Former President Barack Obama defended his former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright as Georgia Senate hopeful Rev. Raphael Warnock faces scrutiny for his defense of the controversial religious leader.
The 44th commander-in-chief made the remarks during a wide-ranging interview with “The Breakfast Club” radio program Wednesday while promoting part one of his memoir “A Promised Land,” released earlier this month.
Cohost Angela Yee asked Obama if he thought he would have had to distance himself from the reverend in today’s political climate versus during the 2008 presidential election.
“Rev. Wright is an example of somebody who — supremely gifted preacher. Trinity United Church of Christ, obviously, outside Chicago had an amazing ministry, still does. And I was very close to a lot of people in that congregation as well as Rev. Wright,” the former president began.
Obama went on to decry media coverage of Wright and argued that his words were taken out of context.
“In national politics, if you can take out a bunch of sound bites that say ‘God damn America,’ even if the context of it is prophetic and biblical and he’s trying to describe you know how somebody might feel — you know, he wasn’t promoting the notion that God was damning America. He was making a point that if you looked at slavery and discrimination you could see the conclusion of people feeling that there was not an alignment with Christian values and America,” he explained.
“But if you see a two-minute sound bite, trying to explain that is too complicated.”
When Obama first ran for president, his links to Wright sparked controversy after his “God damn America” sermon surfaced.
“No no no, not God bless America, God damn America, that’s in the Bible, for killing innocent people,” Wright thundered in the video.
“God damn America for treating her citizens as less than human, God damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and she is supreme,” he continued.
Obama denounced the remarks at the time and distanced himself from religious leader, but Warnock defended Wright as he faced condemnation.
“We celebrate Rev. Wright in the same way that we celebrate the truth-telling tradition of the black church, which when preachers tell the truth, very often it makes people uncomfortable,” Warnock said in a 2008 appearance on Fox News.
Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where civil rights icon Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, is currently in the political fight of his life, facing off against incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) in a Jan. 5 run-off.
In his Wednesday interview, Obama said that attempts to tie Warnock to Wright was “the same kind of stuff” that he experienced in his run.
“In my campaign, I had to constantly manage the fact that truths that black folks experience on a day-to-day basis are not going to be the same as the truths that the country as a whole experience. But, if you want to operate at the highest levels of politics, you have to be able to communicate and translate for the country as a whole,” he noted.
Asked if Warnock should “step back and denounce [Wright] at this point,” Obama argued that doing so was pointless.
“It is a losing game at this stage to just go chasing crazy commentary. There’s some things you have to answer aggressively, but you can’t obsess over it. Rev. Warnock is doing a great job. If I’m him, I’m going to be emphasizing, ‘What am I positively going to do on behalf of the people of Georgia?’ As opposed to just trying to play defense against a bunch of crazy stuff that’s coming out there.”
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