CHICAGO – The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., the former pastor at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, is no longer affiliated with Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign after coming under fresh scrutiny Friday for controversial comments that the Illinois Democrat called “inflammatory and appalling.”
Wright, who presided over Obama’s wedding and supplied the “audacity of hope” line that has become a signature for the candidate, has been a source of controversy for Obama for some time because of the often inflammatory nature of some of his sermons.
Last month in a meeting with Jewish leaders in Cleveland, Obama said Wright was “like an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don’t agree with.”
But more examples of Wright’s rhetoric surfaced this week, including a speech Wright delivered in 2006 at Howard University in which he said: “Racism is how this country was founded and how this country was run. … We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.” The speech was quoted in an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal.
In a letter to the Huffington Post Web site Friday afternoon – and later in an interview on MSNBC – Obama went much further than he previously had gone in distancing himself from Wright. “All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn,” Obama wrote. “They in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country.”
In the MSNBC interview, Obama said he did not “repudiate the man” and added: “I have known him 17 years. He helped bring me to Jesus and helped bring me to church. He and I have a relationship – he’s like an uncle who talked to me, not about political things and social views, but faith and God and family. He’s somebody who is widely respected throughout Chicago and throughout the country for many of the things he’s done not only as a pastor but a preacher.”
But earlier in the evening Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor had alerted reporters that Wright will no longer serve in an unpaid and largely ceremonial role on an Obama campaign leadership committee. “Rev. Wright is no longer serving on the African American Religious Leadership Committee,” Vietor wrote in an e-mail.