- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2008


Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama yesterday denounced inflammatory remarks from his pastor, who has railed against the U.S. and accused the country of bringing on the September 11 attacks by spreading terrorism.

Mr. Obama called the statements appearing on television and the Internet “completely unacceptable and inexcusable” in a Fox News interview and said they didn’t reflect the kinds of sermons he had heard from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright while attending services at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ.

The Illinois senator, a member of the church since the early 1990s, said he would have quit Trinity had such statements been “the repeated tenor of the church. … I wouldn’t feel comfortable there.”

In an interview with MSNBC, Mr. Obama also said he would not repudiate Mr. Wright, describing him as “like an uncle” who says something that he disagrees with and must speak out against. He also said he expects his political opponents will use video of the sermons to attack him as the campaign goes on.

Th Democratic presidential front-runner told the network that Mr. Wright had stepped down from his campaign’s African American Religious Leadership Committee.

As video of Mr. Wright has widely aired on television and the Internet, Mr. Obama began a lengthy day of damage control by posting a blog about his relationship with Mr. Wright and his church, Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, on the Huffington Post. Mr. Wright brought Mr. Obama to Christianity, officiated at his wedding, baptized his daughters and inspired the title of his book, “The Audacity of Hope.”

Mr. Obama wrote that he has looked to Mr. Wright for spiritual advice, not political guidance, and he has been pained and angered to learn of some of his pastor’s comments for which he had not been present.

“I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies,” Mr. Obama said.

In a sermon on the Sunday after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Mr. Wright said the U.S. brought on the attacks.

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost,” Mr. Wright said. In other sermons, he has compared Mr. Obama to Jesus and exhorted blacks to say “God damn America” rather than “God bless America.”

But the United Church of Christ yesterday issued a 1,400-word statement defending Mr. Wright and his “flagship” congregation, lauding the pastor for, among other things, speaking out against “homophobia and sexism” in the black community.

“It’s time for all of us to say no to these attacks and to 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,” said John H. Thomas, United Church of Christ president.

Meanwhile last night, Mr. Obama acknowledged that he got more political money from indicted Chicago businessman Antoin “Tony” Rezko than he has previously acknowledged.

Mr. Rezko helped raise up to $250,000 for Mr. Obama’s various political races, the campaign said. The campaign had previously put the figure at $150,000, but now says that amount was only for his 2004 Senate race.

In interviews with two Chicago newspapers yesterday, Mr. Obama again said it was a mistake to involve Mr. Rezko in his purchase of a new home — not just because Mr. Rezko was under federal investigation but because he was a contributor and political activist. Still, Mr. Obama said he did nothing unethical.

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