March 21st, 2008
10:09 AM ET

The full story behind Rev. Jeremiah Wright's 9/11 sermon

Editor's note: CNN Contributor Roland Martin has listened to several of the sermons of Rev. Jeremiah Wright from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Portions of the sermons have been excerpted in recent stories.

As this whole sordid episode regarding the sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright has played out over the last week, I wanted to understand what he ACTUALLY said in this speech. I've been saying all week on CNN that context is important, and I just wanted to know what the heck is going on.

I have now actually listened to the sermon Rev. Wright gave after September 11 titled, "The Day of Jerusalem's Fall." It was delivered on Sept. 16, 2001.


One of the most controversial statements in this sermon was when he mentioned "chickens coming home to roost." He was actually quoting Edward Peck, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and deputy director of President Reagan's terrorism task force, who was speaking on FOX News. That's what he told the congregation.

He was quoting Peck as saying that America's foreign policy has put the nation in peril:

"I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday did anybody else see or hear him? He was on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end, he pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said Americas chickens, are coming home to roost.”

"We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, Arikara, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism.

"We took Africans away from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism.

"We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.

"We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenage and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard working fathers.

"We bombed Qaddafi's home, and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children's head against the rock.

"We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hard working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day not knowing that they'd never get back home.

"We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye.

"Kids playing in the playground. Mothers picking up children after school. Civilians, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.

"We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff that we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost.

"Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y'all, not a black militant. Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised. The ambassador said the people we have wounded don't have the military capability we have. But they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them. And we need to come to grips with that."

He went on to describe seeing the photos of the aftermath of 9/11 because he was in Newark, N.J., when the planes struck. After turning on the TV and seeing the second plane slam into one of the twin towers, he spoke passionately about what if you never got a chance to say hello to your family again.

"What is the state of your family?" he asked.

And then he told his congregation that he loved them and asked the church to tell each other they loved themselves.

His sermon thesis:

1. This is a time for self-examination of ourselves and our families.

2. This is a time for social transformation (then he went on to say they won't put me on PBS or national cable for what I'm about to say. Talk about prophetic!)

"We have got to change the way we have been doing things as a society," he said.

Wright then said we can't stop messing over people and thinking they can't touch us. He said we may need to declare war on racism, injustice, and greed, instead of war on other countries.

"Maybe we need to declare war on AIDS. In five minutes the Congress found $40 billion to rebuild New York and the families that died in sudden death, do you think we can find the money to make medicine available for people who are dying a slow death? Maybe we need to declare war on the nation's healthcare system that leaves the nation's poor with no health coverage? Maybe we need to declare war on the mishandled educational system and provide quality education for everybody, every citizen, based on their ability to learn, not their ability to pay. This is a time for social transformation."

3. This is time to tell God thank you for all that he has provided and that he gave him and others another chance to do His will.

By the way, nowhere in this sermon did he said "God damn America." I'm not sure which sermon that came from.

This doesn't explain anything away, nor does it absolve Wright of using the N-word, but what it does do is add an accurate perspective to this conversation.

The point that I have always made as a journalist is that our job is to seek the truth, and not the partial truth.

I am also listening to the other sermons delivered by Rev. Wright that have been the subject of controversy.

And let me be clear: Where I believe he was wrong and not justified in what he said based upon the facts, I will say so. But where the facts support his argument, that will also be said.

So stay tuned.


– Roland S. Martin, CNN Contributor

Editor's note: Read other blogs from Roland Martin and the team of 360 contributors at CNN.com/360

Filed under: Barack Obama • Roland S. Martin
soundoff (246 Responses)
  1. John

    It is still a speech of hatred against the United States. Does Reverend Wright tell how we helped liberate the Jews, who were being killed by the thousands? Does he tell of the sailors who were sleeping in their bunks, and were ambushed at Pearl Harbor? Does he even talk about how the United States rallied against apartheid in South Africa? Or how America has taken in thousands of Emigrants from countries who hinder their religion or freedom of speech; freedoms’ I might add that give Wright that very pulpit to stand upon?

