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. canadian observer

    Last time I checked Reverend Wright wasn't running for president.

    April 24, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  2. Nadiyah

    This has gotten beyond absurd. If you listen to the entire sermon, everything Rev. Wright says falls into context. IF YOU WANT TO DIG INTO PASTS, LET'S DIG INTO THE FACT THE HILARY CLINTON USED TO BE A GOLDWATER GIRL!! I DON'T SEE ANY OF THE POPULAR MEDIA GRABBING ONTO THAT FACT!! (For those that don't know, Goldwater was a backwater segregationist/racist piece of trash that CLINTON SUPPORTED!! DIG THAT UP CNN!!! LET'S SEE A STORY ON THAT AND SEE CLINTON DEFEND THAT FACT!!

    April 24, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  3. mkn

    People join congregations based on the work the church does.
    If everybody who goes to church were supposed to quite everytime the pastor did something wrong then I suppose there should be no catholics left. The media and the country are paying far too much attention to the sermon of ONE pastor when they should be focusing on the work of the congregation. Anyone who does anything else just becomes a bigger hypocrit.

    April 24, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  4. kathleen retired Professional w/woman for obama

    He was a U.S. Marine for God's sake!

    April 24, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  5. Ronda in Oregon

    Did he say word for word what Barrack Obama said too? Whats wrong here is not one of them especially Barrack Obama can articulate without borrowing words,mangeling words and saying bitter words. Did Rev. Wright resurface now to help old B.O. out you bet. Did B.O..not disenvow him because he needed Rev.Wright? Heck yeah! The only votes Barrack can get now are the African Americans vote hes ruined chance with the others. I kinda feel bad about the whole thing for him. Then I remind myself he said things Michelle said things and Rev. Wright said things none of us asked them to say. While America is in shock over what they said they were trying to find a way to blame America for making them say it. The no hope Obama needs to change it to the party of blame and shame.

    April 24, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  6. Cynthia

    The little snippets of the sermons that were played by the media do not give the real context of what Reverend Wright said. If only the media had played a couple of sentences before and a couple of sentences after the loops people would have had a better understanding of what he said. I have listened to some of them and am not as troubled by it. I also read an article that was in the Chicago Tribune and according to the article Reverend Wright was in the Marines and was a Navy corpsman. As a Navy corpsman he became a cardiopulmonary technician and in fact according to the article took care of President Lyndon B. Johnson after his surgery in 1966. Maybe we should all read and do some research for ourselves instead of believing everything we hear.

    I hope that this does get posted.

    April 24, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  7. a

    The economy is collapsing, BUT WHAT ABOUT REV WRIGHT?
    –the economy is fine sir.

    Americans dying in Iraq, BUT WHAT ABOUT REV WRIGHT?
    –they are fighting terroist sir.

    Gas prices are $4 a gallon, BUT WHAT ABOUT REV WRIGHT?
    –investment from the private funds and 401 K jacked up the price liek 30% sir.

    The food prices are the highest ever, BUT WHAT ABOUT REV WRIGHT?
    –bio fuel promoted by farmers and treehuggers
    1 gas tank can feed 1 person for a year.

    Foreclosures are at a highes rate for the las quarter ceentury, BUT WHAT ABOUT REV WRIGHT?
    –criminal loan givers, bad banks, stupid home owners that get floating rate at all time low rate, house flippers .They all should take their fall.
    Tax payers should not be insurance for bad investment.

    April 24, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  8. Joe

    PS: I forgot to mention our favorite pastor...BTW, look up the word pastor.

    It astonishes me, whether the words were taken out of context or not makes no difference people...that is hatred. Simple pure hatred...and to think he has the 'title' of 'pastor'...he ought to be ashamed of himself. He seems to be like the sadduces that Jesus talked about in Matthew chapter 13!! You ("Rev" Wright" are not a part of the "C"hurch that I belong to!

    April 24, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  9. 60 years old White Lady

    If you decide not to vote for Obama because of his Pastor, You really are stupid and you are blind... The Pastor was right... Look at our foreign policy... Look how the war destroy Iraq...! Many innocent people are dying... more than what we lost on 9/11... Do you think its fair... We are creating more ennemies... Will we complain if they come back to us...?

    April 24, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  10. Sandra

    This was the man Hillary called in for spiritual counselling when Bill cheated on her. I expect McCain to keep pulling words his out of context, but for Hillary to do it is hypocritical.

    It's time to move beyond the same type of finger-pointing distractions that have dominated in the past.

    April 24, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  11. The sin of pride

    How unfortunate that the good Rev. cannot make a public apology to Mr. Obama for the damage his sermons have caused his candidacy. Let me say clearly that some of what he said is true- but HOW you say things makes all the difference! American foreign policy IS responsible in large part for terrorist hatred of our country (we could just call it oil policy!). Muslims in many countries in the middle east have good reason to hate us, the most recent being Iraqi's. That being said, Rev. Wright's ravings were phrased to play to long held frustrations of an oppressed people, but they do nothing to help- in fact they only create more anger in the target audience and perpetuate the problem.

