ABC News’ Ed O’Keefe Reports: Sen. Barack Obama strongly condemned recent comments made by his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, in a high-stakes gamble by his campaign to control a spreading political firestorm.
Reacting to what he called the "spectacle" of his former pastor at the National Press Club, Obama, D-Ill., denounced Wright saying, "What Rev. Wright said yesterday directly contradicts everything I have ever done or said in my life."
"Whatever relationship I had with Rev Wright has changed as a result of this," Obama said.
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Speaking the National Press Club in Washington on Monday, Rev. Wright called the recent criticism surrounding his sermons "an attack on the black church".
"This is not about Obama, McCain, Hillary, Bill or Chelsea, this is about the black church," Wright said, speaking before an enthusiastic audience of black church leaders at the onset of a two-day symposium.
Throughout his speech and a subsequent question and answer session, Wright defiantly argued that many of his critics had not heard his whole sermons and that the media had twisted his words.
Wright vigorously defended himself against accusations he is unpatriotic but in Washington, he went on to compare U.S. troops to the Roman legions that killed Christ, to praise Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farakhan, and to suggest that the AIDS epidemic was a racist plot.
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The Reverend also said he was quoting a previous U.S. Ambassador to Iraq when he said African Americans should sing "God damn America" not "God Bless America" in his first sermon following the 9/11 attacks.
"You cannot do terrorism on other people and not expect it to come back on you," Wright said on Monday. "Those are Biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright ‘bombastic’ principles."
Obama came out forcefully on Tuesday, insisting he was "disappointed" by Wright, and rejecting his one-time pastor’s assertion that the controversy was an attack on the black church.
The candidate went considerably further than he has in the past in distancing himself from Wright, accusing him of "insensitivity and outrageousness" in his Monday appearance at the National Press Club in Washington.
"The person I saw yesterday was not the person I met 20 years ago," Obama said.
Wright has been Obama’s pastor since the Illinois Democrat joined the church. He performed Obama’s marriage ceremony and baptized the candidate’s two daughters.
At a speech last month in Philadelphia, Obama made clear that while he disagreed with some of the sentiments Wright espoused in sermons, he would not "disown" a man he considered to be "like family to me."
"He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children," Obama said in that speech. "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother — a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."
Obama did not say if would stop attending Trinity United Church of Christ on the South Side of Chicago. A new pastor, the Rev. Otis Moss, recently took over for Wright, after Wright’s retirement from the pulpit.
The reaction was much stronger than what Obama offered the previous day and reflects a decision by the Obama campaign to try to directly confront the comments by Wright, after weeks where Obama tried to perform a more delicate dance where he distanced himself from the message but not the messenger.
"I have said before and I will repeat again that some of the comments that Reverend Wright has made offend me and I understand why they’ve offended the American people," Obama told reporters hastily gathered for an impromptu press conference on the tarmac in Wilmington, N.C.
"He does not speak for me. He does not speak for the campaign and so he may make statements in the future that don’t reflect my values or concerns," Obama continued, later adding with a smile, "I think certainly what the last three days indicate is that we’re not coordinating with him."
Clearly the Obama camp deemed that effort not enough and the decision to speak out again seems designed to quell concerns among Democrats — including superdelegates — about some of Wright’s more inflammatory remarks.
But it also raises additional questions for Obama — including why he maintained a 20-year spiritual relationship with Wright, and why he chose not to denounce Wright when the story first spread six weeks ago.
ABC News’ Rick Klein, Sunlen Miller, Jake Tapper, Nitya Venkataraman, and David Wright contributed to this report.