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Barack Obama Addresses Reverend Jeremiah Wright's Controversial Comments

Aired April 29, 2008 - 14:00   ET


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... that the only way we can deal with critical issues like energy and health care and education and the war on terrorism is if we are joined together. And the reason our campaign has been so successful is because we had moved beyond these old arguments.

What we saw yesterday out of Reverend Wright was a resurfacing and I believe an exploitation of those old divisions. Whatever his intentions, that was the result.

It is antithetical to our campaign, it is antithetical to what I am about. It is not what I think America stands for. And I want to be very clear that moving forward, Reverend Wright does not speak for me, he does not speak for our campaign.

I cannot prevent him from continuing to make these outrageous remarks, but what I do want him to be very clear about, as well as all of you and the American people, is that when I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it. It contradicts everything that I am about and who I am, and anybody who has worked with me, who knows my life, who has read my books, who has seen what this campaign is about, I think will understand that it is completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take this country.

The last point, I am particularly distressed that this has caused such a distraction from what this campaign should be about, which is the American people. Their situation is getting worse. And this campaign has never been about me, it's never been about Senator Clinton or John McCain, it's not about Reverend Wright.

People want some help in stabilizing their lives and securing a better future for themselves and their children. And that's what we should be talking about. And the fact that Reverend Wright would think that somehow it was appropriate to command the stage for three or four consecutive days in the midst of this major debate is something that not only makes me angry, but also saddens me.

So with that, let me take some questions.

QUESTION: Senator, why the change of tone from yesterday, when you spoke to us on the tarmac yesterday? You didn't have this sense of anger and outrage.

OBAMA: I'll be honest with you, because I hadn't seen it yet. QUESTION: That was the difference?


QUESTION: Had you heard the reports about the AIDS comment?

OBAMA: I had not. I had not seen the transcript. What I had heard was that he had given a performance. And I thought at the time that it would be sufficient simply to reiterate what I'd said in Philadelphia.

Upon watching it, what became clear to me was that it was more than just a -- it was more than just him defending himself. What became clear to me was that he was presenting a world view that -- that contradicts who I am and what I stand for.

And what I think particularly angered me was his suggestion somehow that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing. Anybody who knows me and anybody who knows what I'm about knows that I am about trying to bridge gaps, and that I see the commonality in all people. And so when I start hearing comments about conspiracy theories and AIDS and suggestions that somehow Minister Farrakhan is -- has been a great voice in the 20th century, then that goes directly at who I am and what I believe this country needs.

Jeff (ph).

QUESTION: Senator, what do you plan to do about this right now to further distance yourself from him, if you think you're going to do that? And what does this say about your judgment to superdelegates who are right now trying to decide which Democratic nominee is better? Your candidacy has been based on judgment. What does this say?

OBAMA: Well, look, as I said before, the person I saw yesterday was not the person that I had come to know over 20 years. I understand that I think he was pained and angered from what had happened previously during the first stage of this controversy. I think he felt vilified and attacked, and I understand that he wanted to defend himself.

You know, I understand that, you know, he's gone through difficult times of late and that he's leaving his ministry after many years. And so, you know, that may account for the change. But the insensitivity and the outrageousness of his statements and his performance in the question-and-answer period yesterday I think shocked me. It surprised me.

As I said before, this is an individual who's built a very fine church, and a church that is well-respected throughout Chicago. During the course of me attending that church, I had not heard those kinds of statements being made or those kinds of views being promoted. And I did not vet my pastor before I decided to run for the presidency. I was a member of the church.

So I think what it says is that -- that, you know, I have not -- you know, I did not run through -- run my pastor through the paces or review every one of the sermons that he had made over the last 30 years. But I don't think that anybody could attribute those ideas to me.

QUESTION: What effect do you think this is going to have on your campaign?

OBAMA: You know, that's something that you guys will have to figure out, and obviously we've got elections in four or five days, so we'll find out, you know, what impact it has. But ultimately, I think that the American people know that we have to do better than we're doing right now.

I think that they believe in the ideas of this campaign. I think they are convinced that special interests have dominated Washington too long. I think they are convinced that we've got to get beyond some of the same political games that we've been playing. I think they believe that we need to speak honestly and truthfully about how we're going to solve issues like energy or health care.

