- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama today broke with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., saying his former pastor’s racial and anti-government remarks were “a show of disrespect to me [and] an insult to what we have tried to do in this campaign.”

Mr. Obama of Illinois, moving to blunt the damage the pastor has done to his campaign, delivered the stern rebuke a day after Mr. Wright told reporters at the National Press Club that criticisms of his sermons were “an attack on the black church” and suggested anew that the U.S. government may have engineered AIDS to infect black communities.

“What became clear to me was it was more than just him defending himself,” Mr. Obama said in Winston-Salem, N.C. “What became clear to me was that he was presenting a world view that contradicts who I am and what I stand for. This has become such a spectacle. and you know, when I go to church, it’s not for spectacle, it’s to pray.”

He stopped short of quitting the 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.”

Mr. Obama said Mr. Wright’s speech in Washington, which capped a series of media appearance in which the pastor defended his ministry and his church, was not constructive.

“All it was was a bunch of rants that were not grounded in truth,”said Mr. Obama, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

He rejected Mr. Wright’s assertion that criticism of his sermons, which included denouncing the United States as the “U.S. of K.K.K.A.,” were an attack on the black church.

“I didn’t view it as an attack on the black church,” Mr. Obama said. “I viewed it as a simplification of who he was, a caricature of who was. More than anything [it was] something that triggered a lot of political interest.

“Yesterday, I think he caricatured himself.”

Mr. Wright’s re-emergence on the national stage rekindled the issue of race just as Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign was trying to court skeptical white working-class voters.

Mr. Wright yesterday said Mr. Obama disavowed the sermons for political reasons.

“He had to distance himself, because he’s a politician, from what the media was saying I had said, which was anti-American,” Mr. Wright said. “I offered words of hope. I offered reconciliation. I offered restoration in that sermon. But nobody heard the sermon. They just heard this little sound bite of a sermon.”

Mr. Wright, who retired in February after 36 years as church pastor, said he was speaking out now not to defend himself or Mr. Obama but to counter what he called “an attack on the black church launched by people who know nothing about the African-American religious tradition.”

At the press club, Mr. Wright did little to assist Mr. Obama’s run.

He defended his remark that the U.S. bore responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks, citing Jesus’ words: “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,” Mr. Wright said. “Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic, divisive principles.”

He refused to apologize for his infamous “God damn America” sermon, saying the U.S. government owed blacks an apology for slavery.

The pastor stood firm in his praise of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and said he would not “put down” one of today’s most influential black religious leaders.

“Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy,” he said. “He did not put me in chains, he did not put me in slavery, and he didnt make me this color.”

Mr. Wright also said he gave a warning to Mr. Obama: “If you get elected, Nov. 5 I’m coming after you, because you’ll be representing a government whose policies grind under people.”

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