by Mike Dorning, updated and revised, 4:11 pm ET
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.--Engulfed in fresh controversy over new inflammatory remarks by his retiring pastor, Barack Obama made a public break Tuesday with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, denouncing the minister's latest comments as "outrageous, "appalling" and a contradiction of the senator's own life's work.
Obama, appearing visibly pained, did in a hastily called press conference what he had been reluctant to do since controversy initially erupted more than a month ago over Wright's sermons, repudiating not merely the words but the world view of a clergyman who had once been a close spiritual counselor and by Obama's account inspired him to embrace Christian faith
Obama was confronting distracting media coverage of Wright's fiery appearance Monday at the National Press Club, in which the minister reaffirmed his view that the U.S. government may have initiated the AIDS epidemic to wipe out racial minorities and praised Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan as one of the most important voices of the 20th and 21st centuries.
"When I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it. It contradicts everything I am about and who I am," Obama said, adding that Wright's comments "end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate."
In earlier comments on Wright, Obama appeared to be walking a careful line, criticizing Wright's most inflammatory rhetoric but refusing to dissociate himself with a man who had been so close with his family.
But after Wright's defiant performance Monday, in which he mocked his questioners and accused critics of attacking the black church in America, Obama was left with little choice but to denounce Wright more forcefully and make it clear his relationship with the minister had fundamentally changed, or risk having his campaign engulfed by the controversy.
Obama said Tuesday he was incensed that Wright had dismissed his earlier criticism as the actions of a typical politician. "What particularly angered me was his suggestion that my previous denunciation was somehow political posturing," he said, calling it "a show of disrespect for me."
Asked if his relationship with Wright had been irreparably damaged, Obama responded, "There's been great damage. It may have been unintentional on his part. But I do not see that relationship being the same after that."
Obama faces a pivotal pair of primaries next Tuesday against Sen. Hillary Clinton in Indiana and North Carolina, and it remains to be seen how Wright's latest comments and Obama's response will be received by their multiple intended audiences--including African-Americans who have been the Illinois senator's most fervent supporters and white working-class voters who have been far more reluctant to embrace him.
(Here's a transcript of Obama's entire speech.)