Wright on Race


In March, Barack Obama quickly responded to the bubbling controversy over statements made by his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. He was lauded by pundits and politicos from both sides of the aisle for his broad speech on race and America at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on March 18

The goal of that speech was to put the Wright issue to bed – address it head on, be done with it and get back to campaigning in Pennsylvania. And it seemed like that strategy just might work out for him, especially since Rev. Wright was staying below the radar and cancelling public appearances that may have added fuel to the fire.

Over six weeks later and Rev. Wright is still in the news and his re-emergence on the public stage this weekend will almost certainly ensure that he stays in there through the May 6 primaries in Indiana and North Carolina.

On Friday night, Obama's former pastor sits down with PBS' Bill Moyers in his first interview since the controversy erupted. In excerpts of the interview that were released today, Wright said that the soundbites were not the whole story and that the people who heard his entire sermon "understand the communication perfectly."

"When something is taken like a sound bite for a political purpose and put constantly over and over again, looped in the face of the public. That's not a failure to communicate. Those who are doing that are communicating exactly what they want to do, which is to paint me as some sort of fanatic or as the learned journalist from the New York Times called me, a 'wackadoodle.'"

Moyers asked Wright how he reacted when he heard Obama's speech in Philadelphia. "He's a politician, I'm a pastor. We speak to two different audiences. And he says what he has to say as a politician. I say what I have to say as a pastor. But they're two different worlds," Wright said. "I do what I do. He does what politicians do. So that what happened in Philadelphia where he had to respond to the sound bytes, he responded as a politician."

Wright has two more upcoming public appearances. He is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at the NAACP Detroit Freedom Fund diner on Sunday and speaks at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday, focusing on the role of faith in the public square, ABC News' Tahman Bradley reports.

The North Carolina Republican party is the first to seize on controversial Wright clips and roll out an ad including them. Whether it actually will ever air on television remains to be seen, but the mileage the party is getting out of the free media on cable and internet may be better than any small buy on local television.

The controversial ad targets the two Tar Heel State Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Richard Moore and Beverly Purdue and features a clip from Wright in 2001 saying "God bless America. No, no, no. God damn America."

ABC News' Bret Hovell, Tahman Bradley, and Teddy Davis report that the North Carolina GOPers will go forward with plans to air the ad starting next Tuesday despite a Thursday claim by a senior McCain adviser that the ad would not air.

"I don't know where this is coming from but this ad is scheduled to go on the air early next week as we have always said," Brent Woodcox, a spokesman for the North Carolina GOP, told ABC News.

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