Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama sought to temper news headlines in the aftermath of his longtime friend and former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s controversial media tour by denouncing Wright’s recent remarks.
Obama called Wright's conspiracy theories about the U.S. government and praise of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan "ridiculous" and "offensive" in a hastily-organized news conference in North Carolina.
"When he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS; when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century; when he equates the U.S. wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses. They offend me. They rightly offend all Americans. And they should be denounced, and that's what I'm doing very clearly and unequivocally here today."
In recent days Wright engaged in several high-profile media appearances to refute the negative news coverage of his church. Many political analysts agreed Wright only called more attention to himself and gave reporters more reason to question his relationship with Obama.
Wright had stayed relatively quiet until last week when he spoke to the New York Times, participated in a television interview on PBS and made speeches before the NAACP and the National Press Club that were carried by major television networks.
In those appearances Wright repeated many aspects of his most offensive remarks, including the U.S. government?s responsibility for creating and spreading the AIDS virus.
"Based on this Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything," Wright said.
Wright was aggressive with reporters, refused to criticize Farrakhan, theorized black and white children have genetically different learning styles and said any attacks that have been made on him were also an attack on the black church.
The consequent media coverage was almost entirely harsh.
Obama’s history with Wright began when Obama started attending Wright’s church in Chicago’s more than 20 years ago. Wright married Obama and his wife and baptized his two children. Obama was so enamored with Wright he titled his autobiography “Audacity of Hope” after one of the pastor’s sermons. Wright was also once considered Obama’s “spiritual adviser.” But as reporters began to examine Wright’s church, which preaches “black liberation theology," boasts an “unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian” motto and encourages members to adopt their “Black Value System,” people began to question Obama’s worldview.
Attention increased on Obama’s roots to the church when ABC News obtained tapes of Wright giving anti-American and racist sermons. These clips dominated news coverage and ultimately led Obama to deliver a major speech on race relations in the United States.
Obama repeatedly defended Wright until today.
“Whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this,” Obama said.