WASHINGTON — The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the president's former pastor whose sermons touched off a firestorm in the 2008 political campaign, urged today that Barack Obama heed the words of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and transform the country into the world's "No. 1 purveyor of peace."
Wright, in the capital but skipping the inauguration, recalled a speech by King during the Vietnam war, when the civil rights leader denounced the U.S. as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world."
During his first run for the Oval Office, Obama parted ways with Wright, now pastor emeritus at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.
Wright said he hasn't seen Obama in person since 2008. "I think that the media created a firestorm that caused him to distance himself from me," he said Monday.
Wright noted that he had predicted in 2007 that Obama would have to distance himself from him or Obama would never get elected.
Wright called the inauguration a "very important event," but said he was sitting it out to travel to Richmond to teach an intensive course at Virginia Union University on theology from the black perspective.
He said he was in D.C. to lecture and preach at Howard University in connection with the King federal holiday, which is today.