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Clinton, Obama Fight to Put Racial Controversies Behind Them


Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is denouncing controversial remarks by the pastor of his church, as he and Hillary Clinton continue their fight for the party's nomination. VOA's Kent Klein reports from Washington.

As he campaigned in the central state of Indiana on Saturday, Senator Obama again rejected comments by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the retiring pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, where Obama has been a member for two decades. "Where we can not forget about our past and not ignore the very real forces of racial inequality and gender inequality and the other things that divide us. I don't want us to forget them--we have to acknowledge them and lift them up. And when people say things like my former pastor said, you have to speak out forcefully against them," he said.

Obama's campaign announced Friday that the Reverend Wright was stepping down from its African-American Leadership Committee. Wright had said that past U.S. policies led to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Wright also said voters would embrace Obama over Senator Hillary Clinton because Obama knew what it means to be a black man living in a society "controlled by rich white people." "Hillary ain't never been called a (bleep)! Hillary ain't had to work twice as hard just to get accepted by the rich white folk who run everything," he said.

Obama also strongly rejected Wright's comments in a television interview Friday night on the U.S. television network MSNBC. "These particular statements that have been gathered are ones that I strongly objected to, strongly condemned. Had I heard them in church, I would have expressed that concern directly to Reverend Wright," he said.

Senator Clinton's campaign has not commented on the issue. Her campaign has also been dealing with a controversial racial comment by a supporter. Former New York Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro gave up her honorary position in the Clinton campaign in the past week, after she said Obama is succeeding in the presidential race only because he is African-American.

Political analyst Larry Sabato believes the controversies will not have a lasting effect on the presidential campaign. "I just think this will blow over like so many other flaps. Obviously, the minister said some dumb things. Geraldine Ferraro said some dumb things. Human beings say dumb things, and we get over it. We move on to the next item on the agenda, and we'll do so here," he said.

Senator Clinton is campaigning this weekend in the eastern state of Pennsylvania, the scene of the next major primary, on April 22nd.

Pennsylvania is the nation's fifth-largest state, with 158 delegates. In the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama leads Clinton by 124 delegates. He needs 531 more to clinch the nomination.

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