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. Christina

    Oh what a great big lie! Go read the text of the whole sermons (or watch them on YouTube). The context does not change the meaning of the clips.

    April 24, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    stupid

    April 24, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  3. GIVE ME A BREAK

    Oh the media is going to LOVE this one!!
    Down with Obama and his racist, anti-American pastor they'll say........
    Obama is a black panther they'll say, a black supremacist they'll say!!
    The country does not want to see a black man in the highest position in America so bring him down by any means necessary, they'll say!

    KEEP YOUR HEAD UP OBAMA! KEEP SPEAKING THE TRUTH WRIGHT!

    April 24, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  4. Jon, Pittsburgh, PA

    There is no excuse for the words the Reverend said, period. And, there is no excuse for remaining a member of his church for 20 years. Those clips aren't the only outrageous things he's said from the pulpit. Please.

    April 24, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  5. goodtimepolitics

    What would you expect Wright to say? He sure would not say that he's wrong! Thats like asking a snake if he would bite you!

    April 24, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  6. Jeff

    Boo Hoo, I preach hate and racism and now I think other people used it in 'devious' fashion.
    gimme a break.

    April 24, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  7. Amy R.

    This poor man and his family was receiving death threats. I would speak up too. Jeremiah Wright is a decent theologian. Not some crazy person like John Hagee is.

    April 24, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  8. Joe, Chicago

    What happened to Wright was sickening. A complete failure to put his life into a greater context, just for sensationalism's sake.

    "Let's take down Obama by any means necessary"– it's disgusting that it happened. It's disgusting that people buy into this crap.

    April 24, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  9. Angel in Va

    I just hope someone finally mentions that he was quoting other politicians and leaders who said those same words.

    April 24, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  10. Replub08

    Darth Vadik, CA

    You must live in California with all the other morons!

    April 24, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  11. Vacman

    Stop judging this man but what you saw in the media or on youtube!!!

    April 24, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  12. Wright

    Wright is the one who said what he said – no one was plotting against him. He is the devious one preaching hate – no one else. I think it would be best of he just kept quiet.

    April 24, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  13. Tony B

    Rev. Wright it takes Big Men to say Big Things..... Those who don't understand only hear what they want to Hear.... The media only wants ratings.

    April 24, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  14. Laura

    Rev Wright....Thanks for coming forward....I, like many other Blacks, know the media took liberty and blew your sermon out of proportion...
    I look forward to hearing your side of the story on Friday.

    April 24, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  15. NObama

    keep talking Rev Wright!

    April 24, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  16. fred

    This is unreal the way CNN blocks comments!!!!!

    Down with Obama!!! His Antil-America pastor, wife, his evil friends and Oprah!!!!

    April 24, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  17. Paul

    Mr. Wright, your mentee is no longer electable, do you wanna take back what you taught for 20 years to Obama?

    Obama has no right to disenfranchise the voters from FLA and Michigan.

    Hillary is ahead in the popular vote by 100,000

    Vote democrat – Vote for Hillary

    Yes she will!!!

    April 24, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  18. Angel in Va

    I agree with both:
    Marshall in Nebraska
    Karen in Ohio

    I hope they also mention that he also served in the military.
    He earned his right to say what he said.

    April 24, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  19. Dan G.

    Nothing has changed, he is still a black racist preaching anti-American hate speach and promoting Black Theology.

    April 24, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  20. US Soldier

    Thomas Jefferson said the same thing about Slavery. Is he considered unpatriotic?

    April 24, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  21. Clinton or McCain, but NEVER obama

    Never................................do you understand.......................NEVER!

    April 24, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  22. Richard

    Obama was wrong...His pastor was right
    CNN needs to show the whole ceremon. Then we can judge that.
    Regarding the pastor comment on racism he was absolutely right and PA primary proved that

    I'm sure CNN will not post this

    April 24, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  23. Geoff Smith

    He has definitely said some things that were out of line; however, his comments pale in comparison to things that have been said over the years by the conservative, right-wing, nut-job preachers like Falwell, Robertson, etc.

    April 24, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  24. Jackson

    Bell the Superdelegate ... do you agree with what he said about Natalee Holoway?

    April 24, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  25. Dan G.

    Even the Liberal Bill Moyers can't put lipstick on this pig.

    April 24, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8