Jesse Jackson in Obama gibe row
US civil rights activist regrets comments on TV he says were not meant for the public.
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2008 04:11 GMT
Jackson said Obama's speeches could seem like he was speaking down to blacks [AFP]

Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential hopeful, has said he will accept an apology from Jesse Jackson, the civil-rights campaigner, after disparaging comments he made in what he thought was a private conversation.

Speaking off-microphone during a US television show on Sunday, Jackson whispered to a fellow guest that Obama was "talking down to black people".

He then uttered a crude remark about him.

Jackson, a former Democratic presidential contender himself, said on Wednesday night that he was sorry.

He said he had noted that Obama's speeches could come off as speaking down to black people and that there were other important issues to be addressed in the community, such as unemployment, the mortgage crisis and the number of blacks in prison.

He said he was not aware the microphone was still on.

"It was not a public speech or a declaration," Jackson said, while noting that the comments "will not be helpful".

"For any harm or hurt that this hot mic private conversation may have caused, I apologise," he said in a written apology released earlier in the day.

"My support for Senator Obama's campaign is wide, deep and unequivocal."

Apology offered

Jackson said he had called Obama's campaign to apologise.

"It represents too much of dreams of so many who have paid such great prices, and I'm very sensitive to what that means," he said.

Jackson said the "hurtful and wrong" comments came in response to a question from a fellow guest during a break from taping Fox TV's Fox & Friends programme on Sunday.

The guest asked about speeches on morality that Obama has given at black churches.

Jackson declined to repeat the comments, but said he decided to apologise publicly after hearing from Fox News that it would air them.

In an interview to The Associated Press earlier Wednesday, Jackson said he did not remember his exact words, but said he was "very sorry".

Slang reference

The Fox News programme, The O'Reilly Factor, aired Jackson's comment on Wednesday night, including a slang reference to his wanting to cut off Obama's testicles.

The report bleeped out the slang but made clear what Jackson said with subtitles.

Meanwhile, Obama stoked speculation about Hillary Clinton being chosen as his running mate with an unannounced stop at the Washington law firm of a member of his vice-presidential search team. And then flying to New York fund raisers with Clinton and another search team member.

Aides were silent about why Obama and Clinton, along with Caroline Kennedy, a member of Obama's vice-presidential vetting team, travelled together on Wednesday other than to cite the fund raisers.

Kennedy introduced Obama at the first; Clinton, who represents New York in the senate, introduced him at the second.

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