And I believe that this campaign has inspired a lot of people. And that's part of what, you know, going back to what you asked, Mike, about why I feel so strongly about this today. You know, after seeing Reverend Wright's performance, I felt as if there was a complete disregard for what -- for what the American people are going through, and the need for them to rally together to solve these problems.

It now is the time for us not to get distracted. Now is the time for us to pull together. And that's what we've been doing in this campaign. And you know, there was a sense that that did not matter to Reverend Wright. What mattered was him commanding center stage.

QUESTION: Have you had a conversation with Reverend Wright?


QUESTION: And what's going to happen if these distractions continue?

OBAMA: Well, I want to use this press conference to make people absolutely clear that, obviously whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this. I don't think that he showed much concern for me, I don't -- more importantly, I don't think he showed much concern for what we're trying to do in this campaign and what we're trying to do for the American people and with the American people.

And obviously he's free to speak out on issues that are of concern to him, and he can do it in any ways that he wants. But I feel very strongly that -- well, I want to make absolutely clear that I do not subscribe to the views that he expressed. I believe they are wrong.

I think they are destructive. And to the extent that he continues to speak out, I do not expect those views to be attributed to me. QUESTION: I remember after the media story -- when the story in the media broke, Trinity Church, the current pastor, kind of defended Reverend Wright. I'm wondering -- I don't know how they'd react to the latest, but I'm wondering if you continue planning on attending Trinity.

OBAMA: Well, you know, the new pastor, the young pastor, Reverend Otis Moss, is a wonderful young pastor. And as I said, I still very much value the Trinity community.

This -- I'll be honest. This obviously has put strains on that relationship, not because of the members or because of Reverend Moss, but because this has become such a spectacle.

And, you know, when I go to church, it's not for spectacle. It's to pray and to find -- to find a stronger sense of faith.

It's not to posture politically, it's not to -- you know, it's not to hear things that violate my core beliefs. And so -- you know, and I certainly don't want to provide a distraction for those who are worshipping at Trinity.

So, as of this point I'm a member of Trinity. I haven't had a discussion with Reverend Moss about it. So I can't tell you how he's reacting and how he's responding.

QUESTION: Senator, I'm wondering, to sort of follow on Jeff's question about why it's a little different now, when you heard from some of your supporters -- you know, you (INAUDIBLE) supporters who expressed any alarm about what this might be doing to the campaign?

OBAMA: Well, look, the -- I mean, I don't think that it's hard to figure out from -- if it was just a purely political perspective. You know, my reaction has more to do with what I want this campaign to be about and who I am. And I want to make certain that people understand who I am.

In some ways, what Reverend Wright said yesterday directly contradicts everything that I've done during my life. It contradicts how I was raised and the setting in which I was raised. It contradicts my decisions to pursue a career of public service. It contradicts the issues that I've worked on politically.

It contradicts what I've said in my books. It contradicts what I said in my convention speech in 2004. It contradicts my announcement. It contradicts everything that I've been saying on this campaign trail.

And, you know, what I tried to do in Philadelphia was to provide a context and to lift up some of the contradictions and complexities of race in America, of which, you know, Reverend Wright is a part and we're all a part, and try to make something constructive out of it. But there wasn't anything constructive out of yesterday.

All it was was a bunch of rants that -- that aren't grounded in truth. And, you know, I can't construct something positive out of that.

I can understand it. I -- you know, people do all sorts of things. And as I said before, I continue to believe that Reverend Wright has been a leader in the south side. I think that the church he built is outstanding. I think that he has preached in the past some wonderful sermons.

He provided, you know, valuable contributions to my family. But at a certain point, if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that's enough. That's a show of disrespect to me. It is also, I think, an insult to what we've been trying to do in this campaign.

QUESTION: Senator, did you discuss (OFF-MIKE)?

OBAMA: Yes. No, she was similarly angered.


QUESTION: Reverend Wright said that it was not an attack on him, but an attack on the black church. First of all, do you agree with that?

And second of all, the strain of theology that he preached, black liberation theology, you explained something about the anger that feeds some of the sentiments in the church in Philadelphia. How important a strain is liberation theology in the black church, and why did you choose to attend the church that preached that?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, in terms of liberation theology, I'm not a theologian. So, I think to some theologians, there might be some well-worked out theory of what constitutes liberation theology, versus non-liberation theology.

