Obama again refutes pastor’s comments, emphasizes roots
INDIANAPOLIS – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama refuted controversial comments by his Chicago pastor again on Friday and sought to play up his own origins in an effort to combat perceptions that he is an “elitist”.
Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who is semi-retired from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago which Obama joined 20 years ago, has called the Sept. 11 attacks retribution for U.S. policies and condemned America’s failings on race.
Wright said in an interview this week that Obama’s criticism of those comments was “what he has to say as a politician.”
That led Obama to repeat his criticism on Friday.
“I have commented extensively … on my profound disagreements with some of Rev. Wright’s comments and, you know, I understand that he might not agree with me on my assessment of his comments. That’s to be expected,” the Illinois senator told reporters during a day of campaigning in Indiana which holds its primary May 6.
“He is obviously free to express his opinions on these issues. You know, I’ve expressed mine very clearly. I think that what he said in several instances were objectionable and I understand why the American people took offense. And, as I indicated before, I took offense.”
The controversy over his pastor and, later, remarks that small-town Pennsylvanians were “bitter” about their economic situation, have taken a toll on the Illinois senator’s image.
Obama, who was raised by a single mother and her parents, told reporters he came from more humble origins than rivals Hillary Clinton, a Democratic senator from New York, and John McCain, the Arizona senator and presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
Asked about his image by a local reporter in Indiana, Obama offered the example of his wardrobe as proof with a reference to his wife, Michelle:
“I haven’t changed my approach to dressing too much. Michelle has asked me to clean up because when she first met me I had one suit. Michelle always finds this funny because I basically buy five of the same suit and then I patch them up and wear them repeatedly. I have four pairs of shoes. Recently, I’ve taken to getting a haircut more frequently than I used to because my mother-in-law makes fun of me. So, you know, I don’t think people are too worried about what I’m wearing.”
On his bowling abilities, he said: “I know there was concern about my bowling score, and, you know, I have committed to practicing bowling so that I’m better.”
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– Photo credit: Reuters/Frank Polich (Obama campaigns in Indiana.)