Obama backers wince at Wright's remarks

ByABC News
April 29, 2008, 11:15 AM

WASHINGTON -- The Rev. Jeremiah Wright's vigorous defense of himself may be sabotaging the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, his longtime parishioner, supporters of the Illinois senator and political observers said Monday.

Reaction among Obama supporters ranged from resignation to exasperation after Wright capped four days of appearances with a feisty performance at the National Press Club here. He defended some of his more controversial remarks as a friendly audience of black religious leaders jeered reporters' questions.

Former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk, an Obama backer, criticized news media outlets that focused on controversial lines from Wright's sermons as "stupid." But he said he wished the Chicago minister, who at one point high-fived a supporter at the head table, had been more restrained. "I thought his demeanor could have been better," Kirk said.

Tim Roemer, a former Indiana congressman campaigning for Obama in his home state which, along with North Carolina, will hold the next round of primaries May 6 called Wright's comments "an unnecessary distraction."

Obama, who was campaigning in North Carolina, said of Wright: "He does not speak for me. He does not speak for the campaign. Certainly what the last three days indicates is we're not coordinating with him."

Political analysts said Wright's appearance was a distraction. "It was not what the Obama campaign was looking to hear," said Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, who has not endorsed a candidate. "I question his timing."

Obama got some sympathy from an unexpected quarter. "I feel sorry for Obama," said Ed Rollins, a Republican strategist. "This guy Wright is like a piece of gum on the bottom of your shoe. You can't get rid of it."

Wright recently retired as pastor of the church Obama attends on the South Side of Chicago. Obama tackled the issue of race in a speech last month after controversy erupted over some of the more fiery sermons Wright delivered to his predominantly black congregation. The senator said he disapproved of some of his pastor's remarks but would never disavow the man.