I went to church and listened to sermons. And in the sermons that I heard -- and this is true, I do think, across the board in many black churches -- there is an emphasis on the importance of social struggle, the importance of striving for equality and justice and fairness. A social gospel.

So I think a lot of people would rather than using a fancy word like that, simply talk about preaching the social gospel. And that -- there's nothing particularly odd about that. Dr. King obviously was the most prominent example of that kind of preaching.

But what I do think can happen -- and I didn't see this as a member of the church, but I saw it yesterday -- is when you start focusing so much on the plight of the historically oppressed, that you lose sight of what we have in common, that it overrides everything else. That we're not concerned about the struggles of others because we're looking at things only through a particular lens, then it doesn't describe properly what I believe in the power of faith to overcome but also to bring people together.

Now, you had a first question, Joe, that I don't remember. QUESTION: Do you think...

OBAMA: Do I think -- you know, the -- I did not -- I did not view the initial round of sound bites that triggered this controversy as an attack on the black church. I viewed it as a simplification of who he was, a caricature of who he was. And, you know, more than anything, something that piqued a lot of political interest.

I didn't see it as a view, as an attack on the black church. I mean, probably the only aspect of it that probably had to do with specifically the black church is the fact that some people were surprised when he was shouting. I mean, that is just a black church tradition. And so I think some people interpreted that somehow as, wow, he's really -- he's hollering, and black preachers holler and whoop, and so that, I think, showed sort of a cultural gap in America.

You know, the sad thing is, is that although the sound bites, as I've stated, I think created a caricature of him, and when he was in that Moyers interview, even though there were some -- some things that, you know, continued to be offensive, at least there was some sense of rounding out the edges. Yesterday, I think he caricatured himself. And that was -- as I said, that made me angry but also made me sad.


QUESTION: You talked about giving him the benefit of the doubt, especially I guess in the Philadelphia speech, and trying to create something positive about that.

OBAMA: Right.

QUESTION: Did you consult with him before the speech or talk to him after the speech in Philadelphia to get his reaction?

OBAMA: You know, I tried to talk to him before the speech in Philadelphia. I wasn't able to reach him because he was on a -- he was on a cruise. He had just stepped down from the pulpit.

When he got back, I did speak to him. And you know, I'd prefer not to share sort of private conversations between me and him.

I will talk to him perhaps some day in the future. But what I can say is that I was very clear that what he had said in those particular snippets I found objectionable and offensive, and that the intention of the speech was to provide context for them, but not excuse them, because I found them inexcusable. So -- yes, go ahead.


Is this relationship between you and Wright damaged?

OBAMA: There's been great damage. You know, I -- it may have been unintentional on his part, but I do not see that relationship being the same after this. Now, to some degree, you know, I know that one thing that he said was true, was that he wasn't -- you know, he was never my "spiritual adviser," he was never my "spiritual mentor." He was my pastor.

And so to some extent how, you know, the press characterized in the past that relationship, I think wasn't accurate. But he was somebody who was my pastor, and married Michelle and I and baptized my children, and prayed with us at -- when we announced this race. And so -- so I'm disappointed.


OBAMA: All right. Thank you, guys. I appreciate it.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Obviously a very important moment here. And a tough moment.

You could hear it in his voice obviously, and you could see it in his body language there, with Senator Barack Obama, who is in Winston- Salem, North Carolina. Speaking out about this, what has just become, I just -- a media storm. And obviously from his words, an embarrassment to his campaign. And he said it misrepresents what his campaign is all about.

He had some very strong words to say about Reverend Jeremiah Wright. He said yesterday he caricatured himself. He does not represent Barack Obama, nor what his campaign should represent.

And joining me now on the phone from Chicago, and who is very familiar with Trinity Church in Chicago as well, is Roland Martin, a contributor here.

Roland, you were listening. We got you on the phone, and you have been saying you thought the Bill Moyers thing was an A, the speech on Sunday night, maybe a B, and yesterday in front of the press club, an F.

And all of the pundits, all of our political analysts have been saying this is exactly what Barack Obama needed to do, because it was getting away from him.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it was. Look, I mean, I dealt with this on my radio show this morning. What I wrote down, what he did yesterday, called it embarrassing, said he was too flippant. And of course Reverend Wright has his supporters right here in Chicago (INAUDIBLE) .