    Wright's bombastic performances gave millions of flag-waving, small minded dolts the green light to tear into Obama, not to mention African Americans, but he is not man enough, and not humble enough to even acknowledge that HOW he said things was very damaging to a once in a lifetime candidate for President who sat in his church and gave money to it.

    I don't care what he said, I don't think he is even unpatriotic, but his behavior following the uproar is that of of proud, arrogant, and stubborn man, not a humble man of God!

    April 24, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  12. Michael, North Carolina

    Rev. Wright please, please do not do this to the American people we have suffered enough from the negative things that you have said about a country that has given you so much. You were a MARINE so you cannot be too ant-American. Do not sabotage someone that has the chance to bring the American people together. Sen. Obama only has love in his heart for all Americans. White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American we can all feel even more proud of being an American, when Sen. Obama becomes our president. So just go into retirement quietly, and if you can not say anything nice, then do not say anything at all.

    YES WE CAN
    OBAMA/CASEY '08

    April 24, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  13. d man

    What did he say that was so wrong?

    I guess the truth hurts. Especially when there is so much of an effort to pull a blinder over the past.

    April 24, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  14. Miranda

    Rev Wright only spoke the truth...and we all know what happens in this country when you tell the truth.....You must be crucified...its the American way.

    April 24, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  15. 58 old white ladies for OBAMA

    UNFORTUNATELY SOME OF WRIGHT'S POSITIONS

    HAVE BEEN PROVEN RIGHT BY HOW THE STORY

    WAS USED AGAINST SEN.OBAMA.

    April 24, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  16. kevin Riley

    No Child Left Behind...Iraq...economy...health care... GET IT?

    America got what was coming to us on 9/11 for appointing Bush as President when he did not win the election in 2000...GET IT?

    John McCain's preacher buddy claimed that Katrina was God's way of punishing New Orleans for hosting a gay event...GET IT?

    Clinton(s) lie(s)...GET IT?

    Wright was right and so was Barack when he said Americans are bitter about their government not listening. Are you listening? Barack is destined for the Presidency. GET IT?

    April 24, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  17. Ernest

    He's right too, about the context of the whole speech. Just read some of the more infamous ones from start to finish. In the whole narrative, he brings up a lot of substantive points.

    But that's not what the media is known for. Rather than give your victim the benefit of the doubt, you seek the worst possible representation.

    If I were to take this approach in grad school, they'd laugh me out and flunk me into oblivion as I'd rightly deserve.

    Moral of the story: Major media, go back to school.

    April 24, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  18. Give it a rest.

    The people who are so against Rev. Wrights sermons must not have taken or had the time to listen to the sermons completely, they were excellent sermons taken totally out of context. Listen to them before you make a judgement on the man. People from across the nation went to his church to listen to his sermons. The Clintons even had him at the White House. Another case of butchery done to a man who was judged without knowing the complete story. SAD......

    April 24, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  19. Nick - Arlington, VA

    I'm sure the idiots of right win media and those who close their eyes, stick their fingers in their ears and hum will not listen to these statements and take them out of context, AGAIN

    April 24, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  20. BTHogan

    Reverend Wright, as a Marine, put himself in harm's way on behalf of this country. Used to count for something.

    April 24, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  21. DA

    The media was very unfair and at the top of the list is ABC for reporting this false crap!!!
    If ABC had let folks here the entire sermon as oppose to the little clips, they would have seen there was more to the message than what was being said!!!
    I'm glad he is coming out and speaking up for himself.

    April 24, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  22. Patrick

    What he preached was 100% true. American policy has come home to roost. Wake up Americans.

    April 24, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  23. Beezer, Boyd America

    Rev. Wright just needs to explain his words that the media and others have misconstrued. What was he really referring to in the "U'Tube sermons"? What was the reasoning behind them? By just watching the video the words that he provides seem very offensive and degrading. Just explain what you meant Rev. Wright, and if the explaination is sound the issue will be dropped.

    April 24, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  24. VC, MD

    Clearly a few words from Mr. Wright's sermon were taken out of context, twisted, edited for effect and used for scoring political points against Obama. What he said was if USA did so many bad things to other countries then God will not bless America. I don't agree with all the bad things he attributes to USA but some of them like Nagasaki and Hiroshima are facts. At best you can label Mr Wright misinformed and may question his judgment. However what he was trying to preach is not incorrect and is well withing his constitutional right of freedom of speech.

    April 24, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  25. Nate

    I think what Rev. Wright is doing is good. He can't sit silently while people attack him anymore than Obama can. He needs to stand up and take responsibility for some of the things he said and explain them- Obama does not. He may regret some of the things he said and he may also shed some light on his and Obama's relationship in terms of their disagreements. I trust Obama did not share his views and discussed that with him, I'd certainly like to hear about it. If Wright and Obama can put this to rest now, they'll be better for it.

    This should not however, dominate the media, Obama did not say these things. He shouldn't be held accountable for them. For 20 plus years of preaching three 30 second clips, how can you really base decisions on that.

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