April 29th, 2008
09:26 PM ET

How Wright won – and lost – in 72 hours

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/28/art.wright.jpg%5D

Roland S. Martin, CNN Contributor
360° Contributor and Radio Host

"Why don't Rev. Jeremiah Wright just sit down and be quiet? Don't he know he's hurting Sen. Barack Obama?"

If I had a nickle for every time someone has asked, emailed or texted me that in the last three days, I could retire.

And trust me, I get it.

Wright has had a negative impact on Obama's presidential aspirations because of the constant playing of snippets of his sermons. And many believe that his interview with Bill Moyers on PBS; his speech at the Detroit NAACP; and the appearance at the National Press Club on Monday morning is all about him.

Yes, that is all true.

But what would you do? If your 36 years in ministry was degraded, would you go and hide?

If right wing radio and TV hacks like Sean Hannity, Lars Larson and others called you a bigot and anti-Semitic, and others who don't even realize that you served in the Marines and the Navy for six years castigated you daily as being un-American, would you defend yourself?

Of course you would!

But there is a fine line that you must walk. And depending on how you do could determine how you are viewed and whether the presidential aspirations of Obama are severely damaged.


The interview with Moyers, along with the Detroit NAACP speech, were perfect opportunities for Wright.

He came across as thoughtful, smart, theologically sound, and more importantly – human – than he has in the last month. He has been unfairly portrayed as a raging lunatic, courtesy of the YouTube clips, and that's not him.

It's so much easier in a one-one-one setting to have your views heard.

Even his speech on Sunday was pretty good.

At moments funny and hilarious, Wright shone a light on our differences, and how we need to overcome them.

There is nothing wrong with having different music and worship styles. Its when we try to impose one as being superior or favored over the other. That was an excellent point he made.

I got a lot of emails from folks who said they saw him differently based on this, and that's always a good thing.

Even the morning's papers spoke to his message of change. He got great reviews from a variety of sources.


I never thought appearing before the National Press Club was a good idea. I even told my radio audience a week ago that he should cancel.

One, it's not his element, and with there being questions, you never know which direction they are coming from.

Wright's opening statement was a good one, but it went all downhill from there.

The issue wasn't always just his answers. It was also HOW he answered them. He was too flippant, comfortable, cocky and arrogant in some of his answers. Where he should have expounded, he allowed a quip to simply end a statement. Where he should have been thoughtful, his histrionics and facial expressions led the way.

I'm sure someone will say that style over substance is silly. I concur. But Wright's style was a part of the substance, and he let it get in the way.

The one danger in being a smart ass person is that you come across as a smart ass. Wright was that way Monday.

Finally, he stepped on his own story! The headlines showed that his Sunday speech was well-received. Why let that moment not settle and folks get to savor it?

Now we're left with a different taste in our mouth.

Folks, perceptions matter. How people think of you, regardless of what you say, does matter.

Wright had a moment to rise above the "playing the dozens" statements and the "when they talk about your mama" rants. He could have presented himself as the learned man that he is. But he allowed the silly stuff to cloud his message.

Either his media handlers were incompetent, or he ignored them. That, folks, is a recipe for disaster.

As for Obama? Wright even more dismissed him as a politician, and that's not good. He did his member no favor with his actions, and Obama is going to have to bear down even more so to move beyond Wright.

If you disagree, fine. But Wright had an opportunity to elevate the conversation. His speech Sunday was damn good. But 12 hours later, that was dismissed, and he walked into the lion's den, thought he could tame it, and got mauled.

And with his member slamming him and forcibly pushing him off the front page, Wright has no one else to blame but himself.

soundoff (160 Responses)
  1. Patricia

    One white 66 year old woman(me) has had it with Rev. Wright. I have supported Senator Obama from the beginning and will continue to do so. As someone said, Rev. Wright has his own agenda – whatever that may be.

    My hope is that Senator Clinton will have enough class to not respond to Rev. Wright's posturing and certainly not in a negative way for Senator Obama. She and the former President have disappointed me immensely during this campaign. They have stoop to new lows that I never in a billion years thought they would do.