He did an absolute disservice to his member, and that was going to be a blowback. And so if Reverend Wright or anybody who's supporting him watched Barack Obama today, what happened yesterday, that's what caused what happened today.

Senator Barack Obama has done everything he could not to blast his pastor, not to condemn him. He recognized the relationship. But he had no choice to do it, because it was indeed offensive. Look, I've been one of the people who has broken down Reverend Wright's sermon, who looked at them, saw there were moments of truth, saw where there were things that were false. But again, you couldn't defend yesterday.


MARTIN: It was absolutely ridiculous. And I said a week ago, and I told my audience -- I said, guys, look -- I said, going before the National Press Club is absolute mistake. Everything that he did -- the facial expressions, the antics, the responses, I called it a week before it happened.

And look, there are people who (INAUDIBLE) to Reverend Wright before yesterday who pleaded with him, people who he is close to across the country saying, do not do this.

LEMON: You know what, Roland?

MARTIN: He had an opportunity to allow the Bill Moyers interview to stand on its own.


LEMON: And you bring up a good point here, because a lot of people are saying that, you know, this was Reverend Wright's -- it was in "The New York Times" today -- sort of his "I'll show you" tour to Barack Obama. And that at some point when Barack Obama made his speech back on March 18 in Philadelphia, that he felt, the Reverend Wright did, that Barack Obama should have stood by him more, and that I guess possibly what the analysts have been saying is that there was a rift between Barack Obama and the Reverend Wright now. And this was Jeremiah Wright's way of getting back at him.

MARTIN: First of all, I mean, the people who are saying that, if they don't have any knowledge based upon the actual conversations, that's all been a matter of just simply stating opinion. I've talked to different people who are close to both Obama and Wright. I have not heard that.

Obviously, if you're Wright, you don't want to hear Obama saying those things. Obviously, if you're Obama, you don't want him to say those things. But no one -- no one who I've talked to, family members or church members, have said to me that there was indeed a rift.

What I have heard consistently is that Reverend Wright felt that he need to define himself, that he was very upset about how his 36 years as a minister and how his church was degraded, how it was maligned. So therefore, he wanted to be able to defend himself and his church. But the reality is there was a fine line he had to walk. And I simply thought that what hurt yesterday was also the presentation, the dismissive attitude.

LEMON: And Roland -- hey, Roland, we've got to move on real quickly, but how do you respond to this, what most people have been saying, that this was a narcissistic thing that Reverend Wright did? And very quickly if you can here, and that he did not understand what was at stake, he thought that his reputation in the short term was more important than someone being elected to the highest office in the land?

MARTIN: I understand him wanting to defend himself, but he had to factor in the reality that his member is running for president, a position no African-American has held. And so he needed to be more cautious and should not have done yesterday. He did a disservice to his member, he did a disservice to the history of African-Americans as well. And that's just simply reality.

LEMON: CNN contributor Roland Martin.

Roland, thank you very much for helping us analyze this speech.

An historic moment there obviously with all of the media coverage and everything that's been -- that's going on surrounding the Reverend Wright. We saw what happened yesterday.

Over the weekend, he just -- the media focused on him and was really -- garnered most of the press and most of the media attention, overshadowing all of the candidates in all of this, and has led Barack Obama to have to deal with this today.

MELISSA LONG, CNN ANCHOR: Well, and Barack Obama saying earlier today during that news conference that he really didn't have the opportunity to hear all of the comments from Reverend Jeremiah Wright until today. He was really being brought up to date on everything.

You know, he was really critical, really critical of the Reverend Wright. But what really stuck out to me is he said, "The person I saw yesterday was not the person I'd come to know over 20 years."


LONG: Really highlighting how deep their relationship was, how extensive it was. As were discussing earlier, he married Senator Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.

LEMON: And baptized his children. Yes.

LONG: They had a long relationship. But again, this is not the person he had come to know over all those years.

We brought you that live news conference. About 25 minutes for Barack Obama to really answer questions from the audience.

And CNN's Candy Crowley was there in the audience. We're going to have an opportunity to talk to her, our senior political correspondent. Also our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, will help us to understand what this could mean going into the primaries in less than a week from now in North Carolina, and also in Indiana.

