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. Joe

    Reading the hate posts from the Clinton supporters just proves the exit polling. The under-educated really do support Hillary! It is obvious from these comments.

    March 17, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  2. Bil Jergens

    Obama is above race is he? Then why did he go to that church for 20 years, have this racist man as a spiritual mentor as he describes him, and a confidant. Above race are you? and your wife has gone to the church for 25 years, longer than you have, and she writes her thesis about how she feels like she's a black person living in white america.

    These few says, you seem more about race than anyone else in this election. You scream of race.

    You scream of opportunistic politics. You join the church to make yoursel fmore black ot get elected to Illinois state senate. Now that you're running for president, you wanna get away from the church and Wright but if you denounce him, you'll piss off your strong black supporters. O well Obama. Either way, you're screwed. You can't wiggle yourself out of htis one now. If Hillary won't do anything ot you, McCain will in the GE and that means we have another GOP president for the next four years. You've just given the preisdency to McCain. Thanks a lot.

    From now on, when you call PA voters, mention Wright and REzko and point not to what Wright is saying but to Rezko's judgement and credibility. His judgement to work with Rezko when he knew he wasw already under investigation for money-laundering. His judgement to put Wright in a leadership role in his campaign after he knew how dangerous he would be. His credibility in sayin ghta the wasn't there when how can he not possibly have heard any of this for 20 years and his wife saying "its the first time shes proud ot be an american" when she's been in that church longer than he has. The votes must know. So call people and tell them aobu tit. Tell him where they can find the video. Tell them where they can see who Obama really is and why he should nlot be president. Tell them why he plays down Hillary's accomplishments: because he doesn't have any. Tell them why he keeps pushing for Hillary's tax returns when his illinois state senate tax returns, were conveniently destroyed. Tell them.

    March 17, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  3. OhioVoter

    I'm interested to see what he's going to say. But, at the end of the day, I can't imagine what he could say that would change my opinion about this. I consider myself pretty enlightened, but I have major concerns about an individual who would attend a church with those sorts of divisive views. Do I think that Obama is racist? No, I don't. But I think he is capitalizing on his race to win this election, so I think that there is some karma in the fact that his church is destroying his chances due to race issues.

    Let's be absolutely clear. Without some serious changes, the Obama campaign as it currently stands cannot defeat McCain. I think Obama should realize this and step aside. He won't, because he'll rail about the number of states he's already won. (States that voted before hearing about his church or about the extent of the Rezko relationship.) THIS is why superdelegates exist.

    March 17, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  4. Not convinced

    I wonder if he'll call Wright before the speech to tell him not to worry about anything he says because it will only be rhetoric.

    March 17, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  5. keith

    Amazing.

    He doesn't duck this issue and people are still not happy. I applaud him for taking the courage to get at the root of all the attacks against him. His race is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. So let's really talk about it

    Hillarites are in continual denial. He IS going to be the nominee. The math is clear.

    Clinton avoids releasing any kind of proof of her "vetted experience". She wants to hide behind subterfuge and "I am woman, hear me roar" rhetoric. She exaggerates her "experience" and that's okay with Hillary supporters.

    No let's attack a retired preacher – based on 30 seconds of sound bites – without actaully listening to his FULL sermons.

    March 17, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  6. George

    Discussions of race, religion and poltics are essential but why not talk about sexism at the same time? After all – sexism and racism are "siblings".

    March 17, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  7. emmanuel Ray

    STILL such a BIG Turn off... I try to forget it but its not Going to Happen......sorry Obama , not good

    I think im going to go with Hillary now....The economy is poor and Hillary has had it in the wraps since last year...

    March 17, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  8. Alison

    More speeches ... JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION ???Where you in the pews?????????

    March 17, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  9. Michael

    Racists will cost him the election, I guess...

    March 17, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  10. Karen, TN

    I'm glad to see Obama directly adressing this. I think that is the right thing to do. I think it is a possibility that Barack Obama maybe just doesn't actually go to church that much with his lifestyle being what it is, so maybe he actually was kind of ignorant of what was going on. I don't know that for sure, but it's a distinct possibility.

    I also want to point out that attacks on what Wright has said are NOT attacks on Christianity because although the Bible is full of a social gospel, it is not full of the hatred and bitterness spewing out of his mouth. Don't call it Christianity.

    March 17, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  11. Julie

    Can hardly wait to hear what his speech writers are going to have to say about this issue. Good thing he isn't speaking until tomorrow, that gives the writers plenty of time to pick the best excuses and somehow make this look like it is all Hillary's or the GOP's fault. Someone be sure that the teleprompters are plugged in so Obama knows what to say.

