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. M

    I can't believe it's taken this long....

    His "spiritual mentor", pastor Jeremiah Wright gave a LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT award to Louis Farrakahn, leader of the Nation of Islam.

    Please....

    The "Audacity of Hope" Please.......(another phrase from Wright)

    THe SS Barack Obama has hit an iceberg....

    March 17, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  2. Grisellefrom MA

    Racism is racism. You cannot say you never heard it before in the long 20 years that Obama was there and never dennounced it. I could understand if he had cut the ties with this man a long time ago, but to do it NOW, in the midst of this awful situation it just doesn't seem honest to me. Of course he's going to address it now. He knows it will cost him the nomination and he wants to unite, now after 20 years of being a part of it. I feel that this man would not represent me with justice and fairness. How could he given his alleged (and now this real one) affiliations with people who are divisive and racist?

    March 17, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  3. Obamabot watch

    Why is everyone so upset? After all, YOU VOTED FOR THIS MAN and CONTRIBUTED millions to his campaign, without knowing anything about him. You had an obligation to investigate this man, and his wife, and that crackpot church he has supported with tens of thousands of dolloars to 20 years. AND, when he had the obligation to hold hearings on Afghanistan, he didn't because he was too busy running for president! That is inexcusable. You were, however, led down this path by the MSM who fawned over and crowned Obama, and tried to run HRC out of the race.

    March 17, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  4. Mary

    Now things are beginning to surface concerning Obama's personal life, etc. I have always said we didn't know that much about him and everytime something is questioned by the Clinton campaign, all Obama can do is whin and whin. Well he hasn't seen anything yet until he runs against the republican machine. Anyone who has sat in church for years and listened to the "hate" that the preacher was preaching; certainly is not worthy to be President. We have had one "on the job training" President for the last few years; we certainly don't need another. He will never get my vote.

    March 17, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  5. LAW

    Bill Clinton: "I did not have sex with that woman."

    Barack Obama: "I did not agree with my spiritual mentor of 20 years." (Or however long it was.)

    John McCain: "I did not agree with Bush on the way to handle the war." (Oh, wait a miinute, this is the documented truth.)

    Hillary Clinton: "Obama's people are using Republican tactics." (Wow, two birds with one stone. Slam Obama and harness hate.)

    March 17, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  6. RJohns

    Excuse me, but if we are to judge Obama on the comments and actions of someone close to him, then are we to judge Hillary by the comments and actions of Bill? What's good for one has to be good for the other.

    My mother is racist and has said things I do not agree with and I hope when I say I don't agree, that people believe me.

    March 17, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  7. NE/ CLEVELAND

    Just because he was a member at that Church for 20 years doesn't mean that he was there at all times, He may have only gone EASTER and Christmas.
    CNN: THIS IS A HIGH TECH LYNCHING AND YOU ARE THE ONES THAT DOING IT.

    March 17, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  8. mel

    I think Obama is DONE – El Finito – he himself claims this hateful minister has been an inspiration to him for 20 years – he had to have know and listened to what this guy said – Obama's wife Michelle's comment about just now being proud fits right along with the racism preached by this minister.

    And now – that these things have been brought to light Obama is playing the " race" card.

    Thank the Good Lord this has come to light so people can see they have been supporting the wrong candidate – he' s not about Hope or Change.

    GO HILLARY !!!

    March 17, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  9. yemiray

    No doubt there are lots of people in this country who doesnt want the past to go.. They hide under flimsy reasons but their real motives are purely racial.

    The Hillary campaign has not helped matters by carefully injecting race matters to this campaign into this primaries because they know that their candidate will never win on a free and fair campaigning.

    Obama candidacy does more than just economic and war solutions.

    It ends the racial divison that has eaten to the fabric of this society..

    March 17, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  10. tj

    Another speech!
    So many speeches, aren't all of you tired of them?
    We all know that he is good talker so what?
    His actions tell for themself.
    There is no chance Obama wins generat elections.
    Hillary still have chance.
    Make your choice, people who really think rather that blindly believe in fairy tales!

    March 17, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  11. RENEA,PLYMOUTH,MI

    WHEN EVERY REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT IN THIS COUNTRY HAS GONE AND GIVEN A SPEECH AT EVERY RACE, GAY INTOLERANT CHURCH ACROSS THIS COUNTRY I DO UNDERSTAND WHAT THE BIG DEAL IS! OH I FORGOT IT NOT ON TAPE.!

    March 17, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  12. nmt

    i seriously think there is a reason why the polls , after elections fall in this category
    young, educated: Obama
    older women/men, less educated: Hilary Clinton.
    Just reading some of the blogs, trying to be independent and see other peoples reasoning, or even visiting both Hilary and Obama's camapaign blogs..., makes me understand why certain demographics follow Hilary, and others Obama...
    Wouldnt it be nice if we were all educated, all well informed, all took the time to read study reasearch, then decide.......
    but then again, i hope those who can understand me understand this...
    as for those who cant..well, well, we understand....

