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Obama's pastor replies to critics

Reverend Jeremiah Wright at the National Press Club, Washington DC, 28 April 2008
Clips of Rev Wright's sermons caused a storm in March

Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the former pastor of the US presidential hopeful Barack Obama, has hit back at critics of his fiery sermons.

In two speeches, to journalists and African-American activists, Mr Wright said that attacks on him were attacks on the black church.

And he said that his six years of service in the military was proof of his patriotism.

Senator Obama rejected Mr Wright's language in a speech last month.

Publicity campaign

Mr Wright remained silent when old sermons containing politically charged remarks were circulated on television and online in March.

But he is now conducting a publicity campaign to defend himself against the criticisms that were made after the clips were aired.

Obama's pastor speaks out

In a speech to the National Press Club, he said that the criticism of him was "not an attack on Jeremiah Wright - it's an attack on the black church".

He defended himself against charges of anti-Americanism, saying "I served six years in the military - does that make me patriotic? How many years did [Vice President Dick] Cheney serve?"

But he refused to back down on his assertion that the 9/11 attacks were an example of "America's chickens coming home to roost".

"You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you," he said.

"Those are Biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic divisive principles."

Speaking to a crowd of several thousand at a fund-raising dinner organised by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Mr Wright acknowledged that he had generated criticism of the Obama campaign in recent weeks.

"I am not a politician. I know that fact will surprise many of you because many of the corporate-owned media have made it seem that I have announced that I am running for the Oval Office," he said.

I come from a religious tradition where we shout in the sanctuary and we march on the picket lines
Rev Jeremiah Wright

The airing of Mr Wright's sermons led to a barrage of bad publicity for Mr Obama's presidential campaign.

In one clip, from a sermon delivered after the attacks of 11 September 2001, Mr Wright suggested that the US had brought the attacks on itself through its own foreign policy.

And in a passage from a 2003 sermon, he said black Americans should condemn the US because of continuing racial injustice, saying: "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human."

After the remarks resurfaced, Mr Obama denounced them as "incendiary" and "completely inexcusable" and said he had not been present when they were made.

'Spiritual guidance'

Speaking at the fund-raising dinner, Mr Wright suggested critics had taken his remarks out of context to embarrass him and Mr Obama.

"We just do it differently, and some of our haters can't get their heads around that. I come from a religious tradition where we shout in the sanctuary and we march on the picket lines," Mr Wright said.

"The African-American tradition is different. We do it in a different way."

He added: "I am not one of the most divisive black spiritual leaders... the word is descriptive."

Mr Obama is locked in a close race with New York Senator Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, and faces forthcoming primaries in Indiana and North Carolina.

Before his retirement from the Trinity United Church of Christ, in Chicago, the pastor helped Mr Obama affirm his Christian faith, officiated at his wedding and baptised his daughters.

Mr Obama said he had looked to Mr Wright for spiritual, not political, guidance.


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