Joseph Lowery: Remark about white people was a joke - Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

Joseph Lowery: Remark about white people was a joke

Posted: Updated: Nov 1, 2012 10:58 PM
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ATLANTA -

Civil rights icon Joseph Lowