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Obama: Had Wright not retired, I'd have left church

  • Story Highlights
  • Sen. Barack Obama says Rev. Jeremiah Wright "saddened" by controversy
  • Obama says he'd have left church if Wright hadn't conceded he'd offended people
  • Obama discusses his former pastor on ABC's "The View" aired Friday
  • New controversy brewing: Church bulletin reprinted articles seen as anti-Israel
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(CNN) -- Sen. Barack Obama says in an interview that aired on TV Friday that he would have left his church if his pastor had not retired and had not acknowledged making comments that "deeply offended people."

Obama talked about the dispute as it continued to brew over some of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons and comments, which many viewed as anti-American and racist toward whites.

Bulletins from Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ in 2007 include comments -- reprinted from other sources -- that maintain South Africa and Israel worked on "an ethnic bomb that kills blacks and Arabs." They also quote a historian who said that "what the Zionist Jews did to the Palestinians is worse than what the Nazis did to the Jews."

The articles appeared in a church bulletin section called the "Pastor's Page," and include one that originally ran in The Los Angeles Times. That article was written by a senior official with Hamas, which the U.S. government considers a terrorist organization. Video Watch Obama explain why he stayed »

Obama denounced the articles this week, telling the Jerusalem Post that the church was "outrageously wrong" in reprinting the pieces.

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In an interview that aired Friday on ABC's "The View" -- excerpts of which aired on CNN on Thursday night -- Obama talks about Wright's reaction to the controversy.

"Had the reverend not retired and had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws, then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying there at the church," the senator said.

Wright retired earlier this year, before events erupted.

Obama made similar sentiments to CNN's Larry King last week. Watch Obama's interview on Larry King Live Video

Obama also said on the ABC talk show that he has spoken with Wright since the uproar over the pastor's comments.

"I think he's saddened by what's happened, and I told him I feel badly that he has been characterized just in this one way and people haven't seen the broader aspect of him," Obama said.

Mark Halperin of Time magazine told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday night that aides to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, believe the controversy will give their candidate an opening if Obama becomes the Democratic nominee.

"If you talk to McCain's people about it, they are -- choose your metaphor -- licking their chops," he said. "They believe that if this does not derail his chances of becoming the Democratic nominee, it will be invaluable to them in gaining support among key constituencies -- that's code for white voters -- in the general election."

Even so, polls show that Democrats believe that Obama has responded very well, CNN's Jessica Yellin reported. She cited a Thursday poll showing Obama with a 10-point lead over his rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton. Yellin said polls showed that "Obama appeared to rise in Democrats' estimation after the controversy -- after he addressed the Wright controversy."

Obama leads Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination, with 1,622 delegates compared with 1,485 for Clinton, according to CNN estimates. A candidate needs 2,024 delegates to win.

One of the church bulletins that came to the fore Thursday, from July 22, 2007, includes an article by Mousa Abu Marzook, deputy of the political bureau of Hamas. "Why should anyone concede Israel's 'right' to exist?" he wrote.

Another bulletin, from June 10, 2007, contains on the "Pastor's Page" an "Open Letter to Oprah" by Ali Baghdadi, an Arab-American activist. He refers to "Israeli death squads" in a letter urging Oprah Winfrey to explore Palestinian suffering on a trip to the Middle East.

"Arnold Toynbee, the world-renowned historian, stated that what the Zionist Jews did to the Palestinians is worse than what the Nazis did to the Jews, because, as he stated, Jews should have learned from their tragic experience," Baghdadi wrote.


Wright's old sermons came under fire after a news report turned some of his most contentious comments into a YouTube phenomenon.

In one, the minister said America had brought the September 11 attacks upon itself. In another, he said Clinton had an advantage over Obama because she is white. He also accused the U.S. government of adopting policies to systematically oppress African-Americans. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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