    Senator McCain has plenty of class and will handle this appropiately.

    Senator Obama, carry on. We are behind you all the way!!

    April 29, 2008 at 10:35 pm |
  2. John Mascia

    Roland- I have great respect for you and your opinions and for that reason I am fascinated by how you felt so compelled to be supportive of Rev. Wright on Sunday night. What happened in that room that made the people there feel so supportive?

    I think the story here is that there is something in Rev. Wright's message that resonates with people who are not outwardly filled with hate until something is stirred inside of them by this charismatic and angry person.

    The positive here is that this country is being forced to discuss the issue of race and that is a good thing. It is time that we do whatever we must to become one nation under God... for all people.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:35 pm |
  3. Jacky

    Well you are correct. I dont see Wright saying any different from what the snippets being shown on TV so far. I really dont. In fact Wright just added more of his thoughts to before.

    The question is why Obama denounced it today, when he compared Wright to his granny before. Do you think, he is just another politician?
    If so, I would think Clinton is far better, just because she has more experience.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:33 pm |
  4. Demi T.

    Wright came off selfish and arrogant and almost lunatic. I was appalled. Obama deserves better. The timing of the interviews as well as the quotes are unforgivable.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:33 pm |
  5. mptoks

    As a Christian, I can't believe a pastor (that was said to have lead someone to Christ) would respond in such a manner. Even if (just assuming) the pastor wasn't an unbeliever, He's not supposed to respond in such a manner. It's so obvious that the pastor has a hidden agenda.
    That is preposterous.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:32 pm |
  6. Dawn

    I applaud Senator Obama. He has taken the high road for quite some time. Reverend Wright is arrogant and ignorant. How could Rev. Wright be so egotistical to possibly sabatage the campaign of the Senator. I am an african american woman that attends a large african american church that has thousands of members and I have never heard a pastor conduct himself like this man has. He does not represent my views as an african american christian. I support Barack Obama. He has stood for what I believe in . It is time for CHANGE. We can't allow the country to lose focus on the real issues. It is time to move on.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:32 pm |
  7. Ray

    I'm concerned, as others should be, that if Obama becomes President, how will he suddenly develop the ability to judge abilities and character of potential cabinet officials and other high level positions that he will have responsibility for appointing. He couldn't even judge the character, personality and beliefs of Rev. Wright after having a friendship and relationship with him for 20 years. What kind of people will we end up with in the leadership positions of our government.

    I'm surprised the news commentators haven't picked up on this yet.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:31 pm |
  8. Chandra A

    Looks like Obama's judgement is so fragile and changed in between his speech in Philadelphia and today. How can he stand on critical decisions as a president?. He has proven that he can disown his promises in a month..as he has disown his Mr Wright today whom he was not willing 3 weeks back....

    Bottom line....It appears like Obama is a good person but not good enough to stand for critical decisions which matter to the millions of people and he needs to demonstrate much before he is given a chance to become president.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:31 pm |
  9. Taher

    Is this a set up by the Obama campaign to be rid of Jeremiah Wright once and for all by having him go out at this time and make outrages public statements and in turn Obama rejects and cut’s his ties? A way to head off possible attacks on Obama by Republicans during the general election?

    April 29, 2008 at 10:30 pm |
  10. Phyllis

    I am a 56 year old white woman from Canada and I thought the Reverend Wright made a brilliant speech on Sunday night. Both he, and the gentleman who introduced him, destroyed the caricature that had been created on YouTube and allowed me to absorb and enjoy an ethnic experience quite different from my own.

    What has transpired since has been beyond belief - is Hilary Clinton orchestrating this media frenzy in order to alienate and divide Obama's black constituency? Are we going to see the black community turn on each other over who they support in this fight? Why else are Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright being tortured in this way?

    t looks like a schoolyard fight with silly, nasty surrogates like Lanny Davis heightening the tension, urging the combatants on with no thought to the collateral damage to the Democratic party and the American people. I am sure it can get much worse.

