Former Obama pastor Wright begins effort to clear his name

Other News Materials 26 April 2008 00:42 (UTC +04:00)

Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr, whose racially incendiary remarks at one point threatened to derail the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama, will appear in his first television interview Friday night since the scandal erupted in an effort to clear his name, dpa reported.

Excerpts of Wright's sermons at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago have been played endlessly on television and on the internet since early March.

Wright's comments include saying the United States had brought the September 11 attacks on itself and shouting "God Damn America" over the country's historic poor treatment of African Americans.

Obama, who is vying to become the country's first African American president, has attended the Chicago church for 20 years and described Wright as his spiritual advisor. Wright married Obama and his wife Michelle and baptized their two children.

After the controversy emerged, Obama called Wright's remarks "extremely offensive" and was forced to distance himself from the reverend.

Wright says he was treated unfairly because the five-minute excerpts lacked context and neglected the thousands of hopeful sermons he has given since becoming the church's pastor in 1972.

"I felt it was unfair, I felt it was unjust, I felt it was untrue, I felt that those who were doing that were doing it for some very devious reasons," he said, in excerpts of the Friday night interview released in advance by PBS.

He said critics were trying to "paint me as some sort of fanatic that I am unpatriotic, that I am un-American, that I am filled with hate speech, that I have a cult at the United Trinity Church of Christ."

Obama has said he had not heard Wright's most controversial remarks before they began being aired in March. Wright said he did not discuss politics with Obama, but was not surprised by the Illinois senator's recent reaction.

"He goes out as a politician and says what he has to say as a politician," Wright said. "I continue to be a pastor who speaks to the people of God about the things of God."

Speaking to reporters in Indiana Friday - the next battleground state in his Democratic Party nomination battle with New York Senator Hillary Clinton - Obama said Wright was free to express his views.

"I understand that he might not agree with me on my assessment of his comments," he said. "That's to be expected."

Wright retired as pastor of the church earlier this year and has kept a low profile since the controversy began.