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. Alice Brian

    Obama is a LIAR!

    We don’t need you to fix our soul. It’s your and your wife's soul that needs to be fixed!

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

    Right on, George! My sentiments exactly. Let's talk about the real issues, instead of seeing what mud will stick in these childish games. I don't care if Obama sits with the Devil himself on Sunday....just fix our problems in Iraq, the economy, immigration, etc.

    March 17, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    We do not know Obama and now it is coming out. How he was influnced by his minister. I do not beleive he did not know his minister felt this way. He is too close to him not to know. I feel Obama has not been honest with us. I will not vote for him and will encourage others to do the same. He is just a good talker and nothing more.

    March 17, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  4. BBoy

    Hillary,,,,our next President?

    Not so fast!

    The country has something to say about that. She is unelectable!

    March 17, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  5. Joseph

    get out Obama! You cannot win the general election!

    March 17, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  6. Tammy

    Well, guess I won't be voting for a Democrat this year. I no longer trust either of the two we are stuck with after this.

    March 17, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  7. Answers...

    PA – did you hear Senator Clintons proposal for taking children from poverty? It was laid out about 2 weeks ago – of course, CNN did not cover it! it is a 10 year plan with benefit to millions and millions of children!

    But the point is, Senator Clinton has a proposal to find relief for the poor – starting with the children. Senator Obama has NONE!

    So I say....who is the best prepared? Senator Clinton for all the issues – not just the poor :-)

    March 17, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  8. mary

    I don't believe anything that comes out of his mouth now. He was upset that Rev. Wright talked the way he did, NONSENCE that was the reason he didn't want Wright to speak the night he as going to run for president. AND what about Michelle Obama and the way she talks about our country. Even his dear friend Oprah belong to the same church!! Whatever Obama has to say now will be a lie, he lost my trust. Maybe he should give up the candidacy and become a TV preacher.

    March 17, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  9. jd

    Obama/08 Obama knows better. He has dignity and he will handle it well!

    March 17, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  10. Mimi Penaranda

    Barack: It's too little, too late! The sermon was given almost 3 months ago and did you just pretend that it did not happen? And lie to the voters that for 20 years you never learned of Mr. Wright's hateful sermons? Your supporters are saying the media is treating Mr. Wright unfairly! Wow! I thought Hillary was the oppressed party in that speech! Not only was she not there to defend herself, she has not done anything to him or to your church to deserve that kind of bashing. The Clintons in all their political life have done so much for the minority, and this is what Hillary gets?

    Mr. Wright: If you so hate America, why don't you leave? You compare Barack to Jesus? How???

    March 17, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  11. vnovak

    I was all for Obama until this showed up in the news about his pastor, Dr. Wright. Now I remember his wife saying this is the first time she has been proud to be an American, and this weekend I noticed on U-Tube that Obama won't put his hand over his heart and pledge allegiance to the flag. It all adds up. Do you want a man in the white house as president who disrespects the American flag??? I think not!!

    March 17, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  12. AJ, IL

    I hope Obama puts forth a clear and compelling case. His Philadelphia speech on Tuesday will get a lot of air play, and will be the news story on Tuesday, Wednesday and possibly Thursday! The attention his speech receives will be twice what Romney's speech on Religion and Politics received.

    Meanwhile the church leadership at Obama's has an opportunity to start putting out alot more of Wright's speeches and sermons that show his work with the poor and the less fortunate.

    Obama in 08!

    March 17, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  13. Charlotte

    I can just hear it now, his forte is speeches. I can't seem to get my comment posted on this sight. It was merely an Idea of what to expect from his speech.

    March 17, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  14. Michael

    Why are we discussing this?; what the problem American . We have become so dis oriented that we forgotten that we are American.I thought we have grew up to become a respectable country. Now all we do is worrying about Senator Barack Obama character ,if he is gone to be our next President of these United States. We should not be fearful who he had being around ,this is a plus for our adversaries who is really against America. Barack Obama/Jan2009

    March 17, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  15. Michael

    Just because he is addressing it, doesn't mean it solves the problem.

    When Trent Lott made a statement about another man, Strom Thurmond, who was a friend and colleague of his, what happened to him? He had to step down as the Senate Majority Leader.

    Isn't it politically correct that Obama do the same?

    March 17, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  16. Yet another speech?