    Give me a break! You’re just trying to placate him because he is black. If this had been a white guy, he would have already been made to apologies and step down: Wright looks Imus look like a Boy Scout. And Obama is just as bad for taking his kids into that type of church.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:10 am |
  2. Joseph

    Anderson: I guess anyone can blog on your site. And most likely if there are for Obama, If a white pastor had said that, oh boy!!!!

    March 21, 2008 at 11:10 am |
  3. Steve in Tampa, Fl

    You are so clearly in the tank for Obama, it isn't even journalism anymore. You might as well sign up officially for Barack's campaign.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:10 am |
  4. mike

    Re: carolflowery

    "nothing makes this statement acceptable, nothing"

    Who are you angry with, Rev. Wright for his conversation of the topic or Edward Peck for making the statement?

    I actually think that Wright is more defensible because he goes on to say that we should remember to love our families, and think to cure ourselves before we go attack some one else.

    That being said, without knowing the context of his other statements, I still disagree with his other comments....

    March 21, 2008 at 11:10 am |
  5. Sherri

    Nilla of course you think race is no longer an issue. You are not black or any minority in this country. As I am not white so I cant understand why whites think race does not exist. Its all relative and I respect you for that. I dont know what it is like to be white so I cant judge or say you are blind to the fact that racism does not exist but whites need to realize that black or any other minority do see racism in this world.

    Until each of us can walk in the shoes of the other we need to respect and listen and garner some understanding for what the other thinks.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:10 am |
  6. Rosie Borges

    Thank you for bringing this to light and speaking the truth...
    Play this on TV!!!

    March 21, 2008 at 11:10 am |
  7. mary

    I do believe Pastor Wright should explain himself or is he hiding something more?

    March 21, 2008 at 11:10 am |
  8. Lets have a discussion

    Thanks for getting the complete story. I don't doubt pastors, clerics, & etc have made controversial remarks as well. I only hope your desire to find the truth transfers over to other reporters. Many people are quick to tear down someone without all the information, which is something we (black, white, green, yellow, brown) must stop! Unity is keeping. Lets not be afraid to discuss race or any other issue!

    March 21, 2008 at 11:10 am |
  9. Orlando Scott

    Usually I don't agree with Mr. Martin but I too believe context is crucial. We as a country are guilty of Empire building – but want to crucify the prophets that expose the truth.

    Too, we are OWNED by China – once we took out that loan to finance this war – America has sold its self into indentured servitude because of its lust, greed and hipocracy.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:09 am |
  10. Michelle D. - Atlanta, GA

    Just goes to show you that our Media chooses to skewer people without giving the full story.

    That being said, I shudder to think ANY preacher spews hateful words from the pulpit. He may be right in his overall message, but he could have chosen his words more carefully and still made the same point.

    In these last 8 months of the political season, everyone is quick to pounce on the skeletons coming out of the closets. It's going to be a bumpy ride so hang on.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:09 am |
  11. Angie, Charlotte NC

    Thanks for doing the research, Roland, and not just basing your judgment on 10 second snippets. While I don't condone some of the things Wright says, if someone took the time to look at the totality of all his work and sermons, it probably would show how someone like Obama might feel compelled to love this man eventhough he may occasionally say some dumb stuff.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:09 am |
  12. dj

    if the context was so important, and diving into the truth was so important, why didn't the Reverend/Obama just defend the speeches with an explanation as this article did? why did he just resign from the campaign and run away

    March 21, 2008 at 11:09 am |
  13. wiwy

    The fact that Wright was quoting an ambassador is irrelevant. Peck is an idiotic "9/11 Truther". He thinks that the US government was behind the 9/11 attacks. That's OK and he's entitled to think that.

    But it does make him an idiot and Wright is still a bigot.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:09 am |
  14. Justin

    I don't know what the big fuss is about this anyways. Everything Wright said in the transcript above is true. Those are the facts of the matter. no opinion about it. We took land from the indians, we enslaved black people, we killed tens of thousands in Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

    We have used our force do do horrible things for way too long. To label one thing patriotic and another Terroristic is just turning away from the truth. To see extremist terrorism for what it truly is, a reaction to political and military force, is to better understand the problem at hand.

    Wright is not the only one saying it. Ron Paul, although not so inflammatory, thinks we should get out of Iraq and stay out of other peoples business.

