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. Stop the Drama

    ABOUT TIME YOU STOOD UP AND TELL THE MEDIA NOT TO BE STUPID!!

    April 24, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  2. Alonzo Demetrius

    It's no wonder why Blacks feel so down-trodden and forgotten if they believe the likes of this preacher of racism and hate for our own country....

    April 24, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  3. Cheryl

    Amen!

    April 24, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  4. nycdem

    wow this guy really has to just stay in a soundproof room and not come out until december 2008. he is the most dangerous thing to obama's candidacy.

    April 24, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  5. Grif

    I suggest you Go Away, Mr You're insane....

    April 24, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  6. Marshall in Nebraska

    Bottom Line - I don't like what he preached but the Constitution of the United Stated protects his freedom of speech. He had every right to say what he said. I spent 22 years in the military protecting that right which all of us are afforded. Many of the blogger have said some very offensive and racial things on the CNN Political Ticker (myself included). Thank God for that thing called Freedom of Speech.

    April 24, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  7. Bell the Superdelegate

    funny thing is this.. he was telling the truth..

    April 24, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  8. Stacy Clarks, TX

    PEACE ON THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY!!!!

    OBAMA 08!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 24, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  9. P Diddy

    Can't wait to see how the media parses this interview and blows these innocuous statements completely out of proportion.

    April 24, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  10. Darth Vadik, CA

    The economy is collapsing, BUT WHAT ABOUT REV WRIGHT?

    Americans dying in Iraq, BUT WHAT ABOUT REV WRIGHT?

    Gas prices are $4 a gallon, BUT WHAT ABOUT REV WRIGHT?

    The food prices are the highest ever, BUT WHAT ABOUT REV WRIGHT?

    Foreclosures are at a highes rate for the las quarter ceentury, BUT WHAT ABOUT REV WRIGHT?

    BUT WHAT ABOUT REV WRIGHT?
    BUT WHAT ABOUT REV WRIGHT?
    BUT WHAT ABOUT REV WRIGHT?

    ARE YOU PEOPLE CRAZY?
    DO YOU NEED A SMACK UPSIDE YOUR HEAD?

    How about we leave Rev Wright alone AND DEAL WITH THE REAL ISSUES!!!!

    April 24, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  11. Jot

    This man is pathetic. He is the reason why Obama will lose if he is the nominee.

    April 24, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  12. William in Oklahoma

    Reverend if you are not recanting what you said, why are you putting yourself out in the news again. Do you want to harpoon the Obama presidency?

    April 24, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  13. IAMWMD

    He's absolutely right. He has a right to say what he said after serving in a war to only return to be treated like a dog. During the same period Dubya and keep your hands on the wheel Bill Clinton were scurring to enroll in college to prevent fighting.

    Obama 08

    April 24, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  14. Venus

    Hello Rev. Wright! Good to see ya!

    Hey – you don't have to say you are sorry! This country loves to say "Freedom of Speech"!

    I don't agree with some of the things you have said – but I do like that you are helping people in your community.

    Don't worry about the news-media – they need something new to report on since Hillary is packing up to leave this race.

    April 24, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  15. Myke A.

    Wright seems to be a Great man. The media has not been fair on him

    April 24, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  16. Tanya K

    OH, I FORGOT ANTI-AMERICAN AS WELL. PLEASE DON'T ARGUE, I HEARD HIM WITH MY OWN EARS.

    April 24, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  17. Krissy, FL

    WE LOVE YOU REV. SOME OF US BELIEVE THAT IT IS NOT UNPATRIOTIC TO SPEAK AGAINST INJUSTICE, AND HALF TRUTHS, EVEN IF THAT INJUSTICE IS COMING FROM YOUR OWN BELOVED COUNTRY.

    April 24, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  18. Anne - VA

    Thank you Pastor Wright ...it's long overdue.

    April 24, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  19. Terry, El Paso TX

    I can believe that a sentence or a paragraph taken out of context can be very misleading. Did any of you read about the CLINTON pastor who was sentenced to prison for child molestation? How does THAT make you feel about voting for Clinton?

    The man once preached at a church in Clinton NY. He has never met President Clinton or Sentator Clinton.

    April 24, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  20. JM

    this need to be shown on he news over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again and again and again and again and again so people will know the truth.

    JM

    April 24, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  21. Bayou Joe

    I guess he needed time for the damage control group to give him guidance. You won't find a buyer here. We know your history and we know exactly what you stand for. You can fool some of the people some of the time but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

    April 24, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  22. sakki

    Why should we be responsible for other people actions, very unfair. How many for you are responsible for your rabbi, priest, pastors' behavior? We can not control people attitudes or actions? Senator Obama should not be blame for Rev. Wright speech. Even Hillary Clinton's pastor praised Rev Wright.

    April 24, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  23. Chuck

    I look forward to hearing this full story on PBS, I hope all of America listens to this also. I have managed to listen to the full length copies of to two of those surmons in question and I must say if one listens to the whole thing they do not leave you with the same impression as those 30 second sound bites.

    April 24, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  24. YOU NEED TO KNOW

    America Understand this is about Jeremiah Wright and not about Senator Obama, even though the attack is ment for Senator Obama.

    This man has his own mouth and is speaking his own words.

    Hold him accountable for what he says and DO NOT hold anyone else responsible for what Rev. Wright says.

    April 24, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  25. Darth Vadik, CA

    CNN, WHERE IS THE STORY ABOUT THE FREAK McCAIN BEING AGAINST EQUAL PAY FOR MEN AND WOMEN DOING THE SAME JOBS, AND HIS EXCUSE, THE'LL BE MORE LAWSUITS?

    SO WOMEN SHOULDN'T GET PAID THE SAME AMOUNT AS HER MALE COUNTERPART?
    BECAUSE OF LAWSUITS?

    GOOD GOD, I'M FURIOUS THAT SOME OF YOU DON'T SEE THIS MAN AS AN ARCHAIC DINOSAUR.

    April 24, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
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