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. Aboomah 4 Obama

    Bravo Obama!
    This is the leadership we want in a president! This is the honesty and openness we've been missing for years!

    If all the Archie Bunker types in PA, don't wanna vote for Obama, they should think about whether they want Bombs Away McCain to send their grandkids to be killed for more $100+/gallon oil!

    March 17, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  2. Jan from Las Vegas, NV

    What is there to put in context? Hate and racism have no place in our lives nor in politics. The fact that Senator Obama sat for 20 years in a church where both were preached says everything about him and there's nothing he can put into context that will explain why he did. And if he says again during his impending speech that he wasn't in the pews when Wright was preaching his venom he's a bigger liar than he was the first time he denied it.

    March 17, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  3. angela

    It takes leadership and courage to put something as ugly as race in politics on the table in front of athis country. Senator Obama pledged a transparent campaign and he is living up to his word. I'm sure his speech will be to the point, on target and will not contain the racial "buzz" words from any ethnicity. That is who he is and that is who I voted for in the primary. That is who I will vote for in November.

    March 17, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  4. JoeBrown

    He's just upset people are seeing him for the person he REALLY is.. his speeches don't match his actual tendencies. Anyone who would stay in that america-hating church more than 2 minutes is a pathetic excuse for an american if not a human. Obama is another radical who acts like a moderate. He's the democrat version of George W. Bush.

    March 17, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  5. June

    Does anyone really believe he sat in that Church for 20 years and never heard anything inflammatory? This election has been ALL about race, with Obama playing the race card in an insidiously demonic manner. If Obama is the Dem's candidate I will vote for McCain. Go Hillary!

    March 17, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  6. Jim

    The Meida, should address Obama, same as Bill Clinton, during the SC issue.

    March 17, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  7. JT in Dallas

    Well, the usual dress it up with a speech BHO! What's new?

    He said he receives all his guidance from his wife and his preacher. She is just now becoming a proud American. The preacher is more prejudice than anyone we have heard from yet, black or white. It is easy to use the race card when it benefits you. It is easy to claim that the white race is to blame when it sounds good on a pulpit or a campaign stump. We don't have any idea who Obama is other than the people he surrounds himself with and his speeches. Open your eyes people! This guy is WRONG for all kinds of reason. Don't hope and wish your way into another LAME DUCK!

    (It's ok cnn. I don't expect you to post this either)

    March 17, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  8. jmw

    I really admire Barack Obama for his dedication to ending race and gender politics and working hard to heal what divides us. He impresses me as wanting to be a President for all the people. I can't held him responsible for what a preacher says. The preacher clearly does not speak for him or his campaign. I accept What Mr. Obama says about the preacher mostly speaking about Jesus and love for others.

    A lot of people thought Martin Luther King was racist, because he too spoke the social gospel, but that was just because they themselves had problems with race. I think everyone ought to just get over it and move on.

    Also it should be remembered that many Preachers like Pastor John Hagee speak fundamentalist, catholic hating, hateful retoric all the time. Hagee supports John McCain and I don't see replays of all that hateful language and believe me they can be found.

    March 17, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  9. Andy

    Wow, how enlightening. Barack, who has sat in a pew for 20 years listening to this hate monger, is going to give us a speech about spirituality and race. What a hypocrite. I hope all of those that were duped by his lines of crap for the last year finally figure things out.

    March 17, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  10. John Smith

    Thats why the primaries should be held on one single day for ALL the states. The reason being we find out things about candidates during the whole process. I bet people in Wyoming, North Dakota and other states Obama had won would after hearing this new revelation with the pastor wish they had their vote back. The country needs to gather all the information about the candidate before voting rather than vote using only what they know at the time about the candidate.

    March 17, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  11. Mike, MD



    FALL HARD FOR THE SAME (Clinton)!!!

    March 17, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  12. karma cop

    race race race gender gendr gender bornagain old senile etc etc we should just elect a nice A.I. SUPER COMPUTER plug it in to the internet and see what happens. could it be any worse than the hypocrisy that has emulated from all of the campaigners and their hangers on

    March 17, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  13. joe









    March 17, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  14. Marguerite Nash

    I hope Obama makes it. It takes alot of guts to do what he is doing. I haven't seen the Clinton campaign come out and do the right thing. He even came clean on the Rezko money.

