Obama's Ex-Pastor Resurfaces, at Potential Cost to Candidate

Pastor's public defense may serve only to reignite the firestorm.

ByABC News via logo
April 25, 2008, 8:41 AM

April 25, 2008— -- The Rev. Jeremiah Wright is on a campaign to explain controversial remarks of his that created a firestorm for his former congregant, presidential hopeful Barack Obama, but many believe Wright's fiery remarks could burn Obama once again.

"If he was a Barack Obama supporter, I think he would pull himself off of the stage at this point," said National Public Radio senior political analyst Juan Williams.

"Nothing good comes of this for Barack Obama," concurred ABC News political contributor Cokie Roberts.

Six weeks after controversial video clips of sermons by Obama's former pastor splashed across the national media, Wright is now speaking out publicly in an interview on PBS. Wright will also be speaking to the NAACP on Sunday and will be in Washington D.C. on Monday addressing the National Press Club.

The controversial pastor is speaking up as Obama heads into the crucial Indiana and North Carolina primaries.

"If you're with the Barack Obama campaign this morning, you're pulling your hair out," said Williams.

In the PBS interview on the "Bill Moyers Journal," Wright complains that reporters picked sound bites from his sermons with the intent of defaming him and, by association, Obama.

"At a political event, he goes out as a politician and says what he has to say as a politician," Wright told Moyers. "I continue to be a pastor … He's a politician. I'm a pastor."

Roberts and others saw the defense as short of unassailable.

"Even though he was defending himself, quite nicely, he said Barack Obama spoke as a politician. That is the last thing Obama wants people to think of him as. He has approached the American people as a pastor-type himself," said Roberts.

Williams agreed that calling Obama a politician would have Americans asking "was he simply being politically expedient, or was he being sincere?" during his "race speech" in Philadelphia last month.

In the Moyers interview, a soft-spoken Wright expresses his horror that the media has made him a bogeyman, endlessly replaying sound bites of fiery sermons which he claims were taken out of context.

"I felt it was unfair. I felt it was unjust. I felt it was untrue," the former pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ told Moyers, adding that some of the snippets were taken from many years ago.