Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Sen. Barack Obama’s longtime pastor, defended the fiery sermons that have become an issue on the campaign trail and criticized what he called an “attack on the black church.” Hugh Price, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, discusses Wright’s impact on the presidential race.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Asked late today about Wright’s speech, Senator Obama told reporters in Wilmington, North Carolina, quote, “I have said before and I will say again that some of the comments Reverend Wright has made offend me, and I understand why they have offended the American people. Certainly what the last three days indicates is we are not coordinating with him.” Hugh Price, do you agree he’s saying what needs to be said?
HUGH PRICE: Well, I think it’s certainly understandable that he would feel the need to defend his viewpoint, his church and the black church. And it’s not surprising that it would happen. So I think we have to push past that. Senator Obama is his own man. He’s running for president on a very different platform, obviously. And I think that the key is for him to move on with his campaign and the reason why he’s running and to not get caught up in what Reverend Wright has to say.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we heard Obama, a quote, a statement from Obama late today. And I’ll turn back to you, Hugh Price. He said, “Some of his comments offend me. I know they offend many Americans. I understand that. And we’re not coordinating with each other.” Is there more he could say at this point?
HUGH PRICE: I don’t think there’s any more he can say or do. He does not have control over Reverend Wright’s speaking schedule, much less what comes out of his mouth. So I think he’s got to move on and remind people of why he’s running in the first place, remind people of the priority issues that they need to be worrying about, the economy, security, et cetera, and talk about why he will make a difference as president and why he should be elected. He has no control over what Reverend Wright says, nor does he have much control over the extent of media coverage that he gets, not to mention how much coverage he gets on YouTube. Barack Obama has no control over that.
Free speech shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but it has been drawn into the larger dynamics of polarization in this country.