March 19th, 2008
03:20 PM ET

Obama on controversy

I just finished interviewing Senator Obama, we talked at length about lingering questions surrounding Reverend Wright, as well as how he thinks the controversy has hurt him.

Here is a brief exchange:

Anderson Cooper:
“How badly do you think this has– has damaged you?  Obviously you've been taking it very seriously over the last couple days.  I mean, you've been very available to the media.  You made this speech yesterday.  How much has it hurt?  'National Review online' says, you know, bottom line, will the speech help you win white working-class voters?”


Anderson Cooper interviews Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama on (and above) the campaign trail as they fly to Charlotte, North Carolina. Watch the interview tonight on 360° 10p ET

Sen. Barack Obama:
“Well, you– you know– one of the things I said early on in this campaign was if– if I was just running the textbook campaign– doing the conventional thing, I probably wasn't gonna win because Senator Clinton was gonna be much more capable of doing that than I would be.  We had tremendous success– and I think we were starting to get a little comfortable and conventional right before Texas and Ohio.  And, you know, in– in some ways this– this controversy has actually shaken me up a little bit and gotten me back into remembering that– the odds of me getting elected have always been– lower than– than some of the other conventional candidates...”

“...And if I bring something to this conversation, it's gonna be because I do what I did yesterday, which is hopefully open up new conversation about a new direction of the country.  As a practical matter in terms of– how this plays out demographically, I can't tell you.  I don't know. "


I'd blog more but our plane is just taking off, we're heading to Charlotte...see you from there tonight.

– Anderson Cooper 

soundoff (274 Responses)
  1. J. Thomas

    Okay now this is getting ridiculous!!! Here, I have something for everybody on the blog to think about! Racism was still a problem about 60 years ago and everybody had grandparents or great-grandparents that have made a racist remark at least once in their lives. Doesn't matter if they were white, black, yellow, red whatever.

    So now I demand everyone who is saying Obama hasn’t distance himself from his pastor enough to practice what they preach, denounce your ANCESTORS for the racist remarks they've made in their lifetime. Distance yourselves from any association to your LINEAGE!! How's that for ridiculous!!!

    March 19, 2008 at 7:25 pm |
  2. kevin

    great leaders rise to the occasion...tackle it head on, no spin. I believe Obama has done just that. he shall get my vote.

    March 19, 2008 at 7:24 pm |
  3. Michael

    My deepest sympathies for obama being shaken over this situation. Fortunately,it is not the3 am phone call!

    March 19, 2008 at 7:24 pm |
  4. Hoping for "true" change

    I read a lot of the CNN ticker comments...almost all of them on topics that interest me. I'm glad that it seems some people give truly intelligent thought to making a decision as important as choosing a president. However, it is a true disappointment to read most of the comments, which are ignorant and thoughtless. It saddens me to think that some of these people can vote. I believe there are reasons to support Barrack, Hillary, and McCain. Those reasons however are infrequently discussed. Why? Because we spend a weeks on issues that truly don't matter. Barack gave an insightful speech about race...whether you agree with him or not. However, I've seen so many people comment on if he admitted being in the church when Rev. Wright made those comments. These people either didn't understand the message or didn't bother to listen. You can disagree but please disagree intelligently. Watching this campaign play out, watching the media influence it entirely to much, watching politics as usual when we need unusual politics makes me feel let down by this country. As a nation we have the potential to be something the world has never seen, however that potential seems to be fading. I guess all you can do is pray the people of this country can one-day can get over themselves and truly become Americans. It’s not going to make a difference whose president if the people of this country can not change and mature as a whole.

    March 19, 2008 at 7:23 pm |
  5. TY

    Ask Senator Obama why his story on Reverend Wright keeps changing. Yesterday he acknowledged that he was aware that Wright had made controversial comments but just last Friday he was telling any news anchor who would listen that he was not aware that Wright said such things.

    It's the same pattern that we have seen with the Rezko thing ... the story his campaign puts out changes as more information comes out that contradicts their past assertions.

    And it really is a shame that a very fine and thoughtful address on race relations ... one that he could have given any time in the year or so that Wright's public statements have been discussed on Fox News and other site ... was offered up as a political exercise to divert attention about the Senator's judgement.

    You would never know it from the comments offered up by the talking heads, but that was the real question being asked about the Wright brouhaha, WASN'T IT?!