    To what depths can this campaign descend, and in front of the whole world! How embarassing for good and decent Americans who deserve better!

    April 29, 2008 at 10:30 pm |
  11. michael mccormick

    I submit my continued support for Oback. I am sorry that he has to cow toe and cave in to the media over the Rev. Wright publicity. Barack Obama is not Rev Wright and Rev Wright does not speak for him. Why do you all make such a connection? It is shameful of the Media and this country's ignorance to believe and accept this. In and of himself, Rev Wright's NAACP speech was brilliant, literary, intelligent, articulately, eloquently delivered and conveyed real "unveiling" of our hitherto belief of the educational system in this country. Shame, Shame on all of us. Michael McCormick

    April 29, 2008 at 10:29 pm |
  12. chuck d

    Now can the media let the story go. Last night the media suggested he seperate and he did. Now did he say it to late. Why no story on all Catholics to leave the church where children were raped is that not hate. This is why we have race division between white and black. What and how did this story kill over 4000 Americans? How did this make America lose jobs. Please I'm losing my home. I need real answers.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:29 pm |
  13. Brown

    I think that the constant loop of Wright’s nonsense by CNN is doing Senator Obama no good either. STOP giving voice to Wright and he will go away. Anderson, I expect better from you.

    I am glad that Senator Obama has maintained the poise and sophistication that he has been known for. The portrait of the "angry black man" does not suit him. Fair-minded people will absolve him. The rest? Well, they were not going to vote for him either.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:29 pm |
  14. Reggie

    Why are we spending soo much time on the comments one person has made? Who cares what Rev. Wright thinks or says? I am disgusted at the media, including CNN for dragging this story on and on and on. For weeks, the media have spent soo much time on Rev. Wright. There are far more important issues that can be addressed. This is no mistake that the media is trying to hurt Obama. Hilary was caught in several lies, but just says "I misspoke and I misheard" It's covered for one day and that's it. But yet for some reason, the media will not let this Rev. Wright issue go. Can we just get over this! This campaign has gone to the dogs

    April 29, 2008 at 10:27 pm |

    Rev.Wright is of the old school. If he really wants to make a difference he would quit bringing attention to himself. I do believe it will change a lot of people's vote as I was set for Barrack. I'm definitely leaning towards Hillary now. At least I don't have to second guess her.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:27 pm |
  16. Jay

    Should there be a ummm factor with the fact that Rev.Wright spoke at an event hosted by a Clinton supporter. So much trickery is occuring with this Democratic campaign that what is one really supposed to think. Obama really needs to have his guards up because the climatic end of the battle is just about to begin.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:27 pm |
  17. Linda

    Barack has finally shown some guts! His whole persona in the press conference shows he means what he says about Rev. Wright's comments. He appears trustworthy, honest, and I'm definately now off the fence between him and Hiliary – he's got my vote.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:27 pm |
  18. mickie

    My opinion is this: Rev. Wright is an Clinton supporter.
    He was called to the WH to support Bill during the Monica disgrace.
    And he has just thrown Obama under the bus!
    I don't think Obama knows what happened to him. But slowly it dawns on him......hope it's not too late.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:26 pm |
  19. Kathy Morse

    Love your show but I will always maintain that the national press pushed Jerimiah Wright over and over again – clip after clip – sound bite upon sound bite. That is the reason the issue has affected a campaign that is about so many more important things. Barack Obama could not have BEEN more respectful to Rev Wright than he was in his speech inPhilidelphia – it's utter nonsense that Mary feels he was in any way direspectful ... it is Rev Wright whose behavior has been appalling. Any coverage the national press now gives to Rev Wright is simply gratuitous and frankly will be shameful. With all the problems being faced by America, shame on anyone who promotes Rev Wright as an issue that deserves any coverage. ..... ever again!