    It's easy to paint the picture of 9/11 through patriotic glasses, but you have to realize that your patriotism also supports the state sponsored murder of hundreds of INNOCENT people every day. People just like those in the twin towers. A true patriot is one who stands up in the face of tyranny. I think that in many ways, especially with our invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, U.S. military actions are tyrannical. To oppose those actions is far more patriotic than just hopping on the band wagon of "War on Terror" and "Democracy for those who don't want it".

    March 21, 2008 at 11:09 am |
  15. kennethcarencro

    Keep trying to make excuses for hate and you shall wallow in it for all your days.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:09 am |
  16. Tim

    I can't believe that this author, who is an Obama supporter, is being flattered with thanks "for exposing the truth." What truth did he expose? Do your research people! The Reveren is un-American, racist, and has strong ties to Pharakaun. They gave him an award from their church. Look it up! I don't believe that Obama believes all the things that this man has preached, but I do believe that we have to look at it and that it has been acurately depicted. Don't be so blind!

    March 21, 2008 at 11:08 am |
  17. Darron

    Reading the whole sermon makes my veiw of Rev Wright totally different. It is amazing how a snippit alters what he was really saying.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:08 am |
  18. Andrew

    Some of the comments on this blog are ridiculous. Did you all read the the sermon? The man is not preaching racism or hatred. He specifically says "hatred begets hatred," a statement which would be anathema to preaching such hatred. Get a clue.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:08 am |
  19. Jayne

    When this story first broke and I heard what the Reverend actually said, I told my husband that the things he said were true. If anyone who has read history or knows anything about history can find lies in these statement I sure would like to hear from them. Reverend Wright has the right to voice these concerns. There may have been a better way to word his thoughts, however most of us in America still believe in free speech, even if our Government does not. We in white America may not like hearing what the Reverend had to say, but that does not mean that he should not have said what he said. I think this is a classic "Much Ado About Nothing". It is also probably politically motivated to cause Obama problems with his campaign for the presidency.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:08 am |
  20. Ram

    Sometimes "Truth is Bitter". Rev Wright was telling the truth. In this country there are whites as well as blacks playing this game. There is Prejudice & Malice on both sides. The master & slave mentality should go away. We are one America, one people working for the good of each other. This is Barrack, Hillary & Bill clinton. McCain ? may be. Bush, No.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:07 am |
  21. Bob Stephens

    I wish the mainstream media would delve into the speeches made by Pat Robertson, John Hagee, and the like with the same fervor that they have devoted to Rev Wright. Talk about a double standard. If it is a white right wing minister, nothing is mentioned no matter how outrageous the comments , but a black minister...look out........

    March 21, 2008 at 11:07 am |
  22. Lorrie

    I am disappointed with CNN for not doing this sooner. CNN just "went with the flow" of the other trashy news stations like FOX. I expected more from CNN. Finally, they are doing what they should have in the first place. Thanks Roland.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:07 am |
  23. Wayne R

    so according to the logic of those that feel Obama supports the comments of Mr. Wright and should drop out of the race, then shouldn't it follow that Hillary supports marital infidelity, since she is still with Bill.... btw, good job Mr. Martin, this is the kind of reporting I wish we could see more of

    March 21, 2008 at 11:07 am |
  24. Bill

    This is all part of our social fabric. It is just now... again... being brought to the surface and needs to be talked through. Do we just sweep it under the rug and hope it will go away? God forbid!

    March 21, 2008 at 11:07 am |
  25. bill

    The man is a racist. And both Obama and his wife have been indocdrinated. She let it slip when she stated that she had never been proud of her country before, and Barack let it slip yesterday when being interviewed on a radio program he made a comment about a 'typical white person' being afraid of black Americans. They believe whites are evil, blacks are racially superior, and you can bet there will be U.S. peace keepers in Kenya if and when he takes office.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:07 am |
  26. Mike, Brooklyn NY

    He has some valid points. If he could remove the seething moral relativism perhaps he would be taken a bit more seriously. No one listens to Self-righteous indignation, least of all the people you are trying to convince that they are doing something wrong.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:07 am |
  27. Jessica, Texas

    This certainly does provide context for some of Rev. Wright's comments. However, this is not the speech that has stirred up the most controversy. Additionally, for someone who claims that Rev. Wright is not his political advisor, there certainly are striking similarities between the political rhetoric of both Obama and Rev. Wright.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:06 am |
  28. Ciaran Epley

