And I think this was an opportunity for me to pull back for a second and say, "OK, hold on a second. What is it that you're trying to accomplish? What are the conflicts and contradictions that are preventing us from solving health care or education or these other issues? And what do you really have to say about it? What is it that's specific to you that you have to contribute?"
And so, in that sense, I think it was a good moment for our campaign.
MORAN: Let's talk about Rev. Wright, your former pastor. Some of the things that Rev. Wright has said in those little clips that are making their way around, "God damn America," for example, blaming this country for 9/11, are so troubling, so hurtful to people that they ask legitimately, "What does it tell us about Barack Obama, about his judgment, that he was a member of this man's congregation?"
How do you answer that?
OBAMA: Well, as I said in the speech, this is somebody who'd preached for 30 years, probably three times on a Sunday and multiple times during the week, so we can do the math, but there are a lot of seconds there of talking.
And essentially what's been created is a montage of some very offensive and disturbing language. And I don't excuse it at all; I've condemned it unequivocally.
But the person I know is somebody who, for 20 or 30 years, has been leading one of the pillars of the African-American community on the south side of Chicago as a church of tremendous breadth and depth, its ministries on everything from HIV-AIDS to providing care for the poor to providing day-care services for the community.
It is a member of the United Church of Christ, which is a 99 percent white denomination. And so the church gets visitors constantly from other UCC members. And if you talk to them, they would always tell you that this is a welcoming, diverse church.
So, in that sense, it was a caricature. Now, what I also said was that Rev. Wright is somebody who, for all his good qualities, is somebody that I've had strong disagreements with for a very long time, but he's somebody who helped to introduce me to my Christian faith. He is somebody who married Michelle and I. He baptized our kids.
He was on the brink of retirement during the course of this year when some of these very offensive comments came to light, which isn't to say that I hadn't heard him say controversial things before, things I didn't agree with before, but nothing that was so visceral and incendiary.
And my point, I think, was that you don't disown certainly the church, but you don't even disown a man simply because he says something that you profoundly and deeply disagree with. At least I wasn't in -- that is not something that I would have been comfortable to do. What I can do is condemn the man -- condemn the words, but not condemn the man.
MORAN: Well, let me press you on that. If I went to a church where white supremacy was preached, what would you think of me?
OBAMA: Well, but, see, I disagree with you, though, Terry. That's not what's preached at Trinity. And that, I think, that is an easy equivalence that is not at all what is taking place there.
If you look at the sermons, even the most offensive ones that are at issue, he is condemning white racism, as he defines it, but he is not condemning the white race. He is not suggesting that blacks are superior. What he's saying is, is that this -- that white racism is endemic in the society.