WASHINGTON - Barack Obama battled to defuse the most serious threat yet to his presidential hopes after incendiary, racially-tinged sermons by his former pastor triggered an uproar.
The mixed-race Illinois senator on Tuesday condemned the sermons while standing by his black spiritual mentor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and appealing for America's divided communities to pursue a "more perfect union."
Wright resigned last week from an Obama campaign committee when videos emerged of him appealing to African-Americans to sing "God damn America" and condemning US "terrorism".
New polls suggested that nonstop airings of the sermons on television networks and the Internet had dented Obama's support, with independent voters who had been excited by his promise of change especially put off.
In a major speech in Philadelphia Obama decried Wright's "profoundly distorted" sermons. The Wright controversy "was a dagger aimed at the heart of his candidacy", said Bill Galston, a Brookings Institution fellow. - Sapa-AFP