WASHINGTON - Illinois Sen. Barack Obama sought to quell a firestorm about remarks his former pastor made by giving an address in Philadelphia on Tuesday about race and his quest to bring America together.
The speech was prompted by disclosures of remarks made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright in recent years at Chicago's United Church of Christ, which Obama attended for two decades.
Wright's quotes, broadcast by cable news organizations, particularly Fox News, and circulated on the Internet in recent days, blamed the 9/11 attacks on repressive white Americans, accused whites of deliberately infecting African Americans with HIV/AIDS, and supporting apartheid in Africa.
Obama has made several attempts to deal with the information, including statements that he did not know Wright was saying such things, and that he had not been in church when the remarks were made.
On Tuesday however, Obama said: "Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely."
Obama said he condemns Wright's statements, but said he would not repudiate him as a man.
"As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect."
As prepared by The Associated Press, here are excerpts of some of Rev. Wright's comments.
-- In a sermon after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001:
"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," Wright said. "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."
--In a 2003 sermon, he said blacks should condemn the United States:
"The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."
-- Promoting Obama's candidacy in a sermon last December:
"Barack knows what it means to be a black man to be living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary can never know that. Hillary ain't never been called a n-----."
Some have defended Wright's comments as typical of some sermons in some African-American churches. Others criticize Obama for waiting so long to denounce Wright's views, saying that it is an indication that Obama lacks the judgement to be commander in chief.
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