Obama Says Controversial Pastor Gone From Campaign; Church Fires Back

Sen. Barack Obama's church, the Trinity United Church of Christ, denounced the media coverage of its retired pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, saying his "character is being assassinated in the public sphere because he has preached a social gospel on behalf of oppressed women, children and men in America and around the globe."

"It is an indictment on Dr. Wright's ministerial legacy to present his global ministry within a 15- or 30- second sound bite," the church's current pastor, the Rev. Otis Moss III said. "This is an attack on the legacy of the African American Church which led and continues to lead the fight for human rights in America and around the world," he added.

Meanwhile, Sen. Obama said he "obviously disagrees" with his pastor of 20 years who said black Americans should sing "God Damn America" instead of "God Bless America."


Reacting to an ABC News story about the sermons of Rev. Jeremiah Wright of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Obama told the Pittsburg Tribune-Review, "I haven't seen the line. This is a pastor who is on the brink of retirement who in the past has made some controversial statements. I profoundly disagree with some of these statements."

But, like his church, he defended Rev. Wright's overall record, accusing ABC News of "cherry picking" statements of the man with a 40-year career.

"There are times when people say things that are just wrong. But I think it's important to judge me on what I've said in the past and what I believe," he told the paper.

Rev. Wright was part of the Obama campaign, as a member of the candidate's religious advisory board.

But, as reported by ABC News' Sunlen Miller, during an interview Friday with MSNBC's Keith Olberman, Sen. Obama confirmed that Rev. Wright is no longer on the Obama campaign spiritual advisory committee.

When asked if the decision came from the campaign or from Rev. Wright, Obama was short on specifics, saying only, "I think there was a recognition that he's on the verge of retirement, he's taking a sabbatical and that it was important for him to step out of the spotlight in this situation."

Obama said that he did not know the extent of Rev. Wright's controversial comments until recently. He confirmed that he was not in the church when Rev. Wright made the comments that were reported this week, a point he reiterated in another interview with CNN. "I didn't know about all these statements," he said. "I knew about one or two of these statements that had been made. One or two statements would not lead me to distance myself from either my church or my pastor...If I had thought that was the tenor or tone on an ongoing basis, then yes, I don't think it would have been reflective of my values."

But Obama did say that in light of Rev. Wright's retirement, "I have no intention of leaving the church itself."

As reported previously on ABC News, Rev. Wright has a long history of what even Obama's campaign aides concede is "inflammatory rhetoric," including the assertion that the United States brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own "terrorism."

An ABC News review of dozens of Rev. Wright's sermons, offered for sale by the church, found repeated denunciations of the U.S. based on what he described as his reading of the Gospels and the treatment of black Americans.

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