    March 19, 2008 at 7:23 pm |
  6. Alex Betancourt

    I'm still crying because of the speech. Yesterday, I saw the next president of the United States. I was undecided, I wasn't sure about Obama because I didn't know him well, but Yesterday I saw a leader of change. I can't beleive there's people still voting for the same old dirty politicians like Hillary.
    The world is watching everything we do, and there will be a lot of people disappointed if we don't act with justice. The media has the power and the responsability to do the right thing. This is a human being who will fight for us untill the end.
    Anderson, will you do the right thing for this country?.....please, I'm begging you: Give him a break already!....stop!.....the media is not damaging him only, you are throwing away the last chance we have for a real and authentic change.

    March 19, 2008 at 7:22 pm |
  7. Beckele, San Diego, CA

    Obama has proposed a paradigm shift on race and politics in America and some of us are unable to make that shift. This is resistance to change does not constitute weakness on the part of the Senator. There must be a critical mass of us working for the shift to bring it to the a tipping point. The speech was a poetry and social therapy.

    March 19, 2008 at 7:22 pm |
  8. Heather

    Anderson, how soon people forget. It doesn't seem that long ago I watched the horrors that occured during the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. I remember the look on your face while covering the story. I know you were shocked and disguested by the lack of care people received. I am repulsed by the fact that all those people died, and were minimized by our government.

    Why is Rev. Wright so angry? He has lived through many racial horrors. Should Obama moniter every word that every person he associates with utters? Perhaps he can understand the anger of the man, but disagree with his argument.

    I am white, however I have close family members that are African American and white mixed. I can assure you I have heard every ugly racial comment you can imagine. I made a decision to tell people that make racial comments, I regret the way they think, and I don't feel the same. I am less insulted by Wrights comments than the fact that the news media would play God and try to determine what Obama should have, or could have done.

    There are many white politicians that have supported the black cause for political gain. WE have a wonderful opportunity to have a man of mixed race with a brillant mind, and an uncanny ability to unite people to become our president. The conservative talk hosts have done everything they can to create this racial divide, please don't encourage them.

    I challange CNN to run some of the Katrina coverage to coincide with Rev. Wrights remarks. You don't have to defend, or like what he said, but perhaps the reflection of the hot sun on all those frightened faces
    with no place to go, watching the dead bodies of friends and relatives floating in the flooded streets will give food for thought.

    Some of your commentators continue to say that the Wright's remarks really HURT some people, please, walk a mile in the shoes of an average African American. We are always quick to jump to conclusions, particularly when we can't possibly understand why anyone would speak, or think in a certain way.

    I continue to support Obama, and I hope this incident will become a positive factor in the resolution of racial issues facing our country.

    I hope you have no other problems regarding the recent removal of a skin cancer.

    March 19, 2008 at 7:21 pm |
  9. Lexie

    I am a catholic and have been since I was 3 months old, I'm now 47. How many times have priest molested little boys and some have been brought to the public attention, but many have been hidden by the church by moving pedifile priest to other regions of the country. These priest are still practicing their ministries, by marrying couples, baptizing babies and adults, presiding over funerals. But this is shoved under the carpet compared to some ugly words that another paster has said. This man, like these priest did not publicly perform his actions in the public eye. These were tapes that you can choose to buy, not forced to buy. And I can probably bet my life on that many people that are critizing Paster Wright are Catholics. But as a Catholic myself, I know so called christian parishers in my own church who have on many occasions uttered racist remarks right after they have attended mass. I would love to meet the first person who is without sin. My bible tells me to love all regardless of what a person has done, my bible tells me to forgive a person for what they have done. My bible does not tell me to hate someone because they said some ugly words. I believe my God, my true God would call all of you a bunch of hyprocrites. If you read this, open your bible and if you believe the words in the bible, then you will know exactly what Barack was speaking about. May God Bless you all, because you all really need it!!!!!!

    March 19, 2008 at 7:21 pm |
  10. Mark

    Those who defend Obama for not changing churches need to watch the wright video. Wright's comments made me cringe. What father let's their children listen to a minister condemn and curse a nation along with men that fought and died to give wright the freedom to spew his sermon of hate.

    I hope people start asking obama the tough questions and do not let him off the hook on this issue. Everyone need to seriously question Obama stance on race. Obama can not launch criticism against Imus then defend wright on the basis of a history lesson. That is a serious double standard and sends a message that it is ok if you are black to be prejudice against whites... but whites who criticize blacks should be lynched...

