Likely Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has resigned from his controversial church, Trinity United Church of Christ.
“We don’t want to have to answer for everything that’s stated in that church,” Obama told reporters in Aberdeen, South Dakota during a rare Saturday night press conference.
Obama’s church came under intense scrutiny after videotapes were discovered of Obama’s longtime friend and former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright making anti-American and racist statements in sermons earlier this spring. Obama’s initial reaction was to defend Wright, until Wright engaged on a media tour and reiterated many of his most offensive remarks.
Questions about the church were renewed last Sunday when another one of Obama’s Chicago friends, Father Michael Pfleger, made racist statements pointed at Obama’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
"Rev. Moss, when Hillary was crying, and people said that was put on, I really don't believe it was put on," Pfleger said, recalling Clinton’s tearful press conference during the New Hampshire primary. "I really believe that she just always thought, 'This is mine! I'm Bill's wife, I'm white, and this is mine! I just gotta get up and step into the plate.' And then out of nowhere came, 'Hey, I'm Barack Obama,' and she said, 'Oh, damn! Where did you come from? I'm white! I'm entitled! There's a black man stealing my show!”
Obama expressed regret at having to leave his church of over 20 years. “I did not anticipate my fairly conventional Christian faith being subject to such challenge and such scrutiny,” he said in South Dakota.
Obama noted his resignation should not be interpreted as a denouncement of the church. “It’s not a church worthy of denouncing,” he said. Obama said his critics “they’ve seen caricatures of the church and accept those caricatures despite my insistence that’s not what the church is about and there’s not much I can do about it” with a defeatist tone.
TUCC issued a statement that said: “Though we are saddened by the news we understand this is a personal decision.”
Obama’s decision came shortly after a contentious meeting ended in Washington D.C. by the Democratic National Committee to determine how delegates from Michigan and Florida should be seated. Both states were punished by the DNC for moving up their primary dates and were thus stripped of their delegates.
The DNC decided Saturday to seat half of the delegates from Florida and Michigan and to specially allocate 69 of Michigan’s delegates to Clinton and 59 to Obama.
The compromise was fought intensely by Clinton’s surrogates who are unhappy with the outcome of the meeting. Clinton campaign strategist Harold Ickes said at the conclusion of the meeting that Clinton had asked him to reserve the right to challenge the compromise with the Democratic Credentials Committee. This tactic has been deemed the “nuclear option” by political analysts since it would likely extend the Democratic contest until the Democratic convention in Denver.