"This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright," said Rev. Jeremiah Wright this morning at the National Press Club, explaining why he was emerging before a national audience, regardless of what harm it might do to the candidacy of one of his parishioners, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois. "This is an attack on the black church."
With that justification — however sincere or self-serving — in mind, Wright continued his publicity blitz, arguing that he’s compelled to speak out because he does not operate in the world of politics.
"On November 5 and on January 21, I will still be a pastor. In our community we got a thing called ‘Playing the dozens,’" he said, referring to the African-American tradition of trading clever insults in a competition. "If you think I’m gonna let you talk about my momma and her religious tradition, and my Daddy and his religious tradition,…you got another think coming."
Watch a portion of Wright’s speech HERE.
Obama’s controversial former pastor was defiant as he spoke to a room packed with non-journalistic supporters, defending himself, dismissing Obama’s criticism of him as mere political expedience, and jokingly offering himself as a vice presidential prospect. He clearly was not doing Obama any favors, not only by reappearing before a ravenous media thus distracting from Obama’s attempt to relate better to white working class voters in Indiana and North Carolina, but by implying Obama’s condemnation of some of his sermons was not sincere.
"Politicians say what they say and do what they do because of electability," Wright said, arguing that Obama had not seen the sermons played in the media that Obama has called "offensive." "He had to distance himself because he’s a politician…Whether he gets elected or not, I’m still going to have to be answerable to God."
Wright — throughout his speech and a Q&A period — argued that many of his critics had not heard his whole sermons and that the media had twisted his words.
But he didn’t distance himself from any of the sentiments underlying the clips shown on television. Indeed, the former pastor embraced the most controversial items he has said.
On his contention that the U.S. government had created AIDS as a method of committing genocide against African-Americans, Wright referred to a hotly-disputed 1996 book "Emerging Viruses: AIDS And Ebola : Nature, Accident or Intentional?" by Leonard G Horowitz, which contends that AIDS and the Ebola viruses evolved during cancer experiments on monkeys.
He also referenced "Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present" by Harriet Washington, and said based on the Tuskegee experiment — in which the U.S. Public Health Service conducted a 40-year study on 400 poor black men in Alabama with syphilis whom they did not properly treat — "I believe our government is capable of anything."
"Have you heard the whole sermon?" he asked a questioner about his infamous post-9/11 sermon in which he seemed to blame the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania as blowback from U.S. foreign policy, saying "America’s chickens are coming home to roost."
Wright said he was quoting a previous U.S. Ambassador to Iraq — in a quote that none of his supporters has been able to find — and relaying Biblical proverbs, "whatever you sow, that is what you shall reap," and "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
"You cannot do terrorism on other people and not expect it to come back on you," Wright said. "Those are Biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright ‘bombastic’ principles."
Asked about those who wondered about his love of the U.S. in light of his "God d— America" comments during a sermon, Wright said "those citizens who say that have never heard my sermons, nor do they know me…I served six years in the military, does that make me patriotic? How many years did (Vice President Dick) Cheney serve?"
He underlined that whatever he has said about America was "about policy, not the American people."
Wright was also asked about his relationship with Nation of Islam founder Louis Farrakhan, whom Wright described as merely haven once said that Zionism — not Judaism — was a poisonous weed. (Farrakhan has far more than that one comment in his collection of anti-Semitic statements.
Farrakhan, Wright said, is "one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century," noting the Million Man March. "When Louis Farrakhan speaks, it’s like when E.F. Hutton speaks…Black America listens."
The media asking him to condemn Farrakhan reminded him of one time when Ted Koppel asked Nelson Mandela about past statements he’d made in praise of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s "love for human rights and liberty," Wright said.
"Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy," Wright said, since Farrakhan had not enslaved Africans and brought them in chains to the U.S.
Wright argued that his fiery nature was appropriate since the leaders of the U.S. have never apologized for slavery or racism.