Why Obama denounced Wright

In a press conference Tuesday, Barack Obama spoke forcefully against his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright -- aides say he did so after he saw what Wright had said recently.

By Alex Koppelman

Published April 29, 2008 7:49PM (EDT)

On Tuesday, in the wake of his former pastor's recent forays into the national media, Barack Obama held a press conference at which he issued his strongest denunciations of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright thus far.

"I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday," Obama said. "The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church. They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if Reverend Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought either."

During a question-and-answer session at the press conference, Obama told reporters that when he commented on Wright on Monday he had not yet seen video of Wright's recent statements. That would seem to support the reporting of the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, who writes on his blog:

Early [Tuesday] morning, after a long day of campaigning, aides showed Barack Obama extended excerpts from Rev. Jeremiah Wright's jaunty and freewheeling press conference in Washington. Obama, the aides said, was deeply, visibly angry. Two said he "insisted" that he hold a second press conference today to unequivocally denounce Rev. Wright's conduct and sever himself from Wright's fulminations. Obama did not want to let Wright hijack his campaign any longer. Five days was enough.

This, too, would seem to support the theory I discussed yesterday, that it appears that Wright may now be trying to sabotage Obama's campaign, and that the campaign is less than thrilled at the idea. (I should mention that in that post I cited reporting from the Washington Post indicating that Wright's security on Monday was provided by the Nation of Islam, a move I said would be good evidence that Wright was trying to hurt Obama -- on Tuesday, Lynn Sweet reported that, according to a spokesman for Wright's church, Wright's security was actually provided by a local Baptist church.)

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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