March 17th, 2008
08:20 AM ET
15 years ago

Obama's church lashes out at media for 'character assassination'

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption=" Barack Obama and his church's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, in a 2005 photograph."]

Editor's Note: The following report contains objectionable language.

(CNN) - The Rev. Jeremiah Wright's former church sharply criticized the media Sunday for recent coverage of his past controversial sermons, saying in a statement that Wright's "character is being assassinated in the public sphere."

The statement comes two days after Barack Obama, a longtime friend of Wright and attendee of the Trinity United Church of Christ, formally denounced the sermons that have recently become the subject of controversy, calling them "inflammatory and appalling."

"It is an indictment on Dr. Wright’s ministerial legacy to present his global ministry within a 15- or 30-second sound bite,” the Rev. Otis Moss III, the current pastor of the church said in the statement.

“The African American Church was born out of the crucible of slavery and the legacy of prophetic African American preachers since slavery has been and continues to heal broken marginalized victims of social and economic injustices," Moss also said. "This is an attack on the legacy of the African American Church which led and continues to lead the fight for human rights in America and around the world.”

In the same statement, the Rev. John H. Thomas, the general minister and president of the United Church of Christ - the denomination to which Wright's church belongs - said the media was creating a "caricature" of his congregation.

“It’s time for us to say ‘No’ to these attacks and declare that we will not allow anyone to undermine or destroy the ministries of any of our congregations in order to serve their own narrow political or ideological ends," Thomas said.

The sermons in question became the subject of scrutiny earlier this week after being highlighted in an ABC News report.

At one December service, Wright argued Clinton's road to the White House is considerably easier than Obama's because of his skin color.

"Hillary was not a black boy raised in a single parent home. Barack was," Wright says in a video of the sermon posted on YouTube. "Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary! Hillary ain't never been called a 'nigger!' Hillary has never had her people defined as a non-person."

Wright, who retired from his post earlier this year, also says in the video, "Who cares about what a poor black man has to face every day in a country and in a culture controlled by rich white people?"

In his formal denunciation of those sermons Friday, Obama defended his 20-year relationship with Wright, saying that the pastor has served him in a spiritual role - not a political one.

Related: The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart discusses Obama's ties to Rev. Wright

- CNN's Steve Brusk and Alex Mooney contributed to this report

soundoff (485 Responses)
  1. David C. In Indianapolis

    There are many people who are long-time members of a church, whose pastor, priest, or minister, has utilized the pulpit to speak on their racist, Un-American, or radical beliefs. That does not mean he agrees or supports everything he says....So is John McCain radical because his minister spoke extremist radical ideas.

    March 17, 2008 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  2. D.H

    The statements made by the Pastor reflected what is really going on in America by the rich against the poor of all races. They do not care about anything except more money in there pocket. We do not need Hillery as we've had her kind before and the poor was still kicked down by her kind. Obama may be the only chance for America to be great once again.

    March 17, 2008 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  3. JIM

    Looks to me when Obama gets caught he makes it a racial issue,how could anyone listen to pastor preaching about how they have been treated.The church is not about that!We should stop an think what is going to happen if we vote this man in office.

    March 17, 2008 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  4. Donna

    Yes, Birds of a feather fly together. I feel uncomfortable with Obama turning his back on his minister and speaking out against his sermons. How can you attend someones church on a regular basis for 20 years and not know their political view or the political leanings of the congreation. You are as strong as your weakest link. And in this case if that link is wright then for 20 years this is where your strength has been. I am African American and proud of it. But I am not proud of how Obama if flip flopping on his pastor and mentor of sorts. He has stated many times he has a strong faith that had been nurtured by his pastor and church but in light of this news he wants to recant the very person that has guided him. Obama please stand for something or else you will continue to fall for anything.

    March 17, 2008 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  5. Barbara-California

    Those who would cast blame on the Rev. Wright for stating what he believes is the truth, should examine their role in perpetuating the myth that all church leaders are exempt of wrong statements. They should refer to those scriptures in the Bible regarding "taking the plank out of their own eye."

    It is stated, there is and has been only one perfect human being, that being was Jesus Christ. I am not surprised at this attack on someone from the Christian community, nor will I be surprised if it goes even further into other supposed errors of any church.

    These are troubled times, very troubled times, man should look to himself for error and sin, otherwise then he too will suffer "from the first cast of stones." Knowing how deep these issues can evolve when unchecked, I would advise prudence when judging others.
    "Judge not, lest ye be judged"

    March 17, 2008 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  6. Mike

    I don't understand the difference between the adversity between a black man living in a country and culture that is controlled by rich white people versus the adversity of a woman living in a world, culture, economy, religeon, and history controlled by men. I guess woman have never ever been defined as a non-persons.

    Maybe the minister only sees in black and white..literally

    March 17, 2008 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  7. Mike

    NOT voting for Obama anymore. How can this man be trusted? He makes me sick. Arrogant inexperienced young man.

    March 17, 2008 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  8. DJJ

    It's not what you say, it's how you say it. I personally don't see anything wrong with what Jeremiah Wright said in his sermons. I think the use of the "N" word and the use of "rich white people" is what people are up in a roar about, but if anyone take the time to listen and interpret what is being said, there is nothing wrong with the message, it is true. Ex. Comments about 9/11, he refer to the government actions as reaping the results of 9/11. Most of us think that the war agianst Iraq was wrong. It was the actions of our government. Don't be suprise when later on down the line when this comes back to bite us.

    March 17, 2008 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  9. End of Obama


    Thanks for all updates with regard to Obama. Now we know whom we should choose for the president. I know the Journalists when they interviewed every word he uttered on TV was a lie. We can clearly make out that he is liing to the American people. We do not know what else he is hiding. This man will be a danger to US if he becomes the president?

    Step down Obama!!

    March 17, 2008 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  10. PA

    When I was in college, I was rommates with an African-American girl who was head of the black student council at our school and very involved in the local African-American church. She and I became friends over time and I went to some church services with her along with step dancing competitions and other events. She brought me, in part, to expose me to a culture that I had not been exposed to. At first, I was shocked by how loud and active the church and events were. She took the time and explained to me the traditions of the black church and step dancing. They are rooted in Africa and slavery. The African- American community was not able to express itself except at church for hundrds of years! The Civil Rights movement began in churches across America! Rev. Wright sounds shocking and unpatriotic to most Americans however, these radical speeches are based in his LOVE for America. He believes that we can do better and that we are a blessed people who should do better. We have a moral obligation to do right by all of our people and the world's people!

    I know his words cut people to the core but they were spoken in a church with people who understood that Rev. Wright was calling on people and our Nation to do better for all people. Had Rev, Wright been speaking to the general public, his megsage would have been more tame so that we could hear what he was saying instead of being so shocked that we were outraged. The message under the anger is important. We have not used our power in the world for the good of all people. Just look at Philadelphia – we have 120,000 CHILDREN LIVING IN POVERTY. We are NOT takind care of our people and Rev. Wright, while his words are shocking, is calling on our Nation to do better.

    March 17, 2008 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
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