. Nothing matters now. Obama can't deny that he sat in theat pew and listened to this Rev. for almost 20 yrs. Denounced the sermon after calling him I am sure to say nod ,nod, wink wink need to say what I need to say but I really don't mean it. bear with me

    Do you think Oprah, Ted, and the Caroline's of the world are listening to all this and what they still believe what you have to say. You are going down. Nothing respectful about your Mr. B H O. From the Rev. to the slum lord that you claimed only received 60k oh sorry mean 250k You are a phony. Get a life. step down now. Should you win the Republicans's will make you and break you. wimp

    Hillary 08

    March 17, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  12. PA

    Be open to new ideas! This is an opportunity to grow as a nation regardless of who we chose to nominate! We can listen to Mr. Obama, knowing that he is a good man, and become a stronger nation by understanding other people's traditions.

    While Rev. Wright's words and tone were upsetting to people, he has some good points. Just in Philadelphia, 120,000 children live in poverty. We as a nation, can and should do better.

    March 17, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  13. George

    I love it when people who can't spell a simple word like "liar" attempts to chime in on a debate.

    Just speeches. I'd love to hear Hillary give "just a speech" that wasn't filled with distortions or out and out lies. Gee, that would make her a LIAR woudln't it END OF OBAMA?

    As for Theresa, I'd happily bet my home that she and many of the others who've recited the tired refrain: "he's just an empty suit" haven't bothered to check out his positions.

    You want to know why America is in the cess pool it is? Look in the mirror. Apathy and ignorance go hand-in-hand with the American voter. Tragic and oh so telling about a country that elected George W. Bush not once, but twice. Ridiculous.

    March 17, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  14. Hawkeye

    Nominat Hillary and see how many Democrats becpme independants or worse yet Republicans. It will be a historically huge number. You missed the best possible candidate in John Edwards, proving just how stupid we are as a nation, are we going to screw it up again?

    March 17, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  15. Tafoya A. Hubbard

    @Mike Michelle Obama never said that. She said she felt REALLY proud of her country for the 1st time in a long time and as a black female I agree with her. Blacks and white live in two different worlds in the same country. Nobody wants to have a real serious converstaion about race. America is NOT a perfect country by a long shot so excuse me if I dont always wave a flag or sing god bless america at the drop of a dime. i guess that makes me un american as well. Get over yourself.

    March 17, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  16. Ken Mahler

    Suzanne: I watched Obama's interview with Anderson Cooper last Friday evening and am trying to believe Obama when he says that he wasn't aware of Rev. Wright's incendiary sermons (clips that have been aired) yet I have now learned today that he publically disinvited Rev. Wright to speak at his announcement for the presidency back in March 07 because of the reverend's past sermons. Which is it – that he knew then or that he just learned more recently? How can someone attend a church for 20 years and not hear that message? Maybe I'm way off, but clips of the reverend's sermons were so egregious that I can't believe that he was taken out of context. I think Sen. Obama has some trust issues to explain.

    March 17, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  17. Jim

    Too late and unforgiving. I attend my church on a regular basis going on 20 years myself and I only attend it because I agree with my pastor and rely on his guidance and truth. I am gravely disappointed in Mr. Obama and cannot further his agenda or promise of hope. It appears hopeless afterall.

    March 17, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  18. An Ohio Voter

    Good for you, Senator Obama!!!

    You are the only candidate who is "ALLOWED" to speak about race. If Senator Clinton and her supporters; or Senator McCain and his supporters were "ALLOWED" to speak about "race", your campaign and supporters would cry "foul" and complain that they were playing the "race card". And of all places, Philadelphia........(I wonder why)??

    Great planning Obama camp!! You have a campaign subject all to yourselves. Have Rev. Wright on stage with you Senator Obama, I'm sure he can give you some wonderful talking points.................

    March 17, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  19. Don, San Francisco

    The Dems need to do something! I am very concerned that the Party is becoming more and more devisive and that it could become a catastrophic divide by November.

    March 17, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  20. Bill

    This is the right thing to do on Obama's part. I am interested to see if the media will properly cover his speech, unlike the way they have portrayed Jeremiah Wright. I find it interesting and insulting that the media would falsely attempt to shape people's perceptions of a person by playing a few excerpts of a person's sermons to his congregation. The issue is what has this man stood for, what good has he done, what other sermons has he preached that are positive, and where is the discussion of similar sermons by the religious right that have been celebrated by Republican presidents of the past. This has been disgraceful coverage of an important issue by the media.

    Also, the media fails to make the greatest distinction about the Ferraro issue and the Wright issue – Wright was addressing his congregation and we have yet to get the full context; Geraldine Ferraro made statements directly to the media regarding Barack Obama seemingly for the specific purpose of diminishing him in some way in the eyes of the media and America.

    The reality of it is that this will be an interesting test, because for the many who have read his book, they understand what an introspective person he is. The media is filled with cynics and it makes many of them uncomfortable with him, but many people feel that he can make a difference, and that we, as American people, can be part of that difference.

    He has to address these issues, not so much because of this primary, which is over; but, for the general election. By the way, the media really should be more honest about the primary being over, too, but I guess this is a game of ratings and sweepstakes.

    March 17, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  21. Ralph

    Yes...Please explain to white america the role of the African American church..Wright's church is similar to most black church, include Rev Butts in NY who's supporting Hillary. News Alert bloggers, African Americans did not come off the Mayflower.

    As for Farrakhan..Bill Clinton reach out for his support during his election. C'mon, report that CNN!!!

    March 17, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  22. Concerned Voter

    It's over for him. He is un-electable.He will not be our President no matter what he says. He cannot erase his long standing support of this pastor.

    Obama does not respresent America. Maybe another African-American can, but Obama is finished. Here is an example where he is getting a free ride. Other politicians have gone down for much less.

    March 17, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  23. Ted

    Rick in Florida...Yeah, a candidate with no experience. Just what we need.

    March 17, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  24. Kevin Leo (Jonesboro, GA)

    I am amazed at how people are attacking Obama for being so open, especially after 7 years of a Bush presiency surrounded by shadows. The preceedig 8 years of clinton were almost as bad and they still have an upcoming trial related to some of their dirty laundry.

    When Obama tries to stay focused on the issues, he is accused of dodging, when he attempts to address different questions, he is slammed as well. I, for one, applaud Barack for his willingness to sit down with Chicago newspapers recently and discuss Rezko in greater detail after addressing the issue for months now. He came out and directly addressed the Rev. Wright sermons and is now going to do a full speech with q&a to go into greater detail.

    People may not like the answers or rationale behind his decisions but at least he is out in the open with the public about these things. Hillary is so secretive about everything that i don't know ehen she is actually telling the truth or just sending up smoke to keep the facts hidden and undercover!

    March 17, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  25. betyjo

    Maybe he'll do what he should do and drop out of the race. He's not a uniter...but a divider of the worst kind. Imagine an America where there is war between blacks and whites. That's what this man is leading us to. Wake up people!

    March 17, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
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