Rev. Jesse Jackson issued an apology Wednesday for “crude and hurtful” remarks he made about Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama’s speeches in black churches.
Jackson was being interviewed about health care by a Fox News reporter on Sunday, when he was asked his opinion about Obama giving speeches on morality in black churches. Jackson allegedly disparaged Obama’s tendency to tell African American audiences, especially black men, they needed to turn off their children’s television sets, attend to their homework and keep their families together.
In a video aired Wednesday night on the Fox program “The O’Reilly Factor,” Jackson leaned over and whispered to fellow panelist, Dr. Reed V. Tuckson, executive vice president and chief of medical affairs for UnitedHealth Group, “See, Barack been, um, talking down to black people on this faith based … I want cut his n*ts off … Barack … he’s talking down to black people.” Jackson appeared to make a stabbing or cutting motion with his hand as he made the remarks. Jackson later said that he was not aware that the microphone was still on.
Jackson’s apology came a few hours before Fox News planned to air the remarks.
“I feel very distressed because I’m supportive of this campaign and with the senator,” Jackson told CNN. “I was in a conversation with a fellow guest on Sunday. He asked about Barack’s speeches lately at the black churches. I said he comes down as speaking down to black people.”
“This is a sound bite in a broader conversation about urban policy and racial disparities. The moral message must be a much broader message. What we need really is racial justice, and urban policy, and jobs, and health care. That’s a range of issues on the menu. Then I said something I regret was crude. It was very private. And very much a sound bite,” Jackson said.
Jackson has publicly endorsed Obama and says he enjoys a close relationship with the Obama family. Jackson said after finding out about the open microphone, he immediately contacted the Obama campaign to apologize.
In a statement from the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Jackson wrote, “For any harm or hurt that this hot mic private conversation may have caused, I apologize. My support for Senator Obama’s campaign is wide, deep and unequivocal. I cherish this redemptive and historical moment.”
Jackson went on to state, “My appeal was for the moral content of his message to not only deal with the personal and moral responsibility of black males, but to deal with the collective moral responsibility of government and the public policy which would be a corrective action for the lack of good choices that often led to their irresponsibility.”
Jackson continued, “That was the context of my private conversation and it does not reflect any disparagement on my part for the historic event in which we are involved or my pride in Sen. Barack Obama, who is leading it, whom I have supported by crisscrossing this nation in every level of media and audience from the beginning in absolute terms.”
Obama’s campaign chose not to explicitly address Jackson’s remarks, instead amplifying his campaign message of individual responsibility. “As someone who grew up without a father in the home, Sen. Obama has spoken and written for many years about the issue of parental responsibility, including the importance of fathers participating in their children’s lives,” said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton in a statement. “He also discusses our responsibility as a society to provide jobs, justice, and opportunity for all. He will continue to speak out about our responsibilities to ourselves and each other, and he of course accepts Rev. Jackson’s apology.”
This week’s remarks by Jackson were reportedly not the first time he criticized Obama. Jackson has been critical of Obama and other presidential candidates’ reaction to the charges filed against six black students in the beating of a white student in Jena, Louisiana, a racially charged case that sparked a national outcry.