    Haven't we heard ENOUGH of this guy's speeches? I am no longer interested in anything he has to say about what he didn't see, didn't hear, and didn't do!

    March 17, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  17. Paul from Kissimmee

    Instead of a written speach, why not hold a press conference? No answers? No time to think about it? Took him days to even address the issue.

    He claims this is the first time he heard these kinds of comments. I find that impossible to believe. Then again, if this is the truth, maybe he catches onto things a little too slow. And he wants to run this country?

    No wonder his wife has never been proud of this country. Listening to that for 20 years, I guess anybody could be brain washed.

    March 17, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  18. norb

    Maybe when Oprah does her bookreview on the audacity of hope. She'll find that it to was embellished.

    March 17, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  19. James

    For any of those who do not think this was a deplorable speech/sermon that Wright gave then think about this.

    If this had been a white pastor saying these things about blacks we would be having protests, marches and riots in our streets. We do not see people doing this but instead taking a step back and thinking about what has happened.

    I question why he did not leave this pastor after his 9/11 comments a long time ago. Further why has this taken so long to be front page news as it should have been at Christmas of last year when it was said and as soon as Obama threw his hat in the ring for the 9/11 comments.

    Took a while but has CNN finally got off the Obama biased ban wagon and reporting real facts about Obama? Remember he has gone to Wright for political advice – is this the type of attitude we want giving our leaders advice? I think not!!!

    March 17, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  20. Concerned

    this just pisses me off...more polictics as usual!! Obama is not Wright or whatever his name is. what can we throw at him next!! i'm sorry to break it to you all but the Black church has been chalked full of politics since before churces were used by Blaks trying to gain the right to vote. the Black church as always been much more than just a place to go pray. and believe it or not Wrights sermons are not that far off center than many many sermons I have heard in different churches. Wright clearly goes overboard..but that does not make Obama and everyone who has ever met the man a zombie following blindly behind him.....really people, let's grow up a little.

    March 17, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  21. CNN never posts my posts

    Obama wants to talk about race? This coming from "The Great Uniter?" This should be good! Obama has no excuse for keeping a twenty-year close relationship with that racist preacher. He'll go down for this for sure. The superdelegates know that without the wins in the states Hillary won, neither candidate will have a chance against McCain. Therefore, Hillary will win the election, if she doesn't win more pledged delegates by that time.

    March 17, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  22. NickSP

    Oprah used to attend Trinity Church, but left because she disagreed with Rev. Wright's views after a short time. Obama is telling people that he knew nothing about these same views after 20 years??? The ONLY reason he is now giving a speech about this is because he HAS to do damage control. He should have addressed this already last year, but was hoping it would "go away". This is not a sign of true leadership – you can't just put out fires once they errupt – you have to have foresight! And if he is going to run a campaign on the basis of judgement, and tout how his judgement is superior to his opponents, then I think his campaign is doomed. Judgement on Rezko? Judgement on Rev. Wright? Yes, BAD judgement! Racism goes both ways, and this is beyond the pale. Pack it in, Obama, you're going home.

    March 17, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  23. Just another American

    I find it a little hard to believe that Obama wants us to believe he NEVER heard any of this before. I also find that the " Pastors'" body language when mentioning Bill Clinton and Monica exceptional vulgar and crude. I would not expect any leader of any religion to be that Vulgar and crude when addressing his followers. Absolutely disgusting what he did. Would Obama' s mother if she were alive feel comfortable in this " church". Absolutely, Vulgar and CRUDE through and through.

    His message is divisive and Vulgar and Obama has been fed this regular dose of ideas for years and now they want us to believe that he is for " change." What? More Vulgar divisive change? That is NOT the change I want. A grown man picked this church and now wants us to believe the " Pastor" did not habitually talk like that. Sit and spin Mr. Obama.....sit and Spin....

    March 17, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  24. Nice to have (from california)

    Openness+ Accountability + ownership = Obama
    Keep it going!
    It's the best part of the campaign!
    Watch your back!

    March 17, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  25. Nicole

    Sen. Obama is facing his issues and I admire that so much. I support him and I am not mean or rude. The problem with HRC supporters is that all they know how to do his fight, while its good to fight, it is better heal and lift people up. For all the bad things she has said about Sen. Obama, she still wants him on her ticket. If you support HRC that is fine, but the hate that you speak is truly hurting the party.

    March 17, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
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