    It is time for Obama to step out of the election.

    March 19, 2008 at 7:21 pm |
  11. J

    Get real and go read the speach he did not say he was there whenthose comments were made but he did hear him make other controversal comments.

    March 19, 2008 at 7:17 pm |
  12. B Jamison

    Also, let us never forget that the words of Jeremiah Wright came from his own mouth and not from Obama! How many of us would actually want to be held responsible for something that someone else said? Put yourself in Obama's position, then "speak on the issue"! Hold him accountable for the things that come out of his mouth only! One day, we will all realize that fairness is really not that difficult – it just takes a little effort from the heart! That's when this country will begin to heal from its racial strife! Whatsoever a man speaketh, so is he!

    March 19, 2008 at 7:17 pm |
  13. Beth

    How can Obama judge Clintons judgment when he didn't show very good judgment by not leaving a church that spews hatred about our country. He first said he had never heard his pastor say anything like what the tapes revealed. Yesterday in his racial speech he admitted to having heard them before. He must have been lying. That doesn't say very much about his charcater to me. Also, what was all that racial talk on Reverend Wright's tapes about Hillary. It sounds like to me the Reverend Wright was being racial about Hillary and white people. How can we trust Obama to be president? What kind of changes is he going to make. I don't think they will be the kind I like.


    March 19, 2008 at 7:17 pm |
  14. EJ - Ohio

    "For an educated people, we can make some seriously dumb comments."

    If you want to hear some dumb comments, you need to come to Cincinnati...

    March 19, 2008 at 7:14 pm |
  15. Desire - Michigan

    Hi Anderson,
    I am very disappointed how this all situation is handled. I am naturalized US citizen and I am tired of being discriminated by black people just because I am white. No one single my ancestor ever lived or visited US. I still have the feeling that I am supposed to take blame for what happened to African Americans long time ago because I am white. I am afraid to go in all black neighborhood or even look a black person in the eye because I don't want to see the hate. I love my new country and I cant understand how could anybody find excuses for horrible words we heard from Senator Obama's spiritual advisor. I think that Mr. Obama had a great chance to be a president for all black people, white people and all oather people of America. I hope he can still do it if he distance himself totally from any kind of extremists and hatreds.

    March 19, 2008 at 7:14 pm |
  16. Fay, CA

    People who think blacks should just "get over" racism are delusional because it has NEVER gone away and still lingering as is evident by many of the posts here. Some may be tired of blacks "whining" about racism, but having to deal with the results of racism is MUCH worse.

    I'm looking forward to Anderson's interview with Senator Obama and hope AC makes a full recovery from his cancer surgery.

    March 19, 2008 at 7:13 pm |
  17. Candy

    I agree with what were said by some of the posters. The timing of this incident – just when many of us think that America has finally raised a generation of open-minded citizens when they are ready to embrace a far-superior candidate irrespective of his/her race, offsetting the weight of an older closed-minded section of the society – is just so saddening. Looks like racism is alive and well, as people who wanted to maintain the status quo strike! Obama's show of courage in tackling the issues straight on does not matter to these people; they focus on specific soundbites instead of his entire speech. The desperate call for change by the younger generations do not matter to these people; they sneer at their presumed naivete in politics. Of course, they prefer groping around in the dark than seeing in bright light that America is being left behind, with its huge racial baggage, by the rest of the world. If we miss the boat this time, we will be groping hopelessly in the dark for a long time to come.