    April 29, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  20. DeLinda

    What scares me, is that the comments that Wright has made over the past week, is something that he has been preaching for a long time. He didn't just make this stuff up in the past few months. It is engrained in his very being. It is hate speech. It is absolutely ascinine! I feel horrible, because I have a lot of black friends. Some of whom are black preachers. Is this the preaching that goes on in all black churches? How could a man attend a church regularly with a person like this, hear his retoric for years and not be aware of what his attitudes are? He clearly is glad, even knowing that it would negatively affect Sen. Obama, to share his incredibly divisive ideas. Is this the way all black people feel? Is Sen. Obama just saying what I want to hear to win my vote, which by the way he got a few weeks ago?

    April 29, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  21. Sandy McKay

    One of the most important aspects of a presidency is the people who are selected to surround the president. My concern is that Obama will use the same bad – or misguided – or militant – judgment in appointing members to his Cabinet and other posts that he used in choosing Rev. Wright to be his spiritual adviser. He couldn't figure out Wright's angry politics in 20 years? Then I, for one, don't want to participate in his learning curve. It makes me realize that we don't really know where Obama stands on the issues that Rev. Wright addresses.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  22. Elaine

    I hope Rev. Wright is never quiet.
    It's becoming more and more evident that Obama is lying about not ever having heard Wright's comments like this.
    Give me a break. It IS political posturing. That's exactly what it is.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  23. Frank G

    One can be Democrat, Republican, independent, liberal or conservative but I believe we can all agree Wright is just “too full of himself”. What a sorry “spectacle” and we, including the media, create the attention, so undeserved.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:24 pm |
  24. larry anderson

    My take on this whole issue is.....let it go I as a citizen I feel that there are alot more issues going on. Rev. Wright is a preacher....Barack Obama is a politicion there is a diff. The media can't make up our minds so I wish we could let this go and get on to more important things. He denouce him the first time let it be. Why is it all about Obama? does the other canidates have skeletons? or its just the minority canidate?

    April 29, 2008 at 10:24 pm |
  25. Ava

    Rev. Wright is wrong. Obama said the right thing, he was hurt and dissappointed that the rev. does not understand the American people and the crisis we are trying to overcome in terms of race issues. I think Obama should turn this around and use this to show people how he can bring the people together by showing that Wright is wrong. I think Rev. Wright does not want Obama to be the president. I think Rev. Wright is turned against Obama because he went into the government race. Rev. Wright does not like the government. Rev. Wright is not a man that brings people together under the love of God but rather the hate of the devil. I am impressed with Obama even though he was never my candidate. I do repect him and feel he will have another change in the future to become the president. He should now make his cause talking to these people who preach hate and try to show them they are wrong.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:23 pm |
  26. Charlotte

    Excellent article, 100% agree.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:22 pm |
  27. RachelBSW

    I'm sure it hurt Reverend Wright, but I would have only asked him to wait a few more weeks and to bring the rhetoric down a notch. He has done more to hurt the Obama campaign that any one else.
    Reverend Wright did what Bill Clinton tried unsuccessfully to do in South Carolina, make Obama the "Black Candidate".
    Shame on Rev. Wright for making Obama denounce him.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:22 pm |
  28. Rbarrett

    Obama knew for years that this was happening and what was being said. It's said for him to come out today and now act as though he rejects the words of Jeremiah Wright and yet he supported him for all these years.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:21 pm |
  29. veta bordeaux

    Just a comment about your colleagues, Solidad O'Brien and Roland Martin, who both showed gushing support of Rev. Wright's speech at the NAACP recently. Why is it now that Roland Martin said today that black radio will not support Wright if he continues to put Obama in this awkaward situation? And why is not one CNN moderator asking questions concerning Obama's judgement when Obama has campaigned on the fact that he has better judgement than Hillary. This once again shows CNN's unspoken endorsement of Obama.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:21 pm |
  30. Keith Burton

    This is a sad day for America. Dr. Wright presented an opportunity for an open and frank discussion about race, and Senator Obama chose politics over truth. I don’t expect Anderson Cooper and the White pundits that dominate the airwaves to understand, but Obama has is either naive or has chosen the political path over truth.

