April 25th, 2008
06:34 AM ET
2 years ago

Wright breaks silence, says attacks 'unfair'

Wright says his sermons have been taken out of context.
Wright says his sermons have been taken out of context.

(CNN) – In Jeremiah Wright's first television interview since clips of his controversial sermons circulated the Internet, Barack Obama's former pastor says his words were unfairly taken out of context for 'devious' reasons.'

In an interview on PBS set to air Friday, Wright expressed frustration with how his sermons had been portrayed by the news media and critics of Obama's White House bid.

“I felt it was unfair,” he told PBS' Bill Moyers according to released excerpts. “I felt it was unjust. I felt it was untrue. I felt that those who were doing that, were doing it for some very devious reasons.”

Some of Wright's past sermons came under fire after a news report turned some of his most contentious comments into a YouTube phenomenon last month. In one, the minister said America had brought the September 11 attacks upon itself. In another, he said Clinton had an advantage over Obama because she is white. He also accused the U.S. government of adopting policies to systematically oppress African-Americans. (Listen to some of Wright's sermons via Roland Matin's blog)

Obama immediately rejected the comments, though critics charged the Illinois senator should have denounced the minister long ago. In a widely-praised speech on race relations, Obama said he could no more disown Wright than "I can disown the black community."

Speaking to PBS, Wright did not recant his past sermons. "The persons who have heard the entire sermon understand the communication perfectly," he said.

Wright also called the response to his words "very, very unsettling," and suggested critics were pushing a caricature of him.

"The message that is being communicated by the sound bites is exactly what those pushing those sound bites want to communicate," he said, adding later, “I think they wanted to communicate that I am unpatriotic, that I am un-American, that I am filled with hate speech, that I have a cult at Trinity United Church of Christ - and by the way, guess who goes to his church, hint, hint, hint? That’s what they wanted to communicate.”

Wright also said he has never discussed politics with Obama.

“He goes out as a politician and says what he has to say as a politician. I continue to be a pastor who speaks to the people of God about the things of God.”

Wright's comments come just as the North Carolina Republican Party is set to run a television commercial that points to "controversial figures from Barack Obama's past" and shows clips of the former pastor. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain has called on the state party not to run the ad.

The Republican National Committee and presumptive GOP nominee John McCain have both asked the North Carolina state party not to run the ad.

soundoff (177 Responses)
  1. Phong Nguyen

    Let's watch the sermon again and again and again!!! S. Obama could not disown Rev. Wright but couldn't he go to another church instead or try to change the rhetoric within his own church as an agent of change so to speak??? Obviously, S. Obama has not lived up to his own rhetoric!!!

    April 24, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  2. From PA

    Maxine: "I believe the last time I checked that this was America and we stand for freedom of speech."

    With that freedom, comes responsibility.

    Rev.Wright is just hurting Obama's presidency, with his hate speech.

    April 24, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
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