Jackson Apologizes for Obama Remark

July 10, 2008 - 6:04 AM
<b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal">Chicago (AP)</b> - The Rev. Jesse Jackson apologized for crude comments about Barack Obama that were picked up by a live microphone.
Chicago (AP) - Barack Obama's campaign tried yet again to contain a political storm kicked up by a vocal Chicago supporter as the Rev. Jesse Jackson apologized for crude comments picked up by a live microphone about the Democratic presidential candidate.

Jackson said the "hurtful and wrong" comments came in response to a question from a fellow guest during a break from taping "Fox & Friends" on Sunday. The guest asked about speeches on morality Obama has given at black churches.

Jackson said at a news conference Wednesday that he had said Obama's speeches can come off as speaking down to black people and that there were other important issues to be addressed in the community, such as unemployment, the mortgage crisis and the number of blacks in prison.

He said he was not aware the microphone was still on.Jackson declined to repeat the comments, but said he decided to apologize publicly after hearing from Fox News that it would air them.

In an interview with The Associated Press earlier Wednesday, Jackson said he didn't remember his exact words, but said he was "very sorry."

The Fox News program "The O'Reilly Factor" aired Jackson's comment Wednesday night, including a slang reference to his wanting to cut off Obama's testicles. The report bleeped out the slang but made clear what Jackson said with subtitles.

"It was not a public speech or a declaration," Jackson said, adding the comments "will not be helpful."

"For any harm or hurt that this hot mic private conversation may have caused, I apologize," he said in a written apology released earlier in the day. "My support for Senator Obama's campaign is wide, deep and unequivocal."

Jackson said he called Obama's campaign to apologize.

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton noted that the Illinois senator grew up without his father and has spoken and written at length about the issues of parental responsibility and fathers participating in their children's lives, and of society's obligation to provide "jobs, justice and opportunity for all.

"He will continue to speak out about our responsibilities to ourselves and each other, and he of course accepts Reverend Jackson's apology," Burton said.

Though Jackson supports Obama, the two are not close.

In September, The State newspaper in South Carolina reported that Jackson had said Obama was "acting like he's white" in his response to the arrest of six black juveniles in Jena, La. Jackson disputed the quote.

Jackson's comments sparked something of a family feud. His son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., said he was disappointed by his father's "reckless statements."

"His divisive and demeaning comments about the presumptive Democratic nominee -- and I believe the next president of the United States -- contradict his inspiring and courageous career," the younger Jackson said.

The comments are not the first the elder Jackson has had to explain after believing he was off the record.

In 1984, he called New York City "Hymietown," referring to the city's large Jewish population. He later acknowledged it was wrong to use the term, but said he did so in private to a reporter.

Jackson is at least the third vocal Chicago supporter to create problems for Obama on the campaign trail.

Obama resigned from Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ during the primaries after a videotape of his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., hit the Internet. On the tape, Wright accused the U.S. government of creating AIDS and is seen shouting "God damn America" during a sermon.

In May, Roman Catholic priest the Rev. Michael Pfleger mocked Obama's then Democratic rival Sen. Hillary Clinton during a guest sermon at Trinity United. Pfleger, who is white, pretended he was Clinton crying over "a black man stealing my show." He later apologized.