    BTW, I have supported Obama with my influence and finances–no longer.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:21 pm |
  31. Richard

    Obama should move on and stays on the issues. He is the next president because there is no way a Republican will be voted in the White House. So Obama should go back talking about the deplorable economy, the high gas prices, the foreclosures, inflation, and unemployment. He did everything that he needed to do today.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  32. Karen

    It is hard to believe Obama only now sees what Rev. Wright is like. I am not sure how much of what Obama says is true and how much is not.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  33. Judy Ingledue

    I don't understand how Obama could be involved with a church for as many years as he was with Rev Wrights and then all of a sudden he does not express the same views. I did not always agree with my pastors, but if I ever had one that was as extreme and anti American as this one I would not wait until my Campaign was being hurt to disassociate myself from it.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  34. Charles

    No one can make me believe that Senator Obama did not know what Pastor Wright was all about. Senator Obama said what he had to say in order to try and get back on track. I believe Senator Obama has the same views as his former pastor. Pastor Wright even said Senator Obama say what politians say. I hope the press does not continue to try and give this guy a free ride on this. There is another big story that will be out about Senator Obama that I do not believe anyone will be able to over look.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  35. melissa Collins

    I wish the media would stop helping the republican party regain the White House for four more years. The focus on the election should be the real ISSUES! Rev. Jeremiah Wright must not want the country to change from the old ways. All Americans alike should put race and gender aside and report and vote on the issues that will improve the lives of all Americans. Sen. Barack Obama has in my opinion put this issue to rest and so should everyone else.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:19 pm |
  36. Marcus Cook

    What has amazed me about the Obama – Wright Situation is that everyone has labeled Reverend Wright Un-American, what I find Un-American are the threats he has received on his life. It is appalling that many has labeled him as an ego maniac, he is simply explaining his view. He was a Marine in the Vietnam War, in the Navy, and operated on the President of the United States at the same time when Clinton and Bush were no where to be found. Now Report THAT!!!

    April 29, 2008 at 10:19 pm |
  37. Harriet

    I heard that Rev. Wright has endorsed Hillary.

    go Hill and Rev. 2008

    April 29, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  38. Keith Burton

    This is a sad day for America. Dr. Wright presented an opportunity for an open and frank discussion about race, and Senator Obama chose politics over truth. I don't expect Anderson Cooper and the White pundits that dominate the airwaves to understand, but Obama has is either naive or has chosen the political path over truth.

    BTW, I have supported Obama with my influence and support–no longer.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  39. Mary in Oklahoma

    Senator and his family sat in this church for nearly 20 years and now he is ranting and raving about the words, sermons and teachings of that church and the Rev. Wright. The teachings by Rev. Wright and the church has not changed and Senator Obama should stand up and apologize to everyone for being so stupid. He is a disgrace to his district, his party and the citizens of USA. His judgment was lacking during this time.
    Voters need to look very carefully at this, his association with Tony Rezko and Bill Ayers. Definitely, he says he is one type of man and his life's choices prove that he is another. He needs to be responsible for his own actions and words and stop blaming others.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:09 pm |
  40. Mari

    Why has no one delivered this mess with Senator Obama and Rev. Jeremiah Wright at the lap of Sean Hannity of FoxNews? I saw his interview with Rev. Wright in March 2007. For one year Sean beat the drum that Rev. Wright's church practiced separatism. It finally got traction last month. The sad thing is that Sean Hannity was willing to divide this church (that has been the object of threats on the pastor and Rev. Wright) and he did it for the sole purpose of creating another "Willie Horton". I will never vote for a Republican as long a I live!

    April 29, 2008 at 10:09 pm |
  41. Harriet

    The Clintons former pastor was sentenced friday to three yrs in prison for inappropriately touching a 7yr old in his home last March by judge Micheal Dwyer. Why is Hillary pastor getting a pass. Why isn't this story in the news?

