- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2008

WASHINGTON — The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose inflammatory anti-white and anti-government sermons tripped up Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential run, today defended his ministry and railed against perceived government injustices, including that it engineered HIV/AIDS to infect black communities.

“I believe our government is capable of anything,” Mr. Wright said in a breakfast speech at the National Press Club in Washington.

The speech marked the third time in four days that Mr. Wright has claimed the national media spotlight, threatening to sabotage Mr. Obama’s effort to move the campaign beyond his former pastor’s inflammatory rhetoric and appeal to skeptical white working-class voters.

Mr. Wright said he was speaking out not to defend himself or Mr. Obama, Illinois Democrat, but to counter what he called the media’s assault on the black church in America.

“It is an attack on the black church by people who know nothing about black religious traditions,” he said.

Earlier in the speech, Mr. Wright declared, “The Christianity of the slave owner is not the Christianity of the slave.”

Mr. Wright — who was immortalized on TV video clips shouting, “God damn America,” from the pulpit — appeared on Bill Moyers’ PBS program Friday night to defend his reputation.

He said the video clips of sound bites from his sermons were “unfair, unjust and untrue” and publicized by the media for “very devious reasons” to damage Mr. Obama’s run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“The snippets from the sermon and sound bite [have] made me the target of hatred,” Mr. Wright said.

Last night, he defended black religious traditions and said he was not preaching for political gain when he gave the keynote speech at a fundraising dinner for the Detroit branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“I’m not here for political reasons. I am not a politician,” he said. “I know that fact will surprise many of you because many in the corporate media have made it seem as if I have announced that I am running for the Oval Office. … I’m not running for the Oval Office. I’ve been running for Jesus for a long time, and I’m not tired yet.”

Mr. Obama’s Democratic presidential rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, has repeatedly hit Mr. Obama for ties to his former pastor.

At the March debate in Cleveland, she challenged Mr. Obama over Mr. Wright and his church honoring Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who is criticized frequently for anti-Semitic remarks. Mr. Obama disavowed the association with Mr. Farrakhan.

Mrs. Clinton faulted Mr. Obama’s continued relationship with Mr. Wright’s church at this month’s debate in Philadelphia, saying she would have quit the church after the pastor gave a sermon blaming the United States for the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Obama said he was not in church that day.

Video clips from Mr. Wright’s sermons have been replayed repeatedly on TV news shows and Internet video sites such as YouTube and have prompted questions about Mr. Obama’s 20-year relationship with Mr. Wright and his church, Trinity United Church of Christ, which publicly declares that its ministry is founded on a 1960s black-power theology book that espouses “the destruction of the white enemy.”

The flap over the sermons prompted Mr. Obama to give a major speech March 18 in which he called for a national dialogue on race and disavowed Mr. Wright’s remarks but refused to sever ties with the man, whom he described as being like a family member.

Mr. Obama, who calls Mr. Wright his spiritual mentor, said the sermons reflect “a profoundly distorted view of this country [and] were not only wrong, but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity, racially charged at a time when we need to come together.”

Mr. Wright told PBS that he understood Mr. Obama was speaking “as a politician.”

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