    March 17, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  13. Sue

    Barack Obama has done so much to divide the Democratic Party by playing the race card over and over again. It won't work this time. I often wonder how much better it would have been for Clinton and Edwards to be running against each other where we could be talking about the issues and planning for victory in November instead of focusing on race.

    I have not seen the Democrats so divided since 1968 and we all know how that went. Obama has shown himself to be a slick Chicago politician and nothing more. The media is still trying desperately to cover up his shortcomings, but the American people are not as stupid as they think we are.

    March 17, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  14. Mike

    PARDON REZKO!

    PARDON REZKO!

    PARDON REZKO!

    YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN! YES WEN CAN!

    March 17, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  15. Claude

    You people are so judgemental....do you think you're perfect? Shut up, sit down and listen to what the man has to say....you MIGHT LEARN SOMETHING that will cause you to keep your pie holes shut!!! As for the Hillary supporters....you better do a thorough history check and stop being deceived.

    March 17, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  16. Lee

    There is not anything Obama can say that would make me support him in the general election. I have already voted in the primary.

    He has been sitting listening to this stuff for years – Dont tell me he NEVER heard this guy talk that way.

    Buddy – you are judged by the company you keep and White Americans should be outraged.

    If white people vote for this guy and support him you are just plain silly.
    I for one contributed to Hillarys campaign yesterday.
    Everyone should work and campaign and call and contribute to Hillarys campaign – we CAN NOT let BO get in. And he talks about his superior judgement – give me a break.

    PS – Notice he is giving the speech in Philly – where there are lots of AA... interesting....

    March 17, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  17. JayJay

    The guilty protest the loudest!
    Those thrive on sound bite overkill elected Bush.

    follow the uneducated vote........

    March 17, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  18. Clara K

    Obama's race does not concern me; his politics do. At this time in our history we do not need a President with his kind of personal agenda. More at issue, his ties to certain segments of society whose agenda has nothing to do with the good of this country are frightening.

    March 17, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  19. angelina

    HITLLARY will do anything to win.even damaging the Democratic party.The people have spoken Sen.Obama is leading in the popular vote,ELECTED by d people PLEDGE delegate and he won more states big and small.CASE CLOSED

    March 17, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  20. Celia Ann

    I have an uncle who returned from WWII. He got off the bus in town and went into the cofffee shop to purchase a coffee while he waited for may Grandfather to drive over 40 miles to pick hip up. He became acustomed to eating and drinking anywhere in Europe and after all he fought for his country. My Uncle Oliver was a very, very hansome man of African American, Native American (Chactaw) and Caucasian (due to a rape) desent. He had the most beautiful smile and was one of the most handsome men I have ever seen.

    By the time my grandfather arrived, he had already been forced into a pick up truck, and beaten to death in is US Army Uniform. When my grandfather arrived home without him, my grandmother was crying, holding him in her arms. He had been thrown from the back of the truck into her yard. He served 5 years in WWII but was killed 40 miles from home in the USA.

    We have not outlived the generations were there are living testimonies of "real" racial discrimination. I have had people ask, "well when are they going to forget about it?" That is a hard question to answer. It may not necessarily be 100% of the responsibility of the victims to heal these issues. We send people to jail when this happens now days, however, the majority of those who were guilty benefited in multiple ways for subjegating African American and Native American Peoples.

    March 17, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  21. Kristin

    Great another speech where he will stutter and smile. I don't know about anyone else but a smile is not an answer to a question and when someone uses "um" every other word that usually means you're a LIAR! When Anderson Cooper asked him if he would protest singing God Bless America, Obama did not even answer the question. Instead he did what he always does danced around the question with some stupid, supposedly cute remark and flashed those pearly whites. Seems that those skeletons are starting to fall out of his closet like an avalanche. Hopefully this ridiculous speech will be what Americans need to wake up and realize that Obama is not who he pretends to be.

    March 17, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  22. da

    BO needs to drop out of this race NOW and take Michelle with him.

    I hope the TRUE American people will NOT be fooled by this HYPOCRIT and PHONEY, the KOOL-AIDE drinking MUST stop.

    Listening to this hateful preacher for 20 years has had to affect this judgement (it has his wife's judgement). He is as hypocritical as Spitzer and needs to drop out of this race immediately!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He is a total EMBARRESMENT of the United States.

    March 17, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  23. Hong

    A candidate who mainly depends on inspiring millions should explain in details how he/she was inspired by his/her spiritual father. No fancy words please.

    March 17, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  24. Alice Rea

    Senator Obama is not being honest and the American people are not complete idiots.

    What could Obama say to clear his name. He has admitted to the public that Reverend Wright was the pastor he praised so much that he named his book after one of his sermons.

    To deny knowing his pastor's message is absurd.

    He can't denounce and reject and denounce and reject and denounce and reject any more.........

    March 17, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  25. Bob, San Francisco, CA

    I can't believe how badly the Democrats are destroying each other before this important election. Can't people try just a little bit to be open-minded and rational? Is that too much to ask? Looks like we're giving the election to the Republicans, and the world continues to wonder what happened to America.

    March 17, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
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