Obama Attempts to Clarify “Typical White Person” and Which Offensive Comments He Heard at Church

By Jennifer Parker

Mar 21, 2008 4:22pm

At a press conference today, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, was asked to clarify just what he meant when he called his grandmother a "typical white person" (see yesterday’s blog post) as well as which controversial remarks he did hear in church.

His response, per ABC News’ Sunlen Miller:

"What I was trying to express is something I expressed in the speech, which is that we all harbor stereotypes. That doesn’t make us bad people. It’s simply pointing out that – and by the way, the context in which I stated that is the fear of young black men on the streets. That’s not even unique to white people. African-Americans have incorporated those stereotypes.

"Part of what the speech was about was the stereotypes that still linger in the body politic. The anger, the resentments, and the stereotypes that sometimes serve us publicly and sometimes serve us privately. They’re sometimes directed at African-Americans, but African-Americans harbor their own stereotypes, and that’s part of what was the failure of Rev. Wright’s sermons, was assuming a set of attitudes that weren’t necessarily accurate.

"So it was just a continuation of the broader point that I made. One clarification, because I’ve noticed some of the commentary about the speech – it’s been suggested by a number of conservative commentators, but even some that were favorably disposed towards the speech — that somehow there was a flip-flop or a contradiction between previous statements about not being aware of Rev. Wright’s statements and my statement in the speech that I was aware of controversial statements he’s made.

"There’s no contradiction there. So I want to be very clear. I was not aware that he had made some of most offensive statements that had been looping on the internet and on the television news.

"I wasn’t aware of the AIDS conspiracy statement, which I think is completely out of line and off the wall.

"I wasn’t aware of his statements, ‘God damn America’  Those statements were not ones that I knew about until the story broke a week and a half ago.

"The 9/11 statement I became aware of in the New York Times after I announced my candidacy. And as I said in my previous statement, the reason I did not decide to leave the church was because I saw Rev. Wright retiring.

"Now, I was aware of controversial statements. As I said, he has been a fierce critic on occasion of US foreign policy and domestic policy and in fact in my first book ‘Dreams of My Father,’ and in ‘The Audacity of Hope’ I quote him making a comment about racism that I think would be considered controversial but I didn’t think was beyond the pale.

"So that’s distinction that I would make. I just wanted to make sure people were clear – I know Joe Klein had column, for example, that suggested I had admitted something that I didn’t previously, but there’s no contradiction there. I just want to make that as clear as possible."

What do you think?

- jpt

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