Garrett: As a member in good standing, were you a regular attendee of Sunday services?
Obama: I won't say that I was a perfect attendee. I was regular in spurts because there were times where... For example, our child had just been born, our first child, and so we didn't go as regularly then.
Garrett: When you attended, sir, when you attended did you donate frequently?
Garrett: OK. Were you and Michelle married there and did Rev. Wright preside?
Garrett: Were your two daughters baptized there and did Rev. Wright preside over the baptisms?
Obama: That is correct, Major.
Garrett: Very good. I wanted to talk to you about your statement released this afternoon because earlier today when I contacted your campaign and I asked them if there was any way the campaign felt the need to add further context, add further distance between yourself and the statements of Rev. Wright, the one word answer I received was "No."
Then late this afternoon, you have a statement that says, "I vehemently disagree," "strongly condemn." I'm trying to understand the evolution between this morning and this afternoon. I'd like to know specifically, Senator, what you vehemently disagree with and what you strongly condemn.
Obama: Well, Major, I gotta confess that as you know I was voting in the Senate all day yesterday, so I wasn't following this story as carefully as I could have been and then I flew back to Chicago. When I saw these statments, many of which I had heard for the first time, then I thought it was important to make a very clear and unequival statement.
None of these statements were ones that I had heard myself personally in the pews. One of them I had heard about after I had started running for president and I put out a statement at that time condemning them.
The other statements were ones that I just heard about while we were... when they started being run on FOX and some of the other stations. And so they weren't things that I was familiar with. Once I saw them I had to be very clear about the fact that these are not statements that I am comfortable with. I reject them completely. They are not ones that reflect my values or my ideals, or Michelle's; and that had I heard them, had I been sitting in the church at the time that they were spoken, I would have been absolutely clear to Rev. Wright that I didn't find those acceptable.
Garrett: Sir, would you have quit the church had you heard them personally?
Obama: You know, I guess, keep in mind that just to provide more context, this is somebody who I'd known for 20 years. Pastor Wright had been a pastor for 30 years. He's an ex-Marine. He is somebody who is a Biblical scholar, has spoken at theological seminaries all across the country from the University of Chicago to Hampton. And so he is a well-regarded preacher, and somebody who is known for talking about the social gospel.
But most of the time when I'm in church, he's talking about Jesus, God, faith, values, caring for the poor, family. Those were the messages that I was hearing. And so, you know, I think that the statements that have been strung together are compiled out of hundreds of sermons that he delivered over the course his lifetime. But, obviously, they are ones that are, from my perspective, completely unacceptable and inexcusable.
And if I had thought that was the tenor or tone on an ongoing basis of his sermons, then yes, I don't think that it would've been reflective of my values or my faith experience.
Garrett: So quick yes or no, if you had heard them in person you would have quit.
Obama: If I had heard them repeated, I would've quit. I mean obviously, understand that, understand that, this is somebody who is like an uncle, if you have..., to me. He's somebody who helped me find Christ. And somebody who always talked to me in very powerful ways about relationship to God and our obligations to the poor. If somebody makes a mistake, then obviously, you recognize I make mistakes. We all make mistakes. If I thought that that was the repeated tenor of the church then I wouldn't feel comfortable there, but frankly that has not been my experience at Trinity United Church of Christ.
Garrett: In the time we have remaining, you said that in your statement today, 'When I first heard these I was beginning my campaign,' yet you did not begin your campaign on December 4, 2007, when in a press release your campaign announced that Rev. Wright was a part of a, quote unquote, African-American religious leadership committee. I'd like you to try to help me understand the inconsistency there, because obviously if you knew about them at the beginning of your campaign and you put him on this committee later you would have been aware.
Obama: No, no. Wait, wait, Major. I didn't know about all these statements. I knew about one or two statements that had been made and as a consequence, as I said, if it was just a function of one or two statements, then that's not something that would have led me to distance myself from either my church or my pastor. And if I was gonna have a committee talking about faith issues, which we've been very active in doing all across the country, reaching out to evangelicals and talking to the church communities all across the country, it would not make sense if my own pastor wasn't on that committee.
Now Pastor Wright is retiring, and part of the reason that this is not an issue once it came to my attention that we pressed very hard was the fact that he's on the brink of retirement. He's preached his last sermon. He's taken a sabbatical. He is not going to be active in the church and has not been active in my campaign and he is no longer a part of that committee. But my judgment at the time was that this was not as problematic as what I've seen over the last couple of days.
GARRETT: Senator Obama, always a great pleasure to talk to you, sir. Safe travels. We'll see you on the campaign trail.
OBAMA: Major, thank you for taking the time. I appreciate it.
GARRETT: Thank you, sir.