April 25th, 2008
06:34 AM ET
3 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. Niky

    I hope people just put this to rest this time... I am sure everyone is tired of this being brought up every now and then. EVeryone had their turn to say... let this man comment on it and let this GO.

    April 24, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  2. devon

    what you said was unfair? you said them. words matter. what you say can and will be used against you. should have been more prepared or not made stupid statements.

    April 24, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  3. JS

    There's no way to justify what he said. His message has truth but his attack and words were unjust.

    I have no sympathy for his downfall, nor will I have any for Obama when he loses.

    April 24, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  4. Peter

    Wight did most of damage that destroyed you candidate.
    If Obama is the nominee you will find out what the republican will do to Him.
    Hillary 08

    April 24, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  5. Mike, Las vegas, NV

    Wright, Obama. Michelle etc etc. Bunch of idiots. Iam sure Maxine Waters will be his secretary of state and Marion Barry will be the Homeland Security chief

    April 24, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  6. Deb

    test

    April 24, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  7. sakki

    CNN and the rest media news are responsible for the blowout of Rev. Wright speech to go against Senator Obama

    April 24, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  8. LATINA VOTER- CALIF.

    THIS GUY NEEDS TO GO AWAY!!!!
    HE IS UN-AMERICAN
    GO HILLARY

    April 24, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  9. NC FOR OBAMA

    HERE WE GO AGAIN. CAN'T THE MEDIA GET A CLUE. WE DON'T CARE!!!

    April 24, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  10. Obama

    Windbag for Obama

    April 24, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  11. NC

    He should sue the media for distorting his words. Roland Martin is the ONLY journalist that reported his sermon in context. And he should sue Sean Hannity first.

    April 24, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  12. Harvey, Tampa, FL

    It's simple. Don't say stupid stuff and you won't get roasted for it....

    April 24, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  13. Adam - TX

    Too little, too late. Although I don't mind you bringing this issue to surface AGAIN. It's only hurting your candidate even more...

    'Hillary '08!

    April 24, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  14. Mike

    Way to go Rev! It's your turn now. What you need to do is a nationally televised sermon. This country needs changing.

    April 24, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  15. hope?

    The best clerics are always the most hateful ones.

    Look at the success of the Middle East clerics and Mullahs.

    I love hate and violence from the pulpit.

    It can really inspire hope.

    April 24, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  16. BL / NYC

    Wright is totally insane.
    And Obama is totally wrong having been part of it all!
    Not very Presidential.

    April 24, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  17. sakki

    CNN and the rest news media are responsible for the blowout of Rev. Wright speech to go against Senator Obama

    April 24, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    Has he said ANYTHING we did not expect?

    April 24, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  19. Kevin, NC

    C'mon Rev, we've been yearning for you to speak and let these folks know that you are not the sum of your 30 second clips.

    April 24, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  20. truth_hurts

    i think this pastor needs to talk about how he provided spiritual advice to the the clintons during the lewinsky scandal!

    April 24, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  21. a

    doesn't matter .
    we all hear a long version of his bull shxt online.
    it's not a one liner out of context.
    He is a raist and obama is a member of a raist church for 20 yrs.

    April 24, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  22. wooody

    go rev go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! if the democrats cant win this race they should give up on politics- another 4 years for the good guys. whiners go home

    April 24, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  23. Alice

    I, for one, am glad he is finally speaking out. (He might as well. It isn't going away anyway.)

    April 24, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  24. DJ

    I would like to see the whole sermon to see what he's talking about. It is very possible that the press/news media have taken his comments piecemeal for their own purposes.

    April 24, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  25. mitch from ark.

    never be afraid to speak your mind.even if it turns out wrong,at least the question was asked.

    April 24, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
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