    This just endorses the fact that this man is STILL an idiot. He is still spewing misinformation, and quite frankly prejudiced words. Hatred begets hatred…he’s absolutely correct. His words will harvest what he has planted. Its a shame that the youth of his congregation looks to him for fellowship. *sniffles

    March 21, 2008 at 11:06 am |
  29. KDH

    Thank you for the content. It is invaluable.
    However, this does not absolve Obama from lieing. He has claimed all along that he is a different type of politician and that he wants to not be the black candidate. So he lies about hearing the sermons, then tries to use race to his advantage. Any time someone else brought up race, he cried racism. He did it to Biden, Bill Clinton and most recently, to Ferarro. If he truely wanted to have a "conversation" about race, he should have started earlier and not been so quick to put people down as being racist. A "conversation" implies a two way dialog. Why is it only he can speak?

    March 21, 2008 at 11:06 am |
  30. Bob

    Let's face it. If those comments had been made in other churches, the tax exempt status would be at risk. It amazes me how politicians do not distance themselves from these types until the heat is on. It leads one to believe that the move is for votes, not a real change of heart.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:06 am |
  31. Glenn Mumphrey

    What a pathetic attempt this was to stick up for a fellow racist and bigot. Has anyone ever read parts of Roland's book.
    All he rants about is promoting black people. How about blacks doing something for themselves and quit complaining how they have no opportunities because of the white man?
    Our jails are filled with black men who choose to do nothing productive with their lives.

    How can Roland not know which speech the GD America hatred came from?

    What a pathetic attempt at being a Christian.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:06 am |
  32. Mohammed Gasmi

    That's why the American people and the people arround the word MUST not Judge any one because a short spot. Always Ask for the full story, text and even read about in different places and do some search.

    That is the responsible way to get the full picture of every thing and get it right.

    Thank you

    March 21, 2008 at 11:05 am |
  33. kennethcarencro


    March 21, 2008 at 11:05 am |
  34. Tyra

    Excellent, Roland Martin, but my question is, is this information going to be exposed on the the TV and not just a blog the way all the negative info has been. Will there be a special on clarifying Rev Wright's position? How's that for a programming suggestion?

    March 21, 2008 at 11:05 am |
  35. Arrington

    Roland... Thanks for reporting the truth and fact finding news. Also, thanks Anderson Cooper( Kudos to CNN) .

    March 21, 2008 at 11:05 am |
  36. Pat F

    Excuse me, but "chickens coming home to roost" is what Malcolm X said when John Kennedy was assassinated. Trying to trace that comment to Peck is laughable. Don't try and make a silk purse out of this sow's ear.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:05 am |
  37. Orlando

    Roland as always IF YOU ARE GOING TO TELL THE STORY THE TELL THE WHOLE STORY. Keep up the good work. I know where you stand that's on the TRUTH.

    May God continue to Bless you as you continue to Bless us.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:05 am |
  38. heidi

    Mr. Martin,

    I read the NY Times but am often dismayed to find their editorial bias in actual stories...however, they usually also print the full text of any important speech and I am able to judge for myself.

    I appreciate your attempt here re Reverand Wright's sermons. I have found Sen Obama's full text "Race Speech" on the web and you challenge me to seek out more of Rev Wright's. Perhapps CNN could add a "full text" tab at the top of their home page?

    March 21, 2008 at 11:04 am |
  39. Margaret

    Thank you Roland, as I always felt that America needs to listen to the entire sermon and stop placing judgment. Obama is a man of God and should only be directed by God and not by people. When God tells him to leave his church, then I assume that he will do so. But until then, he needs to stay put. If people understood the Word of God then they would know what God says about obedience.

    It seems that at every turn, people are scrutinizing everything word that Obama says, judging and hating on him. First he wasn't "Black" enough, then he didn't have enough experience, then his passport has been breached. WHAT'S NEXT??

    Obama has poured out his heart and has explained everything. But people still not satisified. And that's why you shouldn't try to please people, but please God by your actions. As you will never be able to please ALL people.

