(dpa) - Barack Obama late Friday denounced racially incendiary statements by the pastor of his Chicago church - a man he has called his spiritual advisor.
In a broadcast interview, Obama said he was not aware of the blasts against white privilege and against his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination Hillary Clinton made by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr from the pulpit.
Clips aired through the week show Wright shouting that "Hillary never had a cab whiz by her and never pick her up because her skin was the wrong colour" and that "Hillary ain't never been called a nigger."
Wright, a leading national religious leader in the African American community, also stirred controversy by saying the song God Bless America should be sung God Damn America because "rich white people" rule the country.
After several days of questions about his relationship to Wright, Obama late Friday removed him from a committee of religious advisors to his campaign and gave interviews to distance himself from the man.
Obama said he did not hear any of Wright's incendiary remarks at the church he has attended for 20 years, and he only learned about them when he launched his campaign for president.
"These are a series of incendiary statements that I can't object to strongly enough," Obama told CNN.
Obama acknowledged that the tapes did not exactly help him hold his lead in the closely-fought bid for the Democratic nomination.
On the other hand, the incident is almost the flip side of a controversy earlier this week when one of Clinton's top fundraisers said that Obama had an advantage in the race because he was black. Clinton had to distance herself from those comments, and the fundraiser, Geraldine Ferraro, stepped down from her role.
Obama,45, defended Wright, 66, as someone who belongs to an older history steeped in the painful, angry and frustrating struggle for racial equality.
"Reverend Wright grew up in the '60s and there's a lot of anger," Obama said.
"We have a history of slavery ... that continues to have a powerful pull on the African American memory, yet at the same time, because of the struggles of black and white and brown, new opportunities have opened up."
Obama said his campaign was all about moving beyond that.
"We'll have a future focussed not on racial identity but on what brings us together as Americans," Obama said.
Wright played a key role as Obama's spiritual advisor, and is mentioned often in his two books. The title of Obama's second book, the Audacity of Hope, is in fact taken from Wright's ideas.