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. Eileen

    I think it's becoming clear that RACE and GENDER ARE issues that matter to the American people. That's why they keep coming up. Yes, health care and the economy and the war in Iraq and immigration and education are important, but so is race and gender (and religious expression).

    Perhaps that's the lesson of this unique primary: the American people want to bring up these very personal, emotional and IMPORTANT issues and see progress in these areas IN ADDITION to the bread and butter issues that we usually think are most important to a campaign.

    March 17, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  2. Kathleen

    Where were all you haters when Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson said the same things after 9/11. They were invited to the White House afterwards and celebrated by the Religious Right.

    Obama in '08!

    March 17, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  3. Elizabeth

    Geraldine Ferraro is just as "desjpicable" as the Clintons – birds of a feather!!!

    March 17, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  4. Bryan Probert

    The People of America should never forget the words of Wright
    """God D.... America"""
    Obama your 20 years of Loyalty to this person will cost
    you the trust and respect of the peoples of America.

    Bryan from Switzerland

    March 17, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  5. mark

    You have to make it so believable. Explain the 20 years of staying and only denouce now to obtain political gain. explain your wife's comment. No lame excuses and just be truthful. that's the quality of a good leader i'm looking for.

    March 17, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  6. Kenneth

    All of you who are trying to discredit Obama over his pastor's remarks are the unpatriotic people. First, what happen to freedom speech? The pastor has the right to say what he feels. No one ever agrees 100% with what someone else says. I am sure your own Momma said some things you did not agree with, but you did not fire your own Momma. Secondly, the media is taking a sermon or two from the pastor, when Obama was not even in church on those days, and acting like this is all the pastor had to say. This is obvious political smeering. This is the same old politics from the past that folks are tired of. When everyone just talked about the issues and campaigned, Obama was kicking Hillary's butt. Now Hillary and the media have got to team up to try and find something to discredit Obama.

    March 17, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  7. simple thought ?

    no more speaches , no more spin. it is what it is . and your wife dissplays the same and you allow your children to subjectacated to
    it. a mentor of 20 years ,those who flock togather cackle the same tune.


    March 17, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  8. Michelle, VA

    What I don't understand is that if church and state are separate, why should we be concerned with a sermon from any pulpit? I can't understand the logic that says we should listen to an entity that fleeces its flock while not paying taxes in this country.

    As far as support is concerned, rapper 50Cent has stated that he supports Hillary Clinton for President. No one has yet to ask her to "reject and denounce" his support, and God knows the messages he puts out are most harmful to any and everyone in this nation and abroad.

    Let's be fair to all because there were things said by Oral Roberts, Jerry Falwell, Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, Robert Schuler, etc. that some in the black community can view as inflammatory. The meek will never inherit the earth, unless such inheritance comes as a result of having dirt thrown over one's body after death.

    March 17, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  9. Kathy in Oregon

    Very glad all of Obama's deceptions and lies are being revealed before I cast my vote in our state's primary in May. I was considering voting for the man.

    Obama is proving to be SLICKER than most politicians. And I'm tired of his self-righteous, better-than-thou attitude. This speech on racism will be one more example of Obama preaching at us.

    And after seeing his mentor - Rev Wright - simulating sexual acts at the pulpit and preaching hate, I'm NOT interested in anything OBAMA has to say!

    His candidacy is divisive.

    March 17, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  10. Fendley

    How could Obama not know about the hate from his preacher in 20 years? He probably agreed with everything the idiot said, in which case they all need to get out of the country, they hate so badly. I'll help buy the tickets. Obama is an imposter, probably the Anti-Christ.

    March 17, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  11. Mary Sue

    I'm glad he's going to address the issue. I've read "The Audacity of Hope" and don't see how the man who wrote those thoughts could endure angry, hate-filled, profane speech from a so-called pastor of a so-called Christian church...for 20 years. :-0 Maybe voters will not hold Obama accountable for his pastor's tyrannical views. But as an Obama supporter myself, I'm struggling...

    March 17, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  12. Frank in Missouri

    You don't eat HIS lunch !

    Straight forward and not afraid to set the record straight ! I can't wait to hear what he has to say !


    I am proud to contribute to the Obama campaign ... small donations whenever I can!

    March 17, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  13. Cynthia St. Louis

    This is an important issue to address, and I am pleased that Obama will be talking directly to the electorate on the very sensitive and divisive issues of race and patriotism.

    I hope that the country is ready and able to listen and receive this information and both the MEDIA and the candidates can move on to the defining issues of this campaign: the economy, the war in Iraq, our broken health care system and gridlock in Washington.

    I am still convinced there is no finer person suited for the job of Commander in Chief than Barack Obama.

