Obama ‘Won’t Back Off One Bit’ on His Tough-Love Message

By MichaelJames

Jul 13, 2008 9:43am

ABC News’ Sunlen Miller reports: Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., says that he won’t back down on his “tough love” message to African Americans -– a subject that prompted Jesse Jackson’s angry open-mic gaffe this past week.

Obama told reporters aboard his plane to San Diego that Americans need to recognize that there is a problem when more than a half of African American children are growing up without a father in the house.

“That is a problem and I won’t back up one bit in asserting that that’s a problem that we have to be honest about," he said.

Obama’s tough love message to African American fathers came most notably in a Fathers Day speech last month in which he told fathers that “any ol’ fool” could conceive a child –- but it takes a man to be father.

Many, including Jesse Jackson, took issue with the speech, and the manner in which Obama spoke to his audience. This week, Jackson sparked a controversy when Fox News Channel released a video in which Jackson was caught with a hot mic saying that Obama was “talking down to black people.”

Obama confirmed that Jackson’s feelings were well known to him before the tape was released –- communicated to him from Jackson himself.

“I had spoken to him before, a few days before what he said was released," Obama said, "and we had actually discussed some of the concerns he had raised about my fatherhood speech.”

Obama said that he told Jackson be believes that there are structural inequalities in the country that have to be dealt with.

“My argument is simply that it’s not an ‘either-or’ proposition, it’s a ‘both-and’ proposition," Obama said. "The government and society as a whole has an obligation to deal with poverty, particularly poverty that’s deep-rooted not just in the inner cities, but in rural communities all across America.”

Obama said his conversation with Jackson was not met with a lot of open resistance on the other end of the phone.

“In my conversation, I think it would be hard for him to disagree with that since many of the things I have said are the things that he has said in the past,” Obama said.

The presumptive Democratic nominee has since accepted Jackson’s apology for his remarks, but confirmed they have not spoken since the controversial tapes of Jackson were released.

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