    April 29, 2008 at 10:08 pm |
  42. Scott Dickson

    I appreciated everything that Wright said, but the reference to Obama in which he effectively said, "Obama's acting like a politician; what else would you expect but shallow, public-minded decision-making." That's a horrible slam against a man who, up until now, I've seen as more principled than any of the other candidates. He doesn't talk about of both sides of his mouth every other person I've seen from Washington.
    Obama was left having to denounce a man whom he's acknowledged that he cares greatly for, and thus looking even more like a run-of-the-mill politician.
    Wright suggests that he's taking a stand based on some divine mandate, but it's clear to me that the man can't see past his own pride and ego.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:07 pm |
  43. Larry

    Not to worry Roland. Hillary's story on Bosnian sniperfire is much worse than anything having to do with Barack's ex-pastor. Hillary told a lie, something we can be assured of that Barack has never done. The Bosnian sniperfire story will long outlast anything having to do with some paster who?

    April 29, 2008 at 10:02 pm |
  44. Christina

    I believe that Obama truley meant what he said today, and I truley believe that he was upset about the coments that Wright said, but at the end of the day this is a politician running for office, and he wants to get elected.
    Also the Rev Wright has nothing to lose and believe's in what he says. So if Obama gets the nomination and all of a sudden he is speaking again with Rev Wriight. Can the American people believe in Obama?
    Remember a Politician in this country will do whatever it takes to get elected!!!!

    April 29, 2008 at 9:58 pm |
  45. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    As with anything in life, we are free to speak our minds, but must accept that many won't agree with what we say. No one can speak for everyone. No one.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    April 29, 2008 at 9:58 pm |
  46. Annie Kate


    I watched the Bill Moyers interview and thought Wright did a fantastic job of explaining things and it left me with the feeling I had learned something. I didn't see the NAACP speech and I've only seen sound bites of the National Press Club appearance but the man at the National Press Club doesn't seem like the same man I heard on Moyers. Its unfortunate that Wright undid all the ground he gained with his behavior at the National Press Club.

    I'm not an Obama supporter but I felt compassion for him as I watched his "friend" of 20 years try to marginalize his candidacy and probably destroy the friendship and trust built up over all those years. Reverend Wright lost far more than he gained in the end.
    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 29, 2008 at 9:54 pm |
  47. Des-Houston

    Roland Martin, you don't seem to get do you. Please when you speak please do well to speak for youself because you don't speak for all black people. When those videos surface your were preaching black liberation instead of rejecting Rev. Wright comments. Accept it pastor Wright is wrong and Obama new it but said in the church because he needed his support. Americans are not stupid, use this opportunity to make all Americans understand that racism is wrong regardless of who perpertuates it. Instead of trying to spin it, lets continue the conversation on race. We are Americans first before blacks and Rev. Wright is clearly very wrong. By preaching to young blacks to hate America and white people how does that help them. America is a great country, talk to my parents we came year from Africa voluntary. They worked hard and were rewarded. I am bless to have visited other countries and not a day goes by without me praying for God to help other countries. God Bless America.

    April 29, 2008 at 9:52 pm |
  48. Lisette Chicago, IL

    Wright is wrong says it all!
    Wrght is a fool!

    April 29, 2008 at 9:44 pm |
  49. Bsip

    Roland, I think all three appearences were equally as good. However, I do not think that America is ready for this dialogue. If you have watched Rev. Wright before (and I have), he was Rev. Wright in all three appearences. He was not performing as Obama said. That was Rev. Wright in the raw. He stayed quiet and the media took that for weakness. I think that African Americans (at least those who are not in a state of denial) know that Rev. Wright was speaking the truth and for those who have not joined one of those "mega churches" know that that is the way that we have church.

    April 29, 2008 at 9:44 pm |
  50. Deb, Texas

    I doesn't take that long with journalist like you all. If you would have been concentrating on REAL NEWS we would not be in the mess were are in right now – with high gas prices that have some people worrying about how they will get to work, food prices going up everyday, people's children, not yours dying in Iraq and you don't have time to mention it – THIS IS SAD! SHAME ON OUR MEDIA!

    April 29, 2008 at 9:30 pm |
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