Politics took a deep, personal cut for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama on Tuesday when the Democratic presidential candidate disowned his longtime pastor, the man with whom Obama shared some of the most important events of his life.
But the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright left Obama little choice.
In the last few days, Wright's inflammatory rhetoric all but drowned out Obama's message, upstaging the candidate at a time when he has been struggling to win over white, working-class voters.
The fallout has also threatened Obama's electability in the eyes of many superdelegates.
On Monday, Wright defiantly defended his controversial remarks in a speech at the National Press Club. On Tuesday, just a week before the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, Obama denounced Wright in his strongest terms yet, calling his behavior "outrageous" and a "spectacle."
"Obviously, whatever relationship I had with Rev. Wright has changed as a consequence of this," Obama said during a news conference in Winston-Salem, N.C.
"The person I saw yesterday was not the person I met 20 years ago," the Illinois senator said. "His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but they end up giving comfort to those that prey on hate."
Clips of the pastor's controversial sermons have become a constant loop on television and the Internet, providing fodder for Obama's political opponents.
Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday, Wright called the recent criticism surrounding his sermons "an attack on the black church."
"This is not about Obama, McCain, Hillary, Bill or Chelsea, this is about the black church," Wright said before an enthusiastic audience of black church leaders at the start of a two-day symposium.
Throughout his speech and a subsequent question-and-answer session, Wright defiantly argued that many of his critics had not heard his whole sermons and that the media had twisted his words.
Wright vigorously defended himself against accusations he is unpatriotic, but in Washington he compared U.S. troops to the Roman legions that killed Christ, praised Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and suggested that the AIDS epidemic was a racist plot.
Obama rejected those comments outright Tuesday.
"It was more than just defending himself," Obama said. "What became clear was that he was presenting a worldview that contradicts who I am and what I stand for."
"When he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions, such as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS; when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century; when he equates the U.S. wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses. They offend me, they rightly offend all Americans and they should be denounced," Obama said.
Obama's public denunciation of the retired pastor stands in stark contrast to a speech on race the candidate delivered just last month.
"What Rev. Wright said [on Monday] directly contradicts everything I have ever done during my life," Obama said.