Jeremiah Wright: Who is He? Why Should You Care? 

Jeremiah Wright, the controversial Chicago reverend who formerly had close ties to President Obama, has shaken up the political world. Here's what you need to know.

Jeremiah Wright has made headlines once more, this time for being at the heart of a plan by a Republican superPAC to discredit President Obama, as the New York Times reported Thursday.

But who is Jeremiah Wright? And why does he matter to the 2012 Presidential campaign?

Ties to Obama

Reverend Jeremiah Wright served as pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ from 1972 to February of 2008, where he met then-senator Barack Obama and his family, according to the New York Times.

The two men developed a close relationship, and Wright took on the role of being Obama's spiritual adviser, the Christian Science Monitor reported. The Reverend also officiated the Obamas' wedding and baptized their children Sasha and Malia, according to the Monitor.

Obama also credits one of Wright’s sermons, “The Audacity of Hope,” with inspiring his connection to his Christian faith, the Times reported, so much so that the President adopted the phrase for the title of his second book.

2008 Elections: A growing divide

Wright's racially charged sermons made him a controversial figure during the 2008 campaign, causing Obama to seek some distance from the Reverend he had formerly trusted.

Around mid-March in 2008, some of Wright's more extreme statements began circulating in the news, including him referring to the United States as the “U.S. of K.K.K. A.” and arguing that the September 11 terrorist attacks stemmed from America's corrupted foreign policy, the New York Times reported.

Obama distanced himself further from Wright, writing in a campaign statement that he "rejected outright" the preacher's controversial statements, the Times reported.

As the Washington Post's Rahiel Tesfamariam wrote, "while Barack Obama was still hot on the campaign trail in his first bid for presidency, many Democrats began to fear that his history of church attendance at Trinity United Church of Christ under the pastoral leadership of Rev. Jeremiah Wright would cost him the election."

After even more inflammatory comments from Wright — such as an accusation that the US government had purposelu used AIDS to wipe out minorities — Obama severed ties with the religious figure, the Times reported.

“Whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this,” Obama said in 2008, according to the Times. “I don’t think that he showed much concern for me. More importantly, I don’t think he showed much concern for what we’re trying to do in this campaign and what we’re trying to do for the American people.”

2012: Wright's connections to Obama resurface

This election season, Jeremiah Wright is back in the public conversation: this time, as part of Republican SuperPAC Ending Spending Action Fund's strategy to discredit the President by exposing his relationship with Wright.

“Our plan is to do exactly what John McCain would not let us do: Show the world how Barack Obama’s opinions of America and the world were formed, and why the influence of that misguided mentor and our president’s formative years among left-wing intellectuals has brought our country to its knees,” the proposal read, referencing McCain's refusal to campaign against Obama by connecting him to Wright, the Times reported.

"It's open season," Eric Dezenhall, an expert on crisis management, told the Huffington Post of the aggressive tactics in this year's presidential race. "This is going to be very rough."

Republican candidate Mitt Romney distanced himself from the $10 million ad campaign about Obama's links to Wright, the Associated Press reported Friday.

"I want to make it very clear: I repudiate that effort," Romney told reporters after a campaign stop in Florida. "I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign. I hope that our campaigns can be respectful about the future and about issues and about vision for America."

Joe Ricketts, the conservative billionaire who funds Ending Spending Action, also said he would reject a racially-focused approach to campaigning against the Democratic President, according to the AP.

However, some think that the Republican proposal is, as the AP's Nancy Benac wrote, "just the latest evidence that if there ever were limits on what was fair game in a campaign, they're largely history."

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