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Obama says he would have left if Wright stayed

White House hopeful Barack Obama suggests he would have left his Chicago church had his longtime pastor, whose fiery anti-American comments about U.S. foreign policy and race relations threatened Obama's campaign, not stepped down.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Democrat Barack Obama seemed to suggest in an interview aired Friday that his former pastor has acknowledged that his controversial remarks were inappropriate and hurtful, although there are no public accounts of the minister having done so.

Obama discussed his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright on ABC's "The View," which was taped Thursday and aired Friday.

"Had the reverend not retired and had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws, then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying there at the church," Obama said.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said the senator's remarks did not imply that Wright has expressed misgivings about his statements.

"Sen. Obama was clearly saying that were Rev. Wright not retiring, he would need to be assured that the reverend understood why what he had said had deeply offended people and mischaracterized the greatness of this country," Burton said.

Wright, who officiated at Obama's wedding and his been his spiritual mentor for years, recently retired from the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. He became an issue in Obama's presidential bid in recent weeks when videos circulated of Wright condemning the U.S. government for allegedly racist and genocidal acts. In the videos, some several years old, Wright called on God to "damn America." He also said the government created the AIDS virus to destroy "people of color."

In a highly publicized speech last week, Obama sharply condemned Wright's remarks. But he did not leave the church or repudiate the minister himself, who he said was like a family member.

Wright has not spoken publicly since the campaign controversy flared up. He canceled plans this week to speak in Florida and Texas.

Obama said Wednesday he has spoken with Wright since making his speech on the controversy in Philadelphia.

Obama's rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, said this week she would have parted ways with a pastor who made the remarks that Wright had made.