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Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.
In another controversial sermon pulled from the archives of Barack Obama’s longtime pastor and mentor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. called America the “No. 1 killer in the world” and blamed the country for launching the AIDS virus to maintain affluence at the expense of the Third World.
The Chicago minister who married the Obamas and baptized their daughters said in a January 2006 sermon at his alma mater, Howard University, “America is still the No. 1 killer in the world. … We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns and the training of professional killers.”
Speaking at the Washington, D.C., school’s Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, Wright said, “We started the AIDS virus. … We are only able to maintain our level of living by making sure that Third World people live in grinding poverty.”
The pastor reportedly said in a sermon just after 9/11, “The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color. The government lied.”
In a 2003 sermon, reported yesterday, Wright encouraged blacks to damn America in God’s name and blamed the U.S. for provoking the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by dropping nuclear weapons on Japan in World War II and supporting Israel since 1947.
Wright has a formal role with Obama’s campaign, noted the Politico’s Ben Smith, as a member of its African American Religious Leadership Committee. Smith said the campaign couldn’t immediately say whether the pastor would remain on the panel.
In the Howard University sermon, Wright, who retired one month ago from Trinity United Church of Christ, charged the country won’t allow a black president.
“We’ve got more black men in prison than there are in college,” he said. “Racism is alive and well. Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run. No black man will ever be considered for president, no matter how hard you run Jesse [Jackson] and no black woman can ever be considered for anything outside what she can give with her body.”
Wright continued: “America is still the No. 1 killer in the world. … We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns, and the training of professional killers. … We bombed Cambodia, Iraq and Nicaragua, killing women and children while trying to get public opinion turned against Castro and Ghadhafi. … We put (Nelson) Mandela in prison and supported apartheid the whole 27 years he was there. We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.”
Wright then turned to the Middle East.
“We supported Zionism shamelessly while ignoring the Palestinians and branding anybody who spoke out against it as being anti-Semitic. … We care nothing about human life if the end justifies the means. …”
In a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review interview yesterday, Obama, who’s been a member of Trinity Church for 20 years, was asked to respond to Wright’s 2003 sermon in which he said blacks should sing “God D— America.”
“I haven’t seen the line,” Obama said. “This is a pastor who is on the brink of retirement who in the past has made some controversial statements. I profoundly disagree with some of these statements.”
The senator then was asked, “What about this particular statement?”
“Obviously, I disagree with that,” he said. “Here is what happens when you just cherry-pick statements from a guy who had a 40-year career as a pastor. There are times when people say things that are just wrong. But I think it’s important to judge me on what I’ve said in the past and what I believe.”
In a statement to ABC News, which unearthed a video of the sermon, Obama’s press spokesman Bill Burton said, “Sen. Obama has said repeatedly that personal attacks such as this have no place in this campaign or our politics, whether they’re offered from a platform at a rally or the pulpit of a church. Sen. Obama does not think of the pastor of his church in political terms. Like a member of his family, there are things he says with which Sen. Obama deeply disagrees. But now that he is retired, that doesn’t detract from Sen. Obama’s affection for Rev. Wright or his appreciation for the good works he has done.”
Mentor, role model
Obama addressed Wright’s statements on Israel at a Feb. 24 meeting with Jewish leaders in Cleveland, describing the pastor as “an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don’t agree with.”
In a January 2007 Chicago Tribune profile of Wright, however, Obama spoke of the pastor as a spiritual mentor and role model who helped keep his priorities straight and his moral compass calibrated.
“What I value most about Pastor Wright is not his day-to-day political advice,” Obama said. “He’s much more of a sounding board for me to make sure that I am speaking as truthfully about what I believe as possible and that I’m not losing myself in some of the hype and hoopla and stress that’s involved in national politics.”
The Tribune said Obama, then a community activist in Chicago, was first attracted to Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ in 1985 when it bore a “Free South Africa” sign on the lawn.
Obama was not a churchgoer at the time, the paper noted, but he found himself returning to the sanctuary. In his 1993 memoir “Dreams from My Father,” Obama recounts that when he met Wright, the pastor warned that getting involved with Trinity might turn off other black clergy because of the church’s radical reputation.
Before leaving for Harvard Law School in 1988, Obama responded to one of Wright’s altar calls and declared a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Later, the rising political star based his 2004 keynote speech to the Democratic National Convention on a Wright sermon called “Audacity to Hope,” who also was the inspiration for Obama’s second memoir, “The Audacity of Hope.”
The Tribune profile said that while Wright and Obama do not often talk one-on-one often, the senator checks with his pastor before making any bold political moves, including in 2006, when considering a run for the White House.
Wright reportedly cautioned Obama not to let politics change him, but he also encouraged him to dive in, win or lose.
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