And if you want to learn more about Reverend Jeremiah Wright, go to our political pages online, You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.


LEMON: All right. Talking now political news, and it is just breaking. Just moments ago in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Senator Barack Obama went in front of the media, in front of the microphones and cameras to explain himself about his relationship with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and to defend himself against yesterday's, what he called a "caricature and histrionics" from the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Just moments ago -- here's what he had to say.

All right. Apparently we don't have that. We'll get that for you in just a moment.

But in the meantime, we want to update you on exactly what is happening. The Reverend Jeremiah Wright yesterday speaking, of course, in front of the National Press Club, and then before that, speaking at the NAACP on Sunday night and then doing an interview with Bill Moyers on PBS just days before that, garnering all of the media attention over the weekend, and really eating up the media cycle.

Inside that room now, who -- in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was our very own Candy Crowley and she joins us now with analysis.

Candy, right after this, I said that you could hear it in his voice, you could see it in his expressions, the body language. This was a tough moment for him, but something that he really needed to do.

VOICE OF CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. He used two words. He said he was saddened, and he was angered. And I tell you, this is not a man given to a lot of public emotion. I think we -- he has been kind of calm and cool throughout this entire campaign.

I have not seen him -- and it may not have come across on the TV. It's hard to know when you're in the room. But he was clearly seething and he was clearly upset, particularly when he was asked about his future relationship with Jeremiah Wright.

LEMON: And choosing his words very carefully, Candy. You were in the room, you noticed that.

And as a matter of fact, Candy, let's listen to this. We're going to play a little bit of it, and then I'll come back and talk to you on the other side.

Is that OK?



(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Trying to bridge the gap between different kinds of people. That's in my DNA. Trying to promote mutual understanding, to insist that we all share common hopes and common dreams as Americans and as human beings. That's who I am, that's what I believe, that's what this campaign has been about.

Yesterday, we saw a very different vision of America. I am outraged by the comments that were made, and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday. You know, I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992. I've known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.

His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate and I believe that they do not portray, accurately, the perspective of the black church. They certainly don't portray, accurately, my values and beliefs. And if Reverend Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought either.

Now, I've already denounced the comments that had appeared in these previous sermons. As I said, I had not heard them before. And I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church, he's built a wonderful congregation. The people of Trinity are wonderful people. And what attracted me has always been their ministries reach beyond the church walls.

But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS, when he suggests that minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century, when he equates the United States wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses.

They offend me. They rightly offend all Americans, and they should be denounced. And that's what I'm doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.

Let me just close by saying this. I -- we started this campaign with the idea that the problems that we face as a country are too great to continue to be divided. That, in fact, all across America people are hungry to get out of the old divisive politics of the past.

I have spoken and written about the need for us to all recognize each other as Americans, regardless of race or religion or region of the country, that the only way we can deal with critical issues like energy and health care and education and the war on terrorism is if we are joined together. And the reason our campaign has been so successful is because we had moved beyond these old arguments.

What we saw yesterday out of Reverend Wright was a resurfacing, and I believe an exploitation, of those old divisions. Whatever his intentions, that was the result. It is antithetical to our campaign, it is antithetical to what I am about. It is not what I think America stands for. And I want to be very clear that moving forward, Reverend Wright does not speak for me, he does not speak for our campaign.

I cannot prevent him from continuing to make these outrageous remarks, but what I do want him to be very clear about, as well as all of you and the American people, is that when I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it. It contradicts everything that I am about and who I am. And anybody who has worked with me, who knows my life, who has read my books, who has seen what this campaign is about, I think will understand that it is completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take this country.

Last point, I am particularly distressed that this has caused such a distraction from what this campaign should be about, which is the American people. Their situation is getting worse. And this campaign has never been about me, it's never been about Senator Clinton or John McCain. It's not about Reverend Wright. People want some help in stabilizing their lives and securing a better future for themselves and their children.


LEMON: Barack Obama in Winston-Salem, North Carolina just moments ago making a speech there and also taking questions just after this moment. And we have our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, on the line now who was in the room. She's going to join us.

But right after this, Candy, he took some questions. They said: Why?

He said because he is presenting a world view -- this is what Barack Obama said -- that was different than mine.

But then the question of judgment came up. Talk to us about how he answered that.

