From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Obama defended his controversial former pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright today, on the heels of statements by Hillary Clinton that she would have left Wright's church had she been in Obama's place.
Obama invited the audience in Greensboro to come to Trinity United Church, the church Wright founded and where he preached for 30 years. Obama called it a "wonderful, welcoming church" that had a pastor who was "trying to teach a lesson connecting scripture to our daily lives and people struggle with illness and family and finances and all the things that people normally talk about."
Turning to Wright, Obama said his "former pastor said some objectionable things when I wasn't in church on those particular days, and I have condemned them out right."
But trying to contextualize Wright's comments, Obama added, "I do have to remind people though this is somebody who was preaching at least three sermons at least a week for 30 years. And so, [sic] got boiled down; They found five or six of his most offensive statements, boiled that down to a … half-minute sound clip and just played it over and over again."
He said the clips spoke "to some of the racial divisions that we have in this country and tapped into those divisions. I hope people don't get distracted by this because as I said in my speech last week on Tuesday; we can't afford to be distracted."
Yesterday, Clinton had said in an interview that individuals can't choose their relatives, but they can choose their churches. Her comments followed a week of silence on the issue and statements praising Obama's speech.
Asked about religion on the stump, Obama started to raise the issue of Wright's comments on his own last week and appeared critical of the media for replaying them on an "endless loop you YouTube and cable news," he has said, repeating a line from the Philadelphia speech.
Today, he told the majority African-American crowd that Trinity belonged to a majority white denomination, an unusual statement that the senator has never made before.
"United Church of Christ is, by the way, a 99 percent white denomination," Obama said.
Today, speaking to the young, white man who had asked Obama about his faith, he said that focusing on Wright was a distraction.
"You and I, we are both Christians," Obama said to the young man. "And even if you're not a Christian, we are both Americans. And we cannot solve the problems of America, if every time somebody somewhere says something stupid that everybody gets up in arms."