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Obama 'outraged' by Wright's remarks

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  • Obama says Wright seemed more concerned with taking center stage
  • Obama: "When I say I find these comments appalling I mean it"
  • Wright on Monday discussed theology of black church
  • Some of Wright's sermons have come under scrutiny for controversial remarks
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(CNN) -- Sen. Barack Obama said he is "outraged" by comments his former minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, made Monday at the National Press Club and is "saddened by the spectacle."

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Sen. Barack Obama on Tuesday denounced comments made by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

"I have been a member of Trinity Church since 1992. I have known Rev. Wright for almost 20 years," he said at a news conference in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. "The person I saw yesterday is not the person I met 20 years ago."

Obama said he is outraged by Wright's remarks that seemed to suggest the U.S. government might be responsible for the spread of AIDS in the black community and his equation of some American wartime efforts with terrorism.

"What particularly angered me was his suggestion somehow that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing," Obama said, adding that Wright had shown "little regard for me" and seemed more concerned with "taking center stage."

Obama said Wright's comments were not only "divisive and destructive," but they "end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate." Video Watch Obama describe Wright's comments »

Obama said he did not think Wright's comments accurately portrayed the perspective of the black church and said they "certainly do not portray accurately" his own values and beliefs.

Throughout his campaign, Obama has said he wants to be a uniter, said Bill Schneider, a CNN senior political analyst.

"Now Rev. 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 Rev. Wright's comments," Schneider said. Video Watch Bill Schneider analyze Obama's comments »

Dee Dee Myers, former White House press secretary in the Clinton administration, said Tuesday that Wright has been "so far out there the last couple of days, it's been easier for Obama to say 'this does not represent me, this is not who I am,' and to take a much firmer view ... I think Obama did the right thing."

GOP strategist Rich Galen also said Tuesday that Obama did the right thing in denouncing the statements. Galen said he would urge Obama to "get on the phone with, of all people, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, to say ... let's let this thing blow over."

Some of Wright's outspoken sermons, circulated and widely discussed on the Internet and on television, became an issue in the Democratic presidential race this year because of the former pastor's ties to Obama.

In one sermon, Wright said America had brought the September 11 attacks upon itself. In another, he said Sen. Hillary Clinton had an advantage over Obama because she is white.

Obama gave a speech on race relations during the height of the controversy with Wright and said he rejected Wright's racially charged comments but could not repudiate the man himself.

Obama said Monday that Wright's remarks were "antithetical to our campaign; it was antithetical to what we're about." Video Watch Obama denounce Wright's remarks »

"I cannot prevent him from making these remarks," but "when I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it. It contradicts what I'm about and who I am. ... It is completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take this country."

In a break with previous comments, Obama focused his criticism on Wright the man, and not simply his remarks.

Obama said he gave Wright "the benefit of the doubt" before his speech on race relations.

"What we saw yesterday from Rev. Wright was a resurfacing and, I believe, an exploitation of these old divisions," Obama said.

Obama said he did not see a transcript of Wright's remarks until Tuesday.

He said he had not spoken with Wright since the minister's Monday speech, though he would not rule out a conversation with him in the future.

Obama said his relationship with Wright may have suffered irreparable harm. "There's been great damage," he said. "It may have been unintentional on his part, but I do not see that relationship being the same after this."

Asked whether he would continue attending the church, Obama said "as of this point, I am a member of Trinity."

He said he still values the church's community but does not want to be a distraction for those who are worshiping.

On Monday, Clinton -- who had said she would not have remained a member of the church under similar circumstances -- focused her criticism over Wright on presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain.

Last week, the senator from Arizona told the North Carolina GOP not to run an ad linking the state's Democratic candidates for governor -- Richard Moore and Beverly Perdue, both Obama supporters -- to Wright.

Clinton criticized him for failing to do more to stop the ad.

"I regret the efforts by the Republicans to politicize this matter, and I believe that if Sen. McCain were serious he would do more than just send a letter," she said.

McCain said again Monday that he does "not believe that Sen. Obama shares Rev. Wright's extremist statements or views."

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McCain also said he would no longer get involved in such matters.

"I will not be a referee," he said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand and Chris Welch contributed to this report.

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