Jesse Jackson Apologizes for Open Mic Slight Against Obama

The Rev. Jesse Jackson challenges Obama on African-American issues.

ByABC News via logo
July 10, 2008, 8:04 AM

July 10, 2008 — -- A day after an open microphone caught the Rev. Jesse Jackson Wednesday criticizing Sen. Barack Obama for the way he talks to the black community, the civil rights leader praised Obama but continued to challenge the presumptive Democratic nominee to place more "emphasis" on issues that affect African-Americans.

Unaware that his microphone was on before a television interview, Jackson said Obama has been overly critical of the black community.

"See Barack Obama been, um, talking down to black people on his faith based -- want to cut his nuts off," Jackson said in a video that aired Wednesday on the Fox News program "The O'Reilly Factor."

On Thursday's "Good Morning America," Jackson appeared contrite, saying he likes the Illinois senator "very much" but suggested Obama lacks passion in addressing issues that predominantly affect blacks.

"I'm a long-standing supporter [of Obama] and because of my commitment to what he represents and the campaign, I was quick to apologize for any offense or any harm or hurt," Jackson told ABC News "GMA" co-anchor Chris Cuomo.

"And yet within the black community there are some severe structural crises: The infant mortality rate is higher, life expectancy is shorter, the most children in school with teachers with less than three years' experience, the highest murder rate, and now the need to revive a ban on assault weapons," Jackson said. "I mean these things of great substance must be addressed with more passion, and he has committed to that proposition -- but I think it deserves to have a greater emphasis."

Asked whether his comments reflected a larger frustration with Obama among African-Americans, Jackson demurred, saying, "I don't think so. I think he enjoys great support because he is the leader in this rather transformative, adaptive moment," he said.

In an interview with CNN, Jackson was asked whether the genesis of his comment was that he was "envious" of Obama. The reverend said that notion was "kind of ridiculous," insisting Obama, the first African-American to win the nomination of a major party, is "running the last lap of a marathon ... and I was part of that race."

Jackson ran for president in both 1984 and 1988, winning five primaries and caucuses in his first campaign and more in the second attempt.

"If you're a home run hitter," Jackson told "GMA," "you strike out sometimes."