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Page last updated at 21:13 GMT, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 22:13 UK

Obama 'angry' at pastor comments

Barack Obama
Mr Obama said he was "saddened" by Mr Wright's remarks

Democratic US presidential hopeful Barack Obama has expressed "outrage" at comments made by Rev Jeremiah Wright.

He said that any relationship he had with his former pastor "has now changed" as a result of the comments.

Clips of Rev Wright's fiery sermons triggered a storm of criticism when they were aired last month.

Meanwhile, Mr Obama's rival Hillary Clinton was endorsed by North Carolina Governor Mike Easley, and Republican John McCain unveiled a healthcare plan.

'Saddened'

Mr Obama was responding to a series of recent public appearances by Rev Wright, in which the pastor refused to back down from the controversial statements made in his sermons.

"I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened by the spectacle that we saw yesterday," Mr Obama told reporters.

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Obama hits back after controversial comments by his former pastor

The Illinois senator described Rev Wright's comments as "divisive and destructive" and said they "end up giving comfort to those that prey on hate".

Reverend Wright initially stayed silent when footage of old sermons containing politically-charged remarks were first circulated on television and online in March.

But in two recent speeches, to journalists and African-American activists, Mr Wright has attempted to hit back at his critics, saying that attacks on him were attacks on the black church and that his six years of service in the military was proof of his patriotism.

However, in his comments on Tuesday, Mr Obama said: "I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black Church. They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs."

He also distanced himself personally from the man who officiated at his wedding and baptised his two daughters.

"The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago... Whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this," he said.

Political storm

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.

But the Illinois senator refused to denounce Reverend Wright, saying "I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother".

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.

As Mr Obama faced questions over his former pastor, Mrs Clinton picked up the endorsement of North Carolina Governor Mike Easley.

"There's a lot of 'yes we can' and 'yes we should' going on," said Governor Easley, in a reference to Mr Obama's campaign slogan.

"Hillary Clinton is ready to deliver, that's the difference."

Meanwhile, the Republican presumptive nominee, John McCain, travelled to Florida, where he unveiled a proposal to reform the US healthcare system.

Mr McCain wants to create tax incentives to encourage people to take out individual health insurance, which he believes will stimulate competition in the healthcare sector and bring down costs.

At the moment, most Americans get health cover through their employers.


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