In an extraordinary day in his more than yearlong quest for the presidency, Sen. Barack Obama on Friday sought to put behind him two raging controversies jeopardizing his bid: his relationships with his minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and with his friend and political patron, Tony Rezko.
Obama held two extensive, separate sessions with journalists from the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune. An unassuming Obama entered a 10th-floor Sun-Times conference room for a conversation Friday, not as the hotshot at a rally. It was his moment -- his time, as he himself might say -- to try to bring this to an end.
"I think it's really important to make sure that you guys feel like you've got it all," Obama said.
The meetings with the Chicago papers had been planned for several days, with Rezko the main agenda item. Obama was finding himself on the defensive over Rezko, now on trial in a Chicago courtroom on corruption charges.
His campaign was also responding to another swelling crisis. Videos and news stories of Wright's inflammatory sermons and his slams of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton hit mainstream media outlets and zoomed through the Internet.
Friday afternoon, the Obama campaign sent to the Huffington Post -- unsolicited -- a 591-word statement from Obama. He said he learned of Wright's charged rhetoric for the first time at the beginning of his presidential campaign but, with Wright on the verge of retirement, "did not think it appropriate" to leave the church where he was married and where his daughters were baptized.