'Completely Unacceptable:' Barack Obama on His Pastor's Controversial Remarks

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," March 14, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: This is a FOX News alert. Just moments ago Barack Obama — Obama responded to FOX News regarding the controversy surrounding his pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and he spoke to our very own Major Garrett.


MAJOR GARRETT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Senator Obama, thank you very much for joining us on FOX. I want to ask you a set of basic, sort of threshold questions about your faith experience at Trinity United Church of Christ because I think it will help Americans understand the story.

So the first question, how long have you been a member in good standing of that church?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-ILL.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I've been a member since 1991 or '92. And — but I have known Trinity even before then when I was a community organizer on the South Side, helping steel workers find jobs. And we were organizing with churches and trying to recruit folks to get involved in that process.

Trinity was one of the churches that we tried to get involved in some of these community projects.

GARRETT: As a member in good standing, were you a regular attendee of Sunday services?

OBAMA: You know, I won't say that I was a perfect attendee. I was regular in spurts, because there was times when, for example, our child had just been born, our first child. And so we didn't go as regularly then. But...

GARRETT: When you attended, sir — when you attended, did you donate frequently?


GARRETT: OK. Were you and Michelle married there, and did Reverend Wright preside?


GARRETT: Were your two daughters baptized there, and did Reverend Wright preside over the baptisms?

OBAMA: That is correct, Major.

GARRETT: Very good. I wanted to talk to you about your statement released this afternoon, because earlier today when I contacted your campaign and I asked them if there was any way the campaign felt the need to add further context, add further distance between yourself and the statements of Reverend Wright, the one-word answer I received was "no."

Then late this afternoon, you have a statement that says, "I vehemently disagree, strongly condemn." I'm trying to understand the evolution between this morning and this afternoon. And I'd like to know specifically, Senator, what you vehemently disagree with and what you strongly condemn.

OBAMA: Well, Major, I've got to confess that, you know, as you know, I was voting in the Senate all day yesterday. So I wasn't following this story as carefully as I could have been. And then I flew back to Chicago.

When I saw these statements, many of which I had heard for the first time, then I thought it was important to make a very clear and unequivocal statement.

None of these statements were ones that I had heard myself personally in the pews. One of them I had heard about after I had started running for president, and I put out a statement at that time condemning them.

The other statements were ones that that I just heard about while we were — when they started being run on FOX and some of the other stations. And so they weren't things that I was familiar with.

Once I saw them, I had to be very clear about the fact that these are not statements that I am comfortable with. I reject them completely. They are not ones that reflect my values or my ideals or Michelle's. And that, had I heard them, had I been sitting in the church at the time that they were spoken, I would have been absolutely clear to Reverend Wright that I didn't find those acceptable. And obviously...

GARRETT: Sir, would you have — would you have quit the church had you heard them personally?

OBAMA: You know, I guess — keep in mind that, just to provide more context, this is somebody who I've known for 20 years. Pastor Wright has been a pastor for 30 years. He's an ex-Marine. He is somebody who is a biblical scholar, has spoken at theological seminaries all across the country, from the University of Chicago to Hampton. And so he is a well- regarded preacher. And somebody who is known for talking about the social gospel.

But most of the time, when I'm in church, he's talking about Jesus, God, faith, values, caring for the poor, family, those were the messages that I was hearing.

And so you know, I think that the statements that have been strung together are compiled out of, you know, hundred of sermons that he delivered over the course of his lifetime. But, obviously, they are ones that are, from my perspective, completely unacceptable and inexcusable.

And if I had thought that that was the tenor or tone on an ongoing basis of his sermons, then, yes, I don't think that it would have been reflective of my values or my faith experience.

GARRETT: So, quick yes or no. If had you heard them in person you would have quit?

OBAMA: If I had heard them repeated, I would have quit. I mean, obviously, understand that — understand that, you know, this is somebody who is like an uncle to me. He's somebody who helped me find Christ. And somebody who always talked to me in very powerful ways about relationship to God and our obligations to the poor.

If somebody makes a mistake, then obviously, you recognize — I make mistakes. We all make mistakes. If I thought that that was the repeated tenor of the church, then I wouldn't feel comfortable there.

But, frankly, that has not been my experience at Trinity United Church of Christ.

GARRETT: Senator — in the time we have remaining you said that, in your statement today, "When I first heard these I was beginning my campaign." Yet, you did not begin your campaign on December 4, 2007, when in a press release your campaign announced that Reverend Wright was a part of a quote, unquote, "African-American religious leadership committee."

I'd like you to try to help me understand the inconsistency there. -- Because obviously, if you knew about them at the beginning of your campaign and you put him on this committee later, you would have been aware.

OBAMA: No, no, no. Wait, wait, Major. I didn't know about all of these statements. I knew about one or two statements that had been made. And, as a consequence, as I said, if it was just a function of one or two statements, then that's not something that would lead me to distance myself from either my church or my pastor.

And if I was going to have a committee talking about faith issues, which we've been very active in doing all across the country, reaching out to evangelicals and talking to the church communities all across the country, it would — would not make sense if my own pastor wasn't on that committee.

Now, Pastor Wright is retiring. And part of the reason that this is not an issue, once it came to my attention, that we pressed very hard, was the fact that he is on the brink of retirement. He's preached his last sermon. He's taken a sabbatical. He is not going to be active in the church and has not been active in my campaign, and he is no longer a part of that committee.

But, you know, my judgment at the time was that this was not as problematic as what I've seen over the last couple of days.

GARRETT: Senator Obama, always a great pleasure to talk to you, sir. Safe travels. We'll see you on the campaign trail.

OBAMA: Major, thank you for taking the time. I appreciate it.

GARRETT: Thank you, sir.


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