    "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"

    LOOK IN THE MIRROR America. Your personal opinions are your's alone and you shouldn't force them on others. Stop being so double-minded and stand by your perspective candidate NO matters what's being said and/or portrayed by the media. The issues are what you should be looking at.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:04 am |
  40. Gwen Lewis


    You should be fired and I mean immediately, you cannot work for CNN if they claim to be the most fair and political reporting team. Underneath your name it should not say CNN Contributor....it should clearly say OBAMA LOVER..you have been rude when others are reporting...laughing and interupting others while they are speaking. If you are not careful I imagine your position will be eliminated in the near future....and shortly you will be teaming up with Dick Morris going around the country speaking to non existent venues. You are a disgrace to CNN and I believe your immediate supervisor will be telling you that shortly...enjoy your remaining days.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:04 am |
  41. Gayle CA


    Let me get this straight.

    You have no problem with the person who origionally publicly made the staments.

    You have no problem with the media who plasted a distored clip of Rev Wright's statements all over cabel news.

    You ONLY have a problem with Rev Write quoted the statements to his congregation, in context????


    March 21, 2008 at 11:03 am |
  42. gg

    You are a biased critic, so I and several people see you as the black Lou Dobbs. Unfortunately you have never impressed me as an objective journalist I do not understand how CNN can keep you on. I have heard you go on black radio shows and dogged out Hillary Clinton. I just wish you would in your own words, 'seek the truth, and not the partial truth.'


    March 21, 2008 at 11:03 am |
  43. Rita


    I am not a reporter with a responsibility to report the whole story but, even I know that the speech where the comment "God damn America" was made in 2007 (December, I think) as his last speech from the pulpit. Geez, I wonder why you missed that? You must have been busy trying to find speeches that did not offend.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:03 am |
  44. brian

    I appreciate the racial discussion that Obama has want all Americans to begin to discuss.

    When are you all in the media going to open up a discussion with the other 2 candidates for President? I would like to

    1. know McCain & Clinton's thoughts on what they will do to help unite the races of the Country.

    2. Do they think Wright spewed "hate" for 20 straight years?

    3. Would they have left the church if they had not heard the sermons?

    ... If the media has the courage to discuss race with the other candidates, will they misspeak on a radio show? Will the media then take snippets of their remarks, like they do with Barack, and drown the air waves with McCain and/or Clinton's comments.

    Please do not just limit this to only Obama, he did ask for ALL Americans to discuss race which does include the other 2 candidates, McCain and Clinton.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:03 am |
  45. John

    Wow. I just read the statements and everything that he said was 100% TRUE. My people(blacks) are idiots. We truly have the power to influence this race. I hope once Obama bows out that we collectively hold the Clintons and the democratic party hostage. Without us(blacks) they are done. This is our final shot to get any of the so called help that we've craved for since we were "freed." Failure to do this will doom our people and relegate us to an unimportant, unrecognized future.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:03 am |
  46. Phil, FL

    This man is a racist in the purist form. This fact is not open for debate.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:03 am |
  47. Daniel, Plattsburgh, NY

    Great job, Roland! While those of us who pay attention to the world at large already knew his comment about our chickens coming home to roost on 9/11 was spot on, maybe the full text will enlighten those who think the US government is always pure in its motives and deeds.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:03 am |
  48. lyn-nj

    Why is Obama getting 1 week of media attention from this? Why is CNN and MSNBC helping Obama repair this damage? Obama choose to continue to associate with his former pastor White. Obama likes the theology of White versus MLK.

    You folks thrash Hillary all the time. CNN is biased. Fox requsted you to investigate White and all the Obama media ignored it.

    Obama continues to use race to his benifit.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:03 am |
  49. mike -nyc

    I find it rather disturbing that people like Pat Robertson can blame 9/11 on "secular" Americans and still be an advisor to the president. But Obama is raked over the coals because of Wright's statements; which are honestly benign compared to some of the things that come from the religious right. Odd how right leaning, white preachers can "blame America first" but apparently left leaning, black preachers aren't afforded the same privilege.

    March 21, 2008 at 11:03 am |
  50. shannon

    Again, you have impressed with your journalism skills. You are the first to actually listen to the context of what appear to be radical "sound bites" and not radical sermons. Thanks again

    March 21, 2008 at 11:03 am |
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