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Jackson says Obama comments not about envy

  • Story Highlights
  • The Rev. Jesse Jackson says he made "crude and hurtful" remarks
  • Jackson: Sen. Barack Obama's campaign "represents the redemption of our country"
  • Jackson's son -- an Obama campaign co-chair -- criticizes his dad for remarks
  • Obama campaign accepts Jackson's apology
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(CNN) -- The Rev. Jesse Jackson on Thursday denied allegations that his disparaging remarks about Sen. Barack Obama stemmed from envy.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson has apologized to Sen. Barack Obama for his "hurtful" remarks.

"That's kind of ridiculous. He's running the last lap of a 54-year marathon. He is running that race. I am a part of that race," Jackson said on CNN's "American Morning," referring to the modern civil rights struggle. Jackson ran for the Democratic nomination in 1984 and 1988.

On Wednesday, he apologized for the "crude and hurtful remarks" he made about Obama following an interview Sunday with a Fox News correspondent.

While talking to a fellow interviewee, an open microphone picked up Jackson whispering, "See, Barack's been talking down to black people. ... I want to cut his nuts off." Video Watch Jackson explain his remarks »

Jackson replied, "No," when asked Thursday if he thought the presumptive Democratic nominee talks down to African-Americans.

The civil rights leader told CNN's "Situation Room" on Wednesday that he didn't realize the microphone was on at the time. He said he was having a private conversation, and it did not occur to him that it would be picked up. Video Watch more of Jackson's apology on CNN »

"It was very private," Jackson said, adding that if "any hurt or harm has been caused to his campaign, I apologize."

An Obama campaign spokesman, Bill Burton, said that the senator from Illinois "of course accepts Rev. Jackson's apology." Video Watch as Jackson comments about Obama on Fox »

Jackson's son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois -- co-chair of Obama's presidential campaign -- publicly blasted his father's comments Wednesday.

"I'm deeply outraged and disappointed in Rev. Jackson's reckless statements about Sen. Barack Obama," the younger Jackson said. "His divisive and demeaning comments about the presumptive Democratic nominee -- and I believe the next president of the United States -- contradict his inspiring and courageous career."

The lawmaker added that he'll "always love" his father but said, "I thoroughly reject and repudiate his ugly rhetoric."

The elder Jackson repeated his apology in a news conference in Chicago, Illinois, a couple of hours before Fox News aired Sunday's remarks. He said he wanted to address the issue publicly before the cable network aired the comments because "I know that they will further violate the context of it." Video Watch Jackson's comments in Chicago »

Asked Thursday if he was in trouble with his family, Jackson said, "It's always a challenge, but he is my congressman and I am his father. Ultimately, we get along."

Jackson reiterated his support for Obama, saying, "His campaign represents the redemption of our country."

In a recent Father's Day speech at a black church, Obama took absent black fathers to task, saying, "We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child -- it's the courage to raise one."

While not citing any particular comment, Jackson said Obama's message to black voters must be broader and serve as more than a "moral challenge."

The black community is faced with high levels of unemployment, home foreclosures and violence, "so we have some real serious issues -- not just moral issues," he said.

Jackson on Thursday said part of his "anguish" was a result of the limitations of faith-based programs.

"We also need government-based [initiatives]. When bridges are collapsing, rivers are being overrun, it requires beyond faith the substance of real investment," he said.

Burton, Obama's spokesman, said the senator is quite familiar with the issues facing African-Americans and that "he will continue to speak out about our responsibilities to ourselves."

Jackson, whose Rainbow/PUSH Coalition is based in Chicago, has publicly endorsed Obama, most recently in a piece published Tuesday in the Chicago Sun-Times, and he said he enjoys a close relationship with the Obama family.

The incident is the latest of several in which the issue of Obama's relationship with the African-American community has become a part of the campaign, raised either by opponents or by Obama's allies.

Nearly two weeks ago, Ralph Nader -- who is running for president as an independent -- accused Obama of attempting to "talk white" and appealing to "white guilt" in his quest for the White House.

Obama also has had to deal with the controversy over his former minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose fiery sermons at Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ drew unwanted attention for the campaign. In the sermons, Wright suggested the U.S. government may be responsible for the spread of AIDS in the black community and equated some American wartime activities to terrorism.

The recent remarks were not the first time Jackson has criticized Obama. Last fall, he was critical of Obama's reaction to charges filed against six black students in the beating of a white student in Jena, Louisiana, a racially charged case that sparked a national outcry.


Jackson accused Obama of "acting like he's white," a South Carolina newspaper reported. "If I were a candidate, I'd be all over Jena," Jackson said in a speech at Benedict College in Columbia, according to The State newspaper. "Jena is a defining moment, just like Selma [Alabama] was a defining moment." The paper reported Jackson later said he did not recall saying Obama is "acting like he's white."

During the Democratic primary race, Jackson also said Sen. John Edwards was the only candidate speaking to the issues of the black community. He later apologized.

CNN's Don Lemon contributed to this report.

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