CROWLEY: Well, he said -- you heard him a little bit in that clip that you just played when he said this just isn't the person I knew. This isn't what I heard. He did say, you know, I understand that he felt attacked, that he felt as though he was being treated unfairly, but then to come back and repeat everything that again Obama felt was antithetical, as he said, to even his DNA.

He said if the judgment is that this is -- this is not a person that is saying things that he, Barack Obama, believes, and indeed has campaigned on.

LEMON: Yes. And he did say though, Candy, he did admit -- he said well maybe I didn't run my pastor through the paces.

CROWLEY: I did not vet my pastor. Right.

LEMON: Yes, I didn't vet him.

I wonder if this is -- and you have been following this campaign for some time now. I wonder if this, I'm sure you know the answer, that his opponents are going to capitalize on and that is judgment in this case.

CROWLEY: Well, the politics of it was put to him. And Obama said you all have to be the judge of that. I did ask him, had he heard from some of his high-profile supporters about how outrageous they felt it was, and he said this was about how outrageous I felt it was. He tried to sort of steer it away from the politics of it saying, this is how I feel about those comments, irregardless of whether this is going to hurt me or not hurt me, this needs to be said. It was that sort of answer.

LEMON: Is this over, Candy or is he still going to have to deal with this, or is this going to be a definitive, OK, he's dealt with it and some people are going to take advantage of it, capitalize on it, but then eventually move on?

CROWLEY: Well all I can tell you I don't know is the honest answer to that. Because we thought it was over, frankly, after those clips were played. Now, you know, we're talking about the primary here, because I think certainly should he become the nominee that it will come up again in the general election.

We've already seen it in ads that Republicans are running. There's no reason to suspect that when it gets into a general election that they wouldn't run it again.

In the primary campaign, this may put it behind him. But again, we thought it was before. And it wasn't, because we saw Reverend Wright again.

LEMON: All right.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, in the room when Barack Obama made the speech in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Candy, thank you so much.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

LEMON: And of course, that begs the question -- Candy talked about this coming up in the primary, what does this mean for the delegates, the superdelegates. And Hillary Clinton, her campaign saying, you know what, he's not electable, that this is -- he can't get the people who the Democrats need in order to get to the White House.

What does it mean for that argument? So we're going to talk to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider in the NEWSROOM in just a bit.

LONG: And of course, even going forward as Candy just mentioned, if he does become the Democratic nominee, how will this haunt him going forward to the general election.

LEMON: You're going to talk with Bill in just a bit.

LONG: Yes, right after the break he'll join us live from Los Angeles.

You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.



OBAMA: I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday. You know, I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992. I've known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.


LONG: Senator Barack Obama earlier this hour answering question after question while on the campaign trail in North Carolina. For some more insight let's bring in senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, who of course has been watching along with us.

And, Bill, in his speech today, Senator Obama said, when referring to Reverend Wright's address to the Press Club, his address to the NAACP, but in particular to the Press Club said, "...there wasn't anything constructive out of yesterday, just a bunch of rants."

Did anything constructive come out of today? Or, how constructive were Senator Barack Obama's comments today for his campaign?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: For his campaign, I think they were very definitive. What he said was that Reverend Wright, not only doesn't not speak for him, is not controlled by his campaign, but he said specifically, "he directly contradicts everything that I am doing in my campaign and everything that I've done in my life."

Barack Obama, his whole campaign theme is that he wants to be a uniter. He has made a strong promise to deliver what George W. Bush promised in 1999 when he declared himself a candidate for president for the first time. And, in the view of most Americans, he's failed to deliver. He said he wanted to be a uniter, not a divider. Well Barack Obama says he can deliver on that promise.

Now Reverend Wright comes forward and says many intensely divisive things, particularly along racial lines. That's exactly the opposite of what Barack Obama is trying to achieve in his life and in his campaign. So he made a very powerful effort today to distance himself and denounce Reverend Wright's comments.

LONG: Reverend Wright made those comments over the weekend, again on Monday. Do you think it took too long, or is this the perfect timing for Senator Obama?

SCHNEIDER: Well I think what happened was he thought he'd taken care of the issue when he gave that very eloquent speech on race in Philadelphia a few weeks ago, which was a very learned discourse on race and politics in America. A lot of people then said it was a learned and eloquent discourse, but didn't deal enough with the denunciation of Reverend Wright.