    March 19, 2008 at 7:11 pm |
  18. Sondi Montgomery

    Dear Anderson,
    I come from a long line of hard core republicans and am registered republican myself. I am a 36 year old white female that grew up in a small southern (white) town in Ohio and I am a "Obama" supporter! People need to realize that there was no right way for "Obama" to respond to this.I feel he was sincere, open and as so many times before stuck right in the middle of the whole black /white issue. The whites say he is to black , the blacks say he is to white and everybody else says he is a muslim! The truth is he is none of the above, he is an AMERICAN christian man with both races running thru his veins. If he would have grabbed up his bible and family ,stomping out of the church forever there would have been simply a different headline the next day. "Obama" abandoned his faith over one man!!! He has handled this scrutiny the best he can but the truth is he is not perfect. He is a flawed American as am I. This country is in critical condition peope! We have no time for this. Not saying one should forget where they come from or who they are. But the truth is we all have a choice to make! Either become part of the problem or part of the solution. I could have very easily became on of the outraged whites in this whole mess but I refuse! On 9/11 we were not black, white,yellow or red we were simply AMERICANS standing together mourning for our great nation. I have lost my job to foreign trade, my (unisured)mother to cancer and everyday I live in fear of someone like Bin Laden. My thought is that "Obama" hasn't cheated, manipulated or bullied the American people so he already has one up on most politicans. There will always be the naysayers out there who will laugh off the unity idea I just personally refuse to be one of them. We got our name "The United States of America" for a reason.
    The mess we are in is a result of republicans and democrats alike as well as all the bad choices of both races . We cannot continue to stand around passing the blame off on everyone else. It is time to roll up our sleaves and go to work before this country we love falls so far behind it will never catch up.

    March 19, 2008 at 7:09 pm |
  19. sharon

    Stop pandering.
    This is the Internet and no one knows who you are and they really won't call you nasty names for being honest or "keeping it real".
    I listened to the speech and while parts of it were good, it certainly wasn't the greatest speech ever.
    There were parts of his speech where he just blamed others.
    I would have been told, as a child, if I tried to blame others for my choices..."if everybody else jumped off a bridge, would you?"
    Didn't anybody else hear that?
    Listen to his speech again without getting caught up in the fancy words. He blames others.
    He also said he wouldn't "disown" this man who is "like family" to him any more than he could his white grandmother (who helped raise him) and then he promptly trashes her.
    In public. On national TV.
    He blames others and then he trashes his grandmother.
    I don't want him representing me.
    If he can't respect his Grandmother, then, who will he throw under the bus next time?
    And yes...I am an African-American!

    March 19, 2008 at 7:09 pm |
  20. jws

    For an educated people, we can make some seriously dumb comments. Barack Obama is NOT responsible for comments made by another individual. We take things out of context and play sound bytes that play to our political positions. Barack Obama delivered an exceptional speech which needs to be addressed. I support Mr. Obama and I think he is on point. Jeremiah Wright has retired. It is possible to seperate the good from the bad in any situation. I went to a Baptist Seminary School and no you don't agree with all the teachings in the seminary but you seperate what is useful to you and discard the foolish sentiments, but you don't quit the school, it is part of the curriculum. Get a grip Ameica!
    HRC is trying to distort and claim experience as her strong suit, but look at the shape that "Experience" currently has us in.

    March 19, 2008 at 7:09 pm |
  21. Chris Lasson

    Mr Cooper in your interview with Barak Obama he said Hillary would be foolish not to listen to the Military on getting the Troops out of Iraq. But yet he Ignores The inteligence and the military that the surge is working and he voted NO when all Inteligence recomended we go to war so this must make him a fool . Hes talking out both sides on this. And you didnt call him on this . Please ask him this again

    March 19, 2008 at 7:08 pm |
  22. Wendy

    It's heart breaking. Isee nothing good coming out of this democratic race. Nomatter who wins we lose.

    March 19, 2008 at 7:08 pm |
  23. B Jamison

    Amazingly, every ill and defaming tactic that the Clinton Campaign has tried to used to destroy the credibility of Obama has actually turned out to be for his good. "Race" is a very real and prevalent issue that has been looked over for much too long. To hear Obama speak on the issue was revitalizing and provided a sense of hope that someone out there still cares about the interactions of people from different ethnic groups. I don't think anyone could have done a better job. What better person to speak on the issue than one who vividly represents what America is today – a diverse array of people from all different walks of life, cultures, races, and socio-econonomic classes. So much for separation of church and state.

    March 19, 2008 at 7:07 pm |
  24. Alan H.

    Hey Anderson you're doing a great job! Keep up the great work. Charlotte is one of my favorite cities. Stop in the airport and pick up a fried dill pickle!! MMMmmmm good!! Some will always find a way to foster hatred based on skin color or any other difference. Senator Obama should not be held accountable for another grown man's comments. We didn't hold President Bush accountable for the similar statements that John Hagee, Billy Graham or Jerry Falwell all made about 911 and they are all ministers that George W. has had some type of a relationship with. I see a double standard there!

    March 19, 2008 at 7:04 pm |
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