    March 17, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  14. Jon

    So once he addresses this controversy, can we finally put to bed this false notion that Obama is a Muslim? I only mention it since now Neo-cons are bringing up his "long time pastor" of 20 years, and the fact that he was married in this church and his children were baptized there. What a dangerous Muslim that is. As for these remarks, I'm glad he kicked the Wright off his campaign and also it's a good idea to address this issue head on. I hope if Obama makes it to the White House we can continue to expect this kind of direct talk from him.

    March 17, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  15. MNDem

    Welcome to "soundbite America".

    The American Sheeple can be so easily persuaded by a 15 second soundbite. You can try to have a civil discussion to discuss viewpoints, to no avail. Yet, if you can find a 15 second soundbite that buys into their fears and prejudices, you will have them locked in under your control.

    I guess ignorance truly is bliss.

    March 17, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  16. Whatever...

    My family and friends were driving to a wedding this weekend. The five of us are all African-American, college-educated professionals and have varied views when it comes to politics (age range 30-62). By the end of the three hour drive and a very lengthy discussion, (based on our personal experiences with racism and being Black in America) we collectively decided this man (B. Obama) is either a liar or a fool. No way on earth we can't pick out which of our "friends" envokes racial undertones in dialogue and truly don't believe it to be an isolated incident. In fact, it's wasn't the words of Rev. Wright that had us ticked off it's that Sen. Obama had the nerve to be "shocked and disappointed" as if that was the first time he had heard the message. Gimme a break, we would've rather you said "yeah, I've heard it before, but he does so many othe great things, I don't pay him any attention. But "shocked"...dude, what-the-heck-ever!
    (btw, three in the car had already voted for him). Liar or a fool...good luck with THAT pick...

    March 17, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  17. Debbie

    I cannot believe any possible future President of America would have (for 20 yrs) a PASTOR who says " God Dam America".
    I'm just glad we found out about it before it was too seems that God Blessed America when it showed us Obama and his wife's true thoughts....

    March 17, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  18. Andrea, California

    I'll listen and watch, but i don't think anything he can say will change the facts, whats already been said and the effects. What is he going to do? Stop attending this divisive church? I doubt it. He knew what kind of person and message this guy was sending out, HE'S ATTENDED FOR 20 YEARS! I'm done with this guy and i hope everyone else is as well. Maybe he should also address lying about the amount of money Rezko gave him. He doesn't know what he's doing, and it's showing.

    CNN probably won't post this either.

    March 17, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  19. Stacy Clarks, Texas

    I say go for it Obama....America is still behind you 100%

    to Angelina Julie: if black people are so racist, then why didn't they vote for Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton into presidency? maybe they actually believe in Obama's cerendtials, and maybe thay will not appreciate you thining they are so stupid as to not actually research the candidates, and vote for someone that addresses their needs!! how insulting you are!!!


    March 17, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  20. HHH






    March 17, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  21. JP, Illinois

    Independents for Obama!
    Thank you for being forthright. Other politicians can, and will, learn from you.

    March 17, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  22. Wendy, NC

    Freedom of speech is alive and well...but like all things, you must be able to deal with the reprocussions of your words. As an American, I was shocked, angered, and offended by what the good Doctor had to say in his church. Politics aside, what that man said was nothing but a bunch of hate mongering rhetoric designed to ensure that every black person in his congregation feels beat down and segregated and that the White man is out to get him and oppress him.

    March 17, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  23. Bill

    I think people are missing the point when they think this matter is only about several comments by Rev. Wright in a few sermons. It has to be the basic philosophy and teaching of this church as a whole. The pastor can only say in the pulpit what the church as a whole, and the church board agrees with. I know Wright embraces Black Liberation Theology and preaches it from his pulpit, because he said so in a recent TV interview. I doubt Obama even if he missed some sermons could miss out on the basic world-view of his church. after 20 years of attendance. He surely would also know about Wright's trips with Farrakhan to visit Khaddafi and the life tine achievement award given to Farrakhan by his church. By donating thousands of dollars and attending this church Obama has given tacit agreement to this racist philosophy.

    March 17, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  24. Too

    Few minds will be changed at this point of the game...those that are pro Hillary (anti-Obama) would not vote for him even if it he had attended a white church for 100 years. The fact though is that the math is on Obama's side and nothing will change that. Even the likes of Pelosi understand that Obama is going to be the nominee. Perhaps Hillary can try again in 2016. She'll just be 68 and younger than McCain at this point.

    Obama "08!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 17, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  25. C. Sharp

    . . .For a man to have to defend himself because of his race in his own country, should be shameful to Americans of ALL races. Senator Obama
    should be allowed to set the record straight, And he will.

    YES WE CAN!!!!
    Obama 08.

    March 17, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
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