On Thursday, Sen. Barack Obama described his grandmother's racial attitudes as those of a "typical white person."
During a morning interview with Philadephia's WIP and its host Angelo Cataldi, Obama was asked about his reference to his white grandmother in his recent speech on Reverend Wright.
"The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity. She doesn't. But she is a typical white person who, uh, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know there's a reaction that's been been bred into our experiences that don't go away and that sometimes come out in the wrong way and that's just the nature of race in our society. We have to break through it."
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During his speech on race Obama said his grandmother was "a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world," but he then qualified that description by noting she was also "a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."
Some Republican critics have pounced on Obama for comparing Wright's incendiary rhetoric with his 86-year-old grandmother's prejudices.
"I also think it was, intellectually, fundamentally dishonest," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told Fox News after the Obama speech. "To [compare] a 20-year relationship with a public figure to his grandmother is just wrong. It's emotionally powerful, but it's just wrong. I mean, the core question that Senator Obama has to answer is very simple. For 20 years, he was a member of a church where he now says his pastor, a public figure, was saying things ... forget that they were hateful, forget that they were divisive: They were wrong. They were fundamentally, factually wrong."
The New York Daily News election blog quoted Ben LaBolt, an Obama spokesman, offering a clarification: “Barack Obama said specifically that he didn’t believe his grandmother harbored any racial animosity but that her fears were understandable and typical of those often shared by her generation.”
The News wrote: "Ummm, that’s not what he said."
LaBolt continued: "But the campaign also said the senator did not mean to suggest all white people share his grandmother’s reaction to seeing a black person pass her by on the street."
“His intentions may have been misconstrued,” he said. The Obama campaign has also argued that many of Pastor Wright's comments have been "taken out of context."
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