Wright Says Obama's Just Doing 'What Politicians Do'

By Penny Starr | July 7, 2008 | 8:33pm EDT

Washington (CNSNews.com) - Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has distanced himself from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's controversial statements because he's a politician and politicians "do what they do based on electability," Wright told reporters and guests at the National Press Club on Monday.

"What I mean is what several of my white friends and several of my white, Jewish friends have written me and said to me. They've said, 'You're a Christian. You understand forgiveness. We both know that, if Senator Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected,'" said Wright.

"Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls, Huffington, whoever's doing the polls," he continued. "Preachers say what they say because they're pastors. They have a different person to whom they're accountable.

"As I said, whether he gets elected or not, I'm still going to have to be answerable to God November 5th and January 21st ," said Wright. "That's what I mean. I do what pastors do. He does what politicians do."

Wright gave a prepared speech at the press club Monday morning and then answered questions put to him by a moderator. When the moderator asked Wright if he was disappointed that Obama had "distanced" himself from him, Wright contested the premise of the question and the expressed doubt that Obama himself fully understood what Wright had said and meant.

"He didn't distance himself," said Wright. "He had to distance himself, because he's a politician, from what the media was saying I had said, which was anti-American. He said I didn't offer any words of hope. How would he know? He never heard the rest of the sermon. You never heard it."

"I offered words of hope," said Wright. "I offered reconciliation. I offered restoration in that sermon, but nobody heard the sermon. They just heard this little sound bite of a sermon."

In an interview that aired Friday on PBS's "Bill Moyers' Journal," Wright used similar terms to explain why Obama, who has been a member of his church for two decades, felt compelled to denounce some of Wright's statements.

"It went down very simply," Wright told Moyers. "He's a politician, I'm a pastor. We speak to different audiences. And he says what he has to say as a politician. I say what I have to as a pastor. Those are two different worlds."

"I do what I do. He does what politicians do," Wright said. "So that's what happened in Philadelphia where he had to respond to the sound bites, he responded as a politician. But his did not disown me because I'm a pastor."

In March, Obama condemned some of Wright's remarks.

"Let me say at the outset that I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy," Obama said. "I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it's on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue."

Wright also was asked at the press club on Monday about not being invited to take part in the event at which Obama announced his candidacy for president.

"I was not invited, because that was a political event," Wright said. "Let me say again, I am his pastor. At a political event, who started it off? Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). I started it off downstairs with him, his wife and children in prayer. That's what pastors do."

Obama's campaign initially invited Wright to appear at the event, but then rescinded the invitation. Wright recently retired as senior pastor at Trinity United, where Obama has been a member for 20 years.

Obama has said he would have left the church if Wright had not retired.

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