Obama tries to put the minister controversy to rest
“We hear time and time again voters are tired of this,” Michelle Obama said in an interview the couple gave to NBC’s “Today” show.
“They don’t want to hear about this division, they want to know what are we going to do to move beyond these issues,” she said. “And what made me feel proud of Barack in this situation is that he is trying to move us as a nation beyond these conversations that divide.”
Barack Obama said he initially tried to give the Rev. Jeremiah Wright the benefit of the doubt when films clips first surfaced on the Internet of fiery sermons the pastor gave at their Chicago church — a series of haranguing declarations from the pulpit in which he damned the United States for racial oppression and accusing the government of deliberately spreading the HIV virus to harm black people.
“When the first snippets came out, I thought it was important to give him the benefit of the doubt because if I had wanted to be politically expedient I would have distanced myself and denounced him right away, right? That would have been the easy thing to do,” said Obama. This week he denounced Wright’s comments as “giving comfort to those who prey on hate.”
In speeches and interviews over the past week, Wright has said that criticism surrounding his sermons is an attack on the black church. He dismissed Obama’s widely-praised speech last month in Philadelphia — which sought to put Wright’s sermons in the context of the black experience in the United States — as political posturing.
Wright had been Obama’s pastor for more than 20 years. Wright brought Obama to Christianity, inspired the title of his book “The Audacity of Hope,” officiated at his wedding and baptized his daughters.
Barack Obama acknowledged the Wright controversy, as well as his own remarks about voters clinging to guns and religion in economically-depressed Pennsylvania towns, have hurt his campaign and the damage is beginning to show in polls.
“I think it’s pretty clear what has happened,” he said. “We’ve had — what — two months now, or a month and a half, in which you’ve had the Reverend Wright controversy, you’ve had the issue of my comments in San Francisco that have been magnified pretty heavily — that’s been a pretty full dose.”
In a separate interview with CNN taped Wednesday, Michelle Obama said her husband’s denunciation of Wright’s comments was “a tough thing for him to do.”
“Yes, it was painful. Yes, it’s been difficult, but I think that the more difficult thing that this country is facing is trying to move politics into conversations around problems and problem-solving, and that’s what we’re going to be pretty determined to do,” she said. “I think that this is about all I’m going to say on this issue, and I think we’re going to close this chapter and move into the next phase of this election. With that, I’m hoping that we’ll talk about something else.”