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Jackson says he's sorry for Obama remark

THE NATION

The civil rights leader didn't know a microphone was on when he took a crude swipe at the candidate.

July 10, 2008|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — The Rev. Jesse Jackson apologized Wednesday for making a crude comment about Barack Obama that exposed the veteran civil rights leader's unhappiness with the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

The revelation that Jackson was caught on a microphone using coarse language about the Illinois senator ignited a media firestorm and triggered a rebuke from his son, Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), even before Fox News aired some of the comments on "The O'Reilly Factor."

Jackson originally made the remarks Sunday while waiting to be interviewed on the morning show "Fox & Friends."

"Barack, he's talking down to black people," the civil rights leader whispered to another guest, healthcare executive Reid Tuckson. Jackson was unaware that his microphone was on.

"I want to cut his nuts off," Jackson said, making a jabbing gesture with his hand.

Bill O'Reilly said the network decided not to air the other comments Jackson made because they were not relevant.

"We are not out to embarrass him and we are not out to make him look bad," O'Reilly said. "If we were, we would have used what we had, which is more damaging than what you have heard."

Even before Fox aired the footage, Jackson tried to mitigate the fallout by giving a phone interview to rival network CNN expressing his regret. He said he made the remarks during a discussion of Obama's calls for more personal responsibility in appearances before black churches.

"I said something I felt regret for -- it was crude," Jackson said on CNN's "The Situation Room."

"It was very private and very much a sound bite -- and a live mike. And so I feel -- 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."

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said the presidential contender accepted Jackson's apology.

The dust-up spotlighted the strained relationship between Obama and long-standing African American political leaders such as Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton, who questioned Obama's credentials this year before backing his candidacy.

Fox News held the footage of Jackson's remarks for three days before showcasing it as an exclusive on its top-rated program. A network executive said the delay was related to the holiday weekend as well as a desire to be cautious about the controversial material.

Jackson said he hoped his remarks would not be taken as a lack of support for Obama's campaign.

But his son chastised him, saying he was "deeply outraged and disappointed."

"Rev. Jackson is my dad and I'll always love him," Jackson Jr. said in a statement. "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."

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matea.gold@latimes.com

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