    I am a 64 year old female. I was around the day Martin Luther King was killed. I hope he is looking down to see what is going on.

    Good luck, Obama

    March 17, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  15. Democratic Soldier

    Attention all Obama supporters: If Hillary wins the democratic nomination, we need to boycott the general election or vote for McCain. Hillary Clinton and her supporters are disgusting. In no way can we allow her and her cheating husband back in the White House!!

    March 17, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  16. Corey

    In the end, whether it's Hillary or Barack, you need to support your Democratic candidate and stop acting like spoiled children. The future of this country, of this world is far more important than your foolish rantings and line drawings and pointless fighting on candidates. In the end their politics are a whole lot more similar than they are different. It's like choosing between Coke and Pepsi. Stop it guys and look at the bigger picture!!!!!
    And to those that say that they were Obama supporters but aren't now, give me a break. You wanted something to be found on him so your concience would be clear when you became a detractor. How many of you go to churches, synangogues, or mosques and don't agree with everything that's been said. Catholics that believe in birth control and freedom of choice when it comes to abortion, what do your priests say?
    How is what Rev. Wright says indicative of what Barack Obama believes? What about Hagee and McCain? What about Feraro and Clinton? If you want to use the "birds of a feather" theory, be even across the board. Stop this foolishness and remember that there is a separation of church and state. Understand that this is yet another distraction from the issues. WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!

    March 17, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  17. Joanne

    A little to late. Nothing matters now. Obama can't deny that he sat in that 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 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  18. very concerned voter

    Nothing will change the fact that Obama sat in a pew in that church on Sunday monnings and listened and absorbed his pastor's distorted comments about not only race, but America and all that it stands for. Obama did not leave the church, nor did he attempt to reject the pastor's horrible comments at any time. Who is the racist here? My God this pastor was no more than a rebel rouser and another Jessie Jackson. How many children and teenagers listened to his messages of hate, along with Obama's children, and now feel that white America is somehow responsible for all of their ills? Who is the rasist here? This country better wake up before November and vote the right way. Can you imagine this kind of rhetoric in the White House? God help us all.

    March 17, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  19. Luanne

    There is no way a man like Obama would attend a church that regularly spews hatred. There is a culteral divide at play here, a fundamental lack of understanding of the black community by the mainstream media, and the way they portrayed Obama's church in such a lopsided, prejudicial manner makes me very angry.

    March 17, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  20. BILL, VA


    March 17, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  21. SGS




    March 17, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  22. Mark

    There is a way for Obama to come clean on this issue. It is just unbelievable that being a member of this church for that long, he has not heard or known about his pastor's comments. He also needs to strongly demonstrate that his candidacy is not just about rhetoric. On several occasions, there have been reports of various black elected individuals who have been threatened and have received hate mails sent simply because they endorse Hillary and not Obama. Is it not incumbent on someone like Obama who claims he trascends race and above politics to strongly condemn such activities by his supporters? Tavis Smiley and Stephanie Jones have made public these allegations but never once have we heard Sen. Obama coming out to speak against such tactics. My belief and that of our friends confirm the fact that when these issues favour his candidacy, Sen. Obama makes no effort to repudiate them. This has now blossomed into a full frenzy and we find him distancing himself from his lifelong pastor when in indeed he could have done so in the past. It is obvious Sen. Obama has some explaining to do and to do so is not to go to friendly territory on MSNBC where the hard question and coverage of him is so biased. Make a date with Fox News and show your bravery in your response to these questions. I would also suggest a full scale news conference with all reporters to answer questions fully. Remember this scrutiny has come too late and his candidacy is premised on Judgement and Character. Where are they?

    March 17, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  23. king from toronto

    all you racist people should stay away from making comments,that are infact racist.obama is gonna move this country forward.and people like you dont want that to you keep making racist comments.but it's gonna happen weather you like it or not.this is nothing compare to what we've bin through as blacks.yet where willing to over look all of it.for the sake of "UINITY".

    March 17, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |

    I hope Obama tells them all to "buzz off", he has had to answer to many questions about his religon. NO RELIGON TEST REMEMBER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 17, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  25. Chuck


    Your first acknowledgement of being a Hillary supporter tells us that your judgement is poor in the first place therefore when it comes to deciding who you want for VP, well, it does not mattter.

    I think it best that Obama not pick Hillary for his VP running mate. Her supporters like her lack good judgement.

    March 17, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
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