    March 17, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  12. Go Hillary

    I don't think obama will be able to smooth talk his way out of this one!

    March 17, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  13. Kim, PA

    wait...
    how will he know what to say if Hillary doesn't speak first?

    March 17, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  14. s.pryor

    How could you sit in the same church as this man (I will not call him a pastor/preacher/teacher) along with your wife children and then say you never heard any of this??? 20 years is a long time to have missed this much hatred for your fellow Americans(voters) and your Country. I am just so saddened that once I thought I had a candidate I was proud to vote for...and I am WHITE and now I have none.

    To have this so called preacher/friend invited into the White House after spouting all this horrible rhetoric would be an insult to All Americans.

    I am just going to vote for the candidate that is acting in the most dignified, presidential manner. Obama and Clinton both are just a joke.

    March 17, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  15. Cats out of the bag

    Obama to Wright: "How are you going to let all the morons and future morons that vote for me know what I'm really about? Our plan will be ruined!!"

    Wright: "Oops..."

    March 17, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  16. Ashish Raj

    I am an independent who was considering voting for Obama. After hearing Obama's pastor, adviser, and long-term mentor spew such hateful vitriol, I have decided my vote is going for McCain. The last straw was Obama's deciding to "denounce some of" pastor Wright's comments...Wright's statements require a TOTAL and utter denunciation of Wright. Futhermore, I am certain that Obama knew of Wright's views over the 20 year period that he sat in his congregation...to say otherwise is utter hooey.

    March 17, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  17. Matt

    Obama's bubble has burst.

    Washington as usual, unfortunately.

    March 17, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  18. Diane, NY

    So when is Hillary going to give her speech on openess and why she is hiding so many of her past documents, or about her and her husband's ties to several shady characters. Hillary supporters say that Obama supporters have blinders on...it's the reverse. And I'm saying this as a registered Republican who has voted Republican for over 20 years and plan on voting for Obama in 08'.

    Hillary started this whole negative campaign (remember change you can Xerox) when she saw what she believed she was ENTITLED to slipping rapidly through her fingers. Stunned that someone was actually challenging her "right" to the presidency, she started behaving like...well...like a Clinton.

    March 17, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  19. Bobby

    What is this thing about Obama and speeches. Can you imagine somebody interviewing for a CEO job and is asked about past actions, answer is I made speeches a number of them being CEO. That is my qualification to be CEO. I am a CEO of a company and have been one for a while. That does not sell.

    The whole concept of Barack Obama seems to be that he is supposed to be different than your run of the mill polictician and supposedly is not running becuase of his ambition but becuase he is the only one that can bring change to America. That whole concept falls apart because he used the black church to gain a political foothold and after 20 years of listening to wright now he says he has not heard any. Seems like a very skillfull ambitious politician with duble speak as any I have seen

    March 17, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  20. Stacey

    Let he who is perfect cast the first stone !!!!. I deeply disagree with my loved ones too. People who are kicking Obama need to look inside their own heart , we all have our issues. Good thing he always acknowledges this. Inspite of what they try, you'll still be our next president . Love You Always Barack, always !!

    March 17, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  21. Nilda

    For those who are on the fence are really NOT voting for Barack anyway. They are just waiting for a "smoking gun" like this to confirm it.

    March 17, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  22. AOL is Pro-Obama? Yikes!

    AOL ... Why are you suppressing anti-Obama posts?? The last 5 have not gone through?????

    March 17, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  23. Brian Tampa, FL

    If he were white and a member of a Church that was this racist ,bigoted and anti-American for twenty years he would not get a chance to explain, only withdraw. Looks like Geraldine had it right after all.

    March 17, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  24. Michael

    I have read so much in these past weeks on how race is affecting this issue. It has really made me upset. I'm black and I'm voting for Obama. But it is not because of his race. I really could care less.

    As to this issue, I really belive that Obama is doing the right thing by discussing this. This presidential race is full blown, in your face, proof how race affects things in this country. The point could not be more clear. The fact of the matter is that if Obama was 100% white (reminder...he is 50% white) saying the same things, that the nomination would probably be over.

    His pastor can say what he wants. He is not running for president. Everyone knows that Obama does not think like that. Obama is not racist! He does not play the "race" card.

    March 17, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  25. debi11768

    To all you voters out there–
    Obama is nothing but a liar, and all of his sneaky tactics like hiding Rezko and Wright under the rug until the nomination wont help him now.
    He is a hypocritical liar. All you Obama supporters out there have to wake up and realize your dream candidate is nothing but a typical politician– manipulating the truth for his own benefit.
    He is running for the nom ination for himself no-one else.,

    DISREGARD HIS SPEECHES!!!!!!!!!!

    March 17, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
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