By Kristin Jensen
April 29 -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama denounced ``ridiculous'' statements made by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, using his strongest language to date to distance himself from his former pastor.
Obama cited Wright's contentions, repeated yesterday, that the government may have had a role in spreading AIDS in the black community, that U.S. actions overseas were partly to blame for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and about the importance of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
Wright's statements ``offend me, they rightly offend all Americans and they should be denounced and that's what I'm doing very clearly and unequivocally today,'' Obama said in a news conference in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Wright's statements and past sermons have presented an obstacle for Obama as he tries to win over working-class white voters in the remaining Democratic primaries. Recorded snippets from some of Wright's sermons already have been used by Republicans in North Carolina against local Democrats. Obama and his rival, New York Senator Hillary Clinton, face their next test May 6 in contests in Indiana and North Carolina.
Political analysts said the timing and content of Wright's remarks complicates Obama's efforts to broaden his base of support among white voters and may hurt him if he emerges as the Democratic nominee.
Obama's ``crucial goal'' is trying to connect with working- class voters and the Wright controversy is making that harder, said Glenn Totten, a Democratic political consultant who isn't affiliated with either presidential campaign.
``Every day he has to confront the issue of Wright's rhetoric, he inflames exactly that portion of the electorate he needs to draw to him,'' Totten said.
``It's a fiasco,'' said Michael A. Genovese, chairman of the Institute for Leadership Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. ``With friends like these, who needs enemies?''
link to article at Bloomberg.com