ABC News’ Sunlen Miller reports: During an interview with MSNBC’s Keith Olberman, Sen. Barack Obama confirmed that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is no longer on the Obama campaign spiritual advisory committee.
When asked if the decision came from the campaign or from Wright, Obama was short on specifics, saying only, "I think there was a recognition that he’s on the verge of retirement, he’s taking a sabbatical and that it was important for him to step out of the spotlight in this situation."
Obama said that the did not know the extent of Wright’s controversial comments until recently. He confirmed that he was not in the church when Wright made the comments that were reported this week.
"I wasn’t in church during the time that these statement were made," Obama said. "I did not hear such incendiary language myself, personally. Either in conversations with him or when I was in the pew, he always preached the social gospel."
Obama reiterated his condemnation of Wright’s remarks, saying it is something he strongly objects to. But Obama stopped short at repudiating the man, Jeremiah Wright, saying he was like an uncle to him.
"I would not repudiate the man," Obama said. "It’s like a member of your family that says something that you really disagree with: You don’t stop being a member of the family but you have to speak out forcefully on the issue."
He said Wright represents the older generation of African Americas "that came of age in the ’60s — an African American man who because of his life experience continues to have anger and frustration," and that Obama’s own generation is different, the generation that benefits from Wright’s generation’s struggle.
Obama said he knows that this will be used as a political tool into the future — and hopes the American people will trust his own values.
Obama was pressed further in a subsequent Fox News interview. Obama admitted that he would have quit his church had he witnessed and heard Wright’s statements firsthand.
"If I had heard them repeated, I would have quit," he said. "If I thought that was the repeated tenor of the church, then I wouldn’t feel comfortable there."
But in a third interview with CNN, Obama said he will not quit the church now.
"As he’s about to retire, I have no intention of leaving the church itself," Obama said.
He argued that the frequency of the statements matter, saying that Wright’s most controversial statements were strung together and complied in the media out of hundreds of sermons over the course of his lifetime.
Obama said that he knew of one of two of the controversial statements before this week — and that he didn’t know it was as "problematic" as it has been revealed in the last few days. But what he knew before was not enough to distance himself from the church or Wright at the time.
"I didn’t know about all these statements," he said. "I knew about one or two of these statements that had been made. One or two statements would not lead me to distance myself from either my church or my pastor. … If I had thought that was the tenor or tone on an ongoing basis, then yes, I don’t think it would have been reflective of my values."
"My belief was this was something out of the ordinary, and obviously these statements indicate this was happening with more frequency," he added.
On another story swirling this evening, Obama on MSNBC addressed his interview with the Chicago Tribune this afternoon in which the newspaper reported that Tony Rezko played a larger fundraising role for Obama than previously known. The Tribune reported that Rezko has raised as much as $250,000 for Obama.
Obama debunked the "newness" of the information and said, "We talked about the fundraising he has done for my two state races, congressional race as well as a U.S. Senate race. The total amount is the figure they put forward, and is not particularly new or different."