Durbin ‘Misspoke’ Doing Obama Damage Control

By Lee Speigel

Mar 17, 2008 8:08pm

ABC News’ Teddy Davis and Jacqueline Klingebiel report: Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., sought to downplay controversial statements made by Sen. Barack Obama’s, D-Ill., controversial former pastor of 20 years, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, on Monday by incorrectly claiming that many of the incendiary remarks were made before Obama joined Wright’s church.

“I can say, No. 1, many of the quotes that had been disclosed publicly were made by Rev. Wright at a time before Barack Obama became a part of his congregation and in places where Barack Obama was not even present," said Durbin on an Obama campaign conference call with reporters.

Durbin made his claim, even though some of Wright’s most controversial statements — such as his contention that the United States is to blame for 9/11, as well as his "God damn America" sermon — were made a decade or more after Obama had joined his church. 

Obama first heard Wright speak in 1987 and joined his Chicago South Side church, Trinity United Church of Christ, in 1991.

"The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America,’" said Wright in 2003. "No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people.

"God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human," he added. "God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."

As previously reported by ABC News’ Brian Ross, in addition to damning America, Wright told his congregation on the Sunday after Sept. 11, 2001, that the United States had brought on al Qaeda’s attacks because of its own terrorism. To watch Ross’ report and read his story, click here.

"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," Wright said in a sermon on Sept. 16, 2001.

Asked to explain Durbin’s claim that "many" of Wright’s incendiary remarks were made before Obama joined his congregation, Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor told ABC News, "Sen. Durbin misspoke."

On Tuesday in Philadelphia, Obama is set to deliver what his campaign is calling "a major address" on race and politics.

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