He claimed that he wasn't familiar with Reverend Wright's past. But then Reverend Wright came forward again, this weekend, to make further speeches, more or less in your-face to Barack Obama. And Barack Obama said he was outraged, he was angry, he felt he had no choice but to denounce those speeches and really to distance himself from the man, saying that his message and Barack Obama's message are totally opposite. He intends to divide; Barack Obama said my purpose is to unite.

LONG: We're just days before the primaries in North Carolina, where Barack Obama is speaking. Hillary Clinton in Indiana right now. We're just days before those states hold their primaries. A few of those states will hold their primaries leading up until June 3.

Do you think a lot of damage has been done to the Obama campaign?

SCHNEIDER: Well, we'll see.

There's a lot at stake next Tuesday, a week from today, in Indiana and North Carolina. Clearly, Barack Obama all along has been hoping, he hoped to win Pennsylvania or come very close, he did not. He's now hoping that if he can win in North Carolina, where he's running ahead, and in Indiana, where things are very close, if he wins both of those contests, the pressure may increase on Hillary Clinton to give up her campaign.

That is what he's desperately trying to do next Tuesday. We'll see in the results, particularly in Indiana, but also in North Carolina, how much damage has been done to his campaign, whether he's losing support, not just among whites, but even among African- Americans, as a result of this controversy. If he turns out to win both of these contests, then it looks like this worked, the damage was contained.

LONG: Senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, thanks so much for your expertise and insight.


LEMON: Well, Barack Obama definitely, Melissa, had a few choice words for his former minister just a short time ago in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Barack Obama uncensored, the full remarks, everything he had to say just a short time ago. We're going to play that for you, 3:00 p.m. Eastern in full right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.


LEMON: OK. So now we head to Yellowstone National Park where the largest land mammal in North America, the bison or American buffalo, is facing a new threat. After rebounding from the edge of extinction last century, bison now are the target of a controversial livestock management plan, that's a fancy way of saying they're being slaughtered. CNN's Dan Simon has today's "Planet in Peril" report.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a sight once considered unthinkable in Yellowstone National Park. More than 20 bison loaded on to a truck and headed to a slaughterhouse.

In the last few months, the numbers of those slaughtered hit a record high. More than 1,400 bison, one-third of Yellowstone's population, rounded up and killed.

MIKE MEASE, BUFFALO FIELD CAMPAIGN: There's never been a slaughter like this since the 1800s in this country of the bison, and it's disgusting.

SIMON: The bison, or American buffalo as they're often called, were hunted and practically wiped out in the late 1800s. But today, Yellowstone is overflowing with them.

(on-camera): This right here is the problem. You can see a bison on the street. We've seen some cars having to dodge the animal. We obviously don't know where it's going to go, hopefully back into the park.

AL NASH, YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK: Food is difficult and scarce to come by at the end of the winter. They're leaving the anterior of the park in part to lower places, in part, to look for food. There's limited tolerance for bison outside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park.

SIMON (voice-over): Limited tolerance because the fear is the bison carry a disease called brucellosis, the disease which causes pregnant animals to abort their young, can spread to cattle.

For ranchers, the stakes are high.

VOICE OF MARTIN DAVIS, MONTANA RANCHER: Montana has spent millions of dollars through the years to get brucellosis eradicated from our livestock. And to put that in jeopardy, no one wants that to happen.

SIMON: Critics call the killing an overreaction. They say there are no documented cases of bison giving brucellosis to cattle.

MEASE: It's the hype; it's the hysteria. It's not a fatal disease.

SIMON: With so many killed, the slaughtering for now has been curtailed to only those that cannot be herded back into Yellowstone. And under pressure, federal and state officials announced they will lease private land where some bison can freely roam outside the park.

But it's just the first step. Hundreds each year are still at risk of being slaughtered, and that will keep fuelling a controversy over a national icon. Dan Simon, CNN in Yellowstone National Park.


LONG: Earlier this hour, Barack Obama fielded questions for about 25 minutes about Reverend Wright -- Jeremiah Wright -- on the controversy swirling around him and Barack Obama's campaign. Well, I'm not sure if you had the opportunity to see it. We don't want you to rely on 30-second sound clips, so we are going to play it for you in its entirety, coming up at the top of the hour.