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Obama Seeks to Quell Furor Over Former Pastor

Sen. Barack Obama responded on Tuesday to Rev. Jeremiah Wright's recent media blitz in the run up to primary elections in North Carolina and Indiana. Veteran political reporters discuss the upcoming votes and the impact of the Wright controversy.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Barack Obama says he has heard enough from Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Gwen Ifill has the story.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Senator Obama's statement came one day after his former pastor stirred up a new hornet's nest of controversy at the National Press Club in Washington, praising Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and equating Zionism with terrorism.

    This afternoon, Obama did what he refused to do a month ago during his speech on race in Philadelphia: He completely broke with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: You know, I have spent my entire adult life trying to bridge the gap between different kinds of people. That's in my DNA, trying to promote mutual understanding, to insist that we all share common hopes and common dreams as Americans and as human beings.

    That's who I am. That's what I believe. That's what this campaign has been about.

    Yesterday, we saw a very different vision of America. I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday.

    You know, I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992. I've known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.

    His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate. And I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church. They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs.

    And if Reverend Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought, either.

    In some ways, what Reverend Wright said yesterday directly contradicts everything that I've done during my life.

    It contradicts how I was raised and the setting in which I was raised. It contradicts my decisions to pursue a career of public service. It contradicts the issues that I've worked on politically.

    It contradicts what I've said in my books. It contradicts what I said in my convention speech in 2004. It contradicts my announcement. It contradicts everything that I've been saying on this campaign trail.

    And what I tried to do in Philadelphia was to provide a context and to lift up some of the contradictions and complexities of race in America of which, you know, Reverend Wright is a part and we're all a part, and try to make something constructive out of it.

    But there wasn't anything constructive out of yesterday. All it was, was a bunch of rants that aren't grounded in truth. And I can't construct something positive out of that.

  • JOURNALIST:

    Is this relationship with Reverend Wright irreparably damaged, do you think?

  • SEN. BARACK OBAMA:

    There's been great damage. You know, it may have been unintentional on his part. But, you know, I do not see that relationship being the same after this.

    Now, to some degree, I know that one thing that he said was true, was that he wasn't — you know, he was never my, quote, unquote, "spiritual adviser." He was never my "spiritual mentor." He was my pastor.

    And so to some extent how, you know, the press characterized in the past that relationship I think was inaccurate.

    But he was somebody who was my pastor and married Michelle and I, and baptized my children, and prayed with us when we announced this race. And so I'm disappointed.