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Controversial minister off Obama's campaign

  • Story Highlights
  • Barack Obama's former pastor has said 9/11 attacks were brought on by America
  • Obama distances himself from comments, calls them "appalling"
  • Minister also has said Hillary Clinton has easier time because she is white
  • Obama camp says minister no longer part of campaign
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From Alex Mooney
CNN
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Editor's Note: The following report contains objectionable language.

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Barack Obama and his church's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, in a 2005 photograph.

(CNN) -- A Chicago minister who delivered a fiery sermon about Sen. Hillary Clinton having an advantage over Sen. Barack Obama in the presidential race because she is white is no longer a part of the Obama campaign.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright is no longer serving on the African American Religious Leadership Committee, campaign sources told CNN.

In another sermon, Wright had said America had brought the September 11 attacks upon itself.

Obama denounced some of Wright's sermons on Friday, telling CNN's Anderson Cooper: "These are a series of incendiary statements that I can't object to strongly enough."

Earlier Friday, before the announcement of Wright's departure from the Obama camp, the Illinois senator denounced some of the ministers's sermons, calling them "inflammatory and appalling."

"I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies," Obama wrote on the liberal Web site Huffingtonpost.com about recently surfaced sermons from Wright -- his longtime pastor at the Trinity United Church of Christ.

"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," Obama continued. "In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue."

Obama, during the CNN interview, said, "I just don't think it's necessary to talk about Senator Clinton or anybody in those terms." Video Watch Obama on CNN respond to sermons »

And, even though he has been a member of Trinity United for the past 20 years, Obama said he had never witnessed Wright making such statements.

"Had I heard those statements in the church, I would have told Reverend Wright that I profoundly disagree with them," Obama said, adding, "What I have been hearing and had been hearing in church was talk about Jesus and talk about faith and values and serving the poor."

The sermons in question became the subject of scrutiny earlier this week after being highlighted in an ABC News report.

At one December service, Wright argued Clinton's road to the White House is considerably easier than Obama's because of his skin color.

"Hillary was not a black boy raised in a single parent home. Barack was," Wright says in a video of the sermon posted on YouTube. "Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary! Hillary ain't never been called a 'nigger!' Hillary has never had her people defined as a non-person." Video Watch Wright berate Clinton from the pulpit »

Wright, who retired from his post earlier this year, also says in the video, "Who cares about what a poor black man has to face every day in a country and in a culture controlled by rich white people?"

Still, Obama defended his 20-year relationship with Wright, saying that the pastor has served him in a spiritual role -- not a political one.

A sermon from Wright shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorism attacks is also under scrutiny. In it he said America had brought on the attacks with its own practice of terrorism.

"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," he said. "We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant. Because the stuff we have done overseas has now brought right back into our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost."

In his statement Friday, Obama said he had not personally heard the controversial sermons.

"When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments," Obama wrote. "But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church."

And in a 2003 sermon, Wright said of America's treatment of African-Americans: "The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people."God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."

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Obama and Wright have been close for years. Obama has been a member of Wright's church since his days in law school, and Obama's best-selling book, "The Audacity of Hope," takes its title from one of Wright's sermons.

But Obama also has long maintained he is at odds with some of Wright's sermons, and has likened him to an "old uncle" who sometimes will say things Obama doesn't agree with. He has also specifically denounced Wright's 9/11 comments. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Chris Welch contributed to this report.

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