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Obama diverted by pastor detour

  • Story Highlights
  • Pastor Jeremiah Wright performed Barack Obama's wedding, baptised his children
  • Pastor provokes controversy by comments on race relations in U.S. and 9/11
  • Obama: "As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me."
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By CNN's Jonathan Mann
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(CNN) -- They're calling it the pastor disaster. Once again this week, drama inside the Democratic party dominated the attention of US voters. (You'd almost forget there's a Republican candidate named John McCain, who's campaigning and doing quite well).

This week's Democratic diversion? A black clergyman who isn't running for anything. Reverend Jeremiah Wright is a fiery and influential churchman who used to lead the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, where Obama and his family worship.

The Rev. Wright performed the senator's wedding and the baptism of both of his children. He served as a spiritual adviser to the Obama campaign. Then excerpts of Wright's videotaped sermons found their way onto TV.

They displayed deep anger about the long history of racism against African-Americans and the role the US plays in the world. Wright urged his followers to abandon the familiar phrase "God Bless America" and say "God Damn America" instead.

Just days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he blamed the US. "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. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost."

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US voters started asking themselves if they want a president who turns to a man like that for spiritual guidance. Obama has distanced himself from the comments but not from the clergyman. He gave a moving speech this week, trying to explain why.

"As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me," Obama said. "He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years. I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community."

Hillary Clinton didn't say much about the controversy. John McCain left it alone entirely. They hardly needed to - the damage to Obama didn't need any further contribution.

Until now, Obama's campaign had been devoted to hope. The Rev. Wright forced a detour to anger. Now Obama is trying to find his way back. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About John McCainBarack ObamaHillary ClintonDemocratic Party

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