Obama 'outraged' by former pastor's comments
U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Tuesday that he is "outraged' that his former pastor said criticisms of his headline-grabbing sermons are an attack on the black church.
"I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened by the spectacle that we saw [Monday]," Obama told reporters at a news conference.
He also said that Rev. Jeremiah Wright's comments do not accurately portray the perspective of the black church.
Obama has known Wright for more than 20 years and the pastor's controversial comments have dogged the Illinois senator's presidential campaign.
Wright, speaking to reporters in Washington, said that criticism of his sermons was a sign of ignorance of black church traditions.
"This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright," he said. "It has nothing to do with Senator Obama. It is an attack on the black church launched by people who know nothing about the African-American religious tradition."
Wright also criticized the U.S. government as imperialist, and maintained his suggestion that the U.S. invented the AIDS-causing HIV virus as a means of genocide against minorities.
Everything Wright said, "directly contradicts everything that I've done during my life," Obama said, referring to his public service career, his campaign promises, his upbringing and what he wrote in his book.
"When he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS … there are no excuses. They offended me. They rightly offend all Americans and they should be denounced," Obama said.
Wright said Monday that the criticism comes from people who have only heard sound bites in the media, and have never listened to his entire sermons.
Comments have 'done great damage': Obama
Obama also rejected Wright's suggestion that he secretly agreed with the pastor's controversial comments.
"And what I think particularly angered me was his suggestion somehow that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing," Obama said. "Anybody who knows me and anybody who knows what I'm about knows that I am about trying to bridge gaps and I see the commonality in all people."
Obama had previously denounced the man's remarks, but stopped short of leaving the church or distancing himself from Wright, who he said was like a family member. But Tuesday, he said the pastor was not the same man he met 20 years ago.
"His comments were not only divisive and destructive, I believe they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate," Obama said. "He has done great damage, I do not see that relationship being the same."
With files from the Associated Press