CHICAGO — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama shrugged off a crude comment aimed at him by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, accepting an apology for a remark Jackson made as he contended that Obama wasn’t speaking to issues important to the black community.
Unaware that his microphone was on during a break for a Fox News program earlier this month, Jackson used a slang reference to wanting to cut off Obama’s testicles. When he learned last Wednesday that the Fox News program “The O’Reilly Factor” would air his comments that night, Jackson apologized for “hurtful and wrong” remarks.
The Obama campaign took a measured response to the incident, contending in a statement that Obama has spoken for many years about parental responsibility as well as “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,” Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said.
During a break from taping “Fox & Friends” on Sunday, a fellow guest asked Jackson about speeches on morality Obama has given at black churches. Jackson said at a news conference last Wednesday that he responded that Obama’s speeches can come off as speaking down to black people and that there were other important issues to be addressed, such as unemployment, the mortgage crisis and the number of blacks in prison.
“It was not a public speech or a declaration,” Jackson said, adding that the comments “will not be helpful.”
“For any harm or hurt that this hot mic private conversation may have caused, I apologize,” he said in a written apology released Wednesday. “My support for Sen. Obama’s campaign is wide, deep and unequivocal.”
Jackson said he called Obama’s campaign to apologize.
Though Jackson supports Obama, the two are not close.
In September, The State newspaper in South Carolina reported that Jackson had said Obama was “acting like he’s white” in his response to the arrest of six black juveniles in Jena, La. Jackson disputed the quote.
Jackson’s comments sparked something of a family feud. His son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., said he was disappointed by his father’s “reckless statements.”
“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,” the younger Jackson said.
The comments are not the first the elder Jackson has had to explain after believing he was off the record.
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 he said he did so in private to a reporter.
Associated Press writer Sophia Tareen in Chicago contributed to this report.
"Jesse Jackson and other civil rights activists fought for black progress and won ... the main focus of African Americans must now be on education and economic development," the Banner writes in its July 17, 2008 editorial. "It is unseemly for the old guard to engage in a philosophical battle against the needed new ideas." More »
Banner readers weigh in on the reasoning behind the reverend's questionable remarks. More »