WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson complained on Tuesday that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama can seem to be “talking down to black people” at times and should broaden his message.
But Jackson apologized for a disparaging remark about Obama at the weekend while he was speaking into an open microphone that he thought had been turned off and which CNN said was too crude to broadcast.
Jackson, talking to CNN on Wednesday, said Obama has given what amounts to “lectures” at African-American churches.
“I said it can come off as speaking down to black people. The moral message must be a much broader message. What we need really is racial justice and urban policy and jobs and health care. There is a range of issues on the menu,” said Jackson, who was an acolyte of the slain civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr.
Obama would be America’s first black president if elected on November 4 over Republican John McCain. Jackson ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and lost.
Jackson told CNN the remark he apologized for was “a sound bite within a broader conversation about urban policy and racial disparities. And I feel very distressed because I’m supportive of this campaign and with what the senator has done and is doing.”
Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said the candidate accepted Jackson’s apology. “(Obama) will continue to speak out about our responsibilities to ourselves and each other, and he of course accepts Reverend Jackson’s apology,” Burton said.
Jackson made the remark after an interview with Fox TV.
“I was in a conversation with a fellow guest at Fox on Sunday. He asked about Barack’s speeches lately at the black churches. I said it can come off as speaking down to black people,” Jackson said.
“And then I said something I felt regret for -- it was crude. It was very private, and very much a sound bite -- and a live mike. I find no comfort in it, I find no joy in it.
“So I immediately called the senator’s campaign to send my statement of apology to repair the harm or hurt that this may have caused his campaign, because I support it unequivocally.”
Jackson’s son, Jesse L. Jackson Jr, an Illinois congressman and active Obama supporter, condemned his father’s remarks.
“Revered Jackson is my dad and I’ll always love him. 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 said in a statement.
(Editing by David Storey)