Barack Obama described his former pastor’s views on Israel as “distorted.”
Obama, the Illinois U.S. senator vying for the Democratic presidential candidacy, addressed growing controversy over strong criticisms of U.S. and foreign policy by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who recently retired as the pastor of his Chicago church. Wright has blamed U.S. foreign policy and support for Israel for the anti-Americanism that culminated in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
“The remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial,” Obama said Tuesday in a speech in Philadelphia aimed at quelling the debate over his relationship with Wright. “They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice.
“Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.”
Obama nonetheless stood by his closeness to Wright, urging Americans to understand the wholeness of the relationship.
“The truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man,” he said. “The man I met more than 20 years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another, to care for the sick and lift up the poor.”