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Wright Defends Sermons as Debate Over Race Continues

Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Sen. Barack Obama's longtime pastor, defended the fiery sermons that have become an issue on the campaign trail Monday and criticized what he called an "attack on the black church." A panel of columnists and analysts discuss Wright's impact on the presidential race.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Next, the words of Reverend Jeremiah Wright and what they might do to the presidential hopes of his former parishioner Barack Obama. Reverend Wright spoke this morning at the National Press Club in Washington.

  • MODERATOR:

    Reverend Wright, the floor is now yours.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The National Press Club in Washington was packed this morning, with black church leaders and, of course, the news media.

    In opening remarks, Reverend Wright said recent criticism of his sermons was directed at something larger than him personally.

    REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, Former Head of Trinity United Church of Christ: This most recent attack on the black church is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright; it is an attack on the black church.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Wright's appearance marked the start of a two-day symposium at the Press Club on the role of religion in public life. During his speech, Wright charged that the traditions of the black church in America have been misunderstood.

  • REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT:

    Black worship is different from European and European-American worship. It is not deficient; it is just different.

    Black preaching is different from European and European-American preaching. It is not deficient; it is just different. It is not bombastic; it is not controversial; it's different.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The Press Club format permitted audience questions, submitted in writing and read by the moderator. Many of the questions concerned video clips of Wright's sermons that have drawn heavy news coverage.

  • MODERATOR:

    You have said that the media have taken you out of context. Can you explain what you meant in a sermon shortly after 9/11 when you said the United States had brought the terrorist attacks on itself, quote, "America's chickens are coming home to roost"?

  • REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT:

    Have you heard the whole sermon? Have you heard the whole sermon?

  • MODERATOR:

    I heard most of it.

  • REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT:

    No, no, the whole sermon, yes or no? No, you haven't heard the whole sermon? That nullifies that question. Well, let me try to respond in a non-bombastic way.

    If you heard the whole sermon, first of all, you heard that I was quoting the ambassador from Iraq. That's number one.

    But, number two, to quote the Bible, "Be not deceived. God is not mocked. For whatsoever you sow, that you also shall reap." Jesus said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

    You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you. Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic, divisive principles.