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by Michael H. Cottman

Jesse's Nod Won't Help Obama (2007)

(PNS) -- After using extraordinarily obscene language to criticize Sen. Barack Obama's proposal to expand President Bush's faith-based initiatives, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said Wednesday he's "very sorry" for "crude and hateful" comments he made during what he thought was a private conversation during a break in taping on Fox News.

"I wanna cut his nuts off," Jackson whispered to a reporter on Fox News after his formal network interview was over.

Jackson told Associated Press that he doesn't remember his exact words, but described his remarks as "regretfully crude." He was being interviewed about health care by a reporter on Sunday when he was asked his opinion about Obama speaking in black churches.

His inflammatory comment came in response to a question from a fellow guest during a break from taping "Fox & Friends."

Jackson criticized Obama's proposed expansion of Bush's faith-based programs, saying "Barack has ... been talking down to black people." Jackson said the comments were, in his words, "a side light in a broader conversation about urban disparities." Jackson was not aware that his microphone was still on.

"For any harm or hurt that this hot mic private conversation may have caused, I apologize," Jackson said in a statement Wednesday.

"My support for Senator Obama's campaign is wide, deep and unequivocal. I cherish this redemptive and historical moment," Jackson said. "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."

Appearing at a news conference Wednesday evening, Jackson said he "supports Barack's campaign with passion." He said he does not want to "contribute to distraction" and doesn't want any "harm and hurt" to come to Obama's campaign because of his ugly comments.

At least one prominent black leader immediately denounced Jackson's comments -- Jackson's son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. "I'm deeply outraged and disappointed in Reverend Jackson's reckless statements about Senator Barack Obama," the younger Jackson, a Democrat from Illinois, said in a statement. "His divisive and demeaning comments about the presumptive Democratic nominee -- and I believe the next president of the United States -- contradict his inspiring and courageous career.

"Instead of tearing others down, Barack Obama wants to build the country up and bring people together so that we can move forward, together -- as one nation," he added. "The remarks like those uttered on Fox by Reverend Jackson do not advance the campaign's cause of building a more perfect Union."

"Reverend Jackson is my dad, and I'll always love him," Jackson Jr. said. "He should know how hard that I've worked for the last year and a half as a national co-chair of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. So, I thoroughly reject and repudiate his ugly rhetoric. He should keep hope alive and any personal attacks and insults to himself."

The Obama campaign also responded to Jackson's comments.

"As someone who grew up without a father in the home, Senator 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. 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 Reverend Jackson's apology," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.

Charles Ellison, chief editor of, told that Jackson clearly hasn't learned from previous gaffes and verbal missteps that cost him both politically and personally.

"It all started with the infamous 'Hymietown' comment about Jewish political influence in New York during his first presidential bid, and his legacy began to hit numerous bumps in the road from that point on," Ellison said Wednesday. "Publicly, Rev. Jackson states that he has issues with Sen. Obama's perceived lack of an 'urban agenda' or a major 'civil rights' platform. But, in reality, one senses a bit of generational tension and 'playa hate' -- a resentment of being left out of something bigger than him."

"The irony is that not only is Jackson's legacy still somewhat intact, but there's no reason for the tension since he fought for this moment to arrive," Ellison added.

"This will be a non-issue by week's end, since Obama is insulated from it by Jackson Jr.'s very immediate and harsh condemnation of his father's comment," he added. "But it risks further marginalizing of Rev. Jackson in ways beyond his control. That is rather unfortunate, considering the history."

Rev. Jackson is the second high-profile black minister to spark controversy for Obama in the past few months. Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, set off a firestorm of controversy for what some considered as anti-American sentiments from his Chicago pultpit.

Michelle Bernard, president of the Independent Women's Voice, said on MSNBC Wednesday night that Obama has talked often about personal responsibility and taking care of family. She said Jackson's comments symbolize "who is going to define manhood and the black family -- Barack Obama or Jesse Jackson."

The Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page, appearing on Fox News Wednesday night, said he believes Jackson and Obama are embroiled in an "ideological rivalry." Page said Jackson "doesn't want to see Barack go to close to the middle."

Jackson is no stranger to controversy. In 1984, he called New York City "Hymietown," referring to the city's large Jewish population. He later acknowledged it was wrong to use the term, but said he did so in private to a reporter.

Associated Press contributed to this story

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Albion Monitor   July 10, 2008   (

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