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Wright: Controversy over sermons ‘unfair’

The  former pastor to Barack Obama said publicizing sound bites of sermons in which he condemned U.S. policies was 'devious,' and done by people who know nothing about his church.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor to Barack Obama, said that publicizing sound bites of sermons in which he condemned U.S. policies was "unfair" and "devious," and done by people who know nothing about his church, according to excerpts of a PBS interview released Thursday.

Wright said that, as an activist, he is accustomed to being "at odds with the establishment," but the response to the sermons has been "very, very unsettling."

The interview, scheduled for broadcast Friday night, is the first the pastor has given since video of his preaching gained national attention in March, putting Democratic presidential hopeful Obama on the defensive.

Among the most remarked upon sound bites was Wright proclaiming from the pulpit "God damn America" for its racism. He accused the government of flooding black neighborhoods with drugs.

The controversy forced Obama to explain his 20-year association with the minister, who is stepping down from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

"The blowing up of sermons preached 15, seven, six years ago and now becoming a media event, not the full sermon, but the snippets from the sermon ... having made me the target of hatred, yes, that is something very new," Wright told "Bill Moyers' Journal."

"I felt it was unfair. I felt it was unjust. I felt it was untrue. I felt — for those who were doing that — were doing it for some very devious reasons," he said.

In a March 18 speech in Philadelphia, Obama described the history of injustice that fueled Wright's comments, while also condemning his pastor's statements and acknowledging white resentment of African-Americans.

Asked his response to the senator's speech, Wright said, "He's a politician, I'm a pastor."

"I do what I do. He does what politicians do," Wright said. "What happened in Philadelphia, where he had to respond to the sound bites, he responded as a politician."

Wright said he has never heard Obama repeat any of the pastor's controversial statements as his own opinion. "No, no, no. Absolutely not," Wright said.

Wright gave the interview as presumptive Republican nominee John McCain and the North Carolina GOP argue over a TV ad with Obama and the pastor scheduled to run Monday, ahead of the state's crucial May 6 primary. A narrator in the spot says, "He's just too extreme for North Carolina." McCain has asked local officials not to run the ad, but the state GOP said no.

Wright is scheduled to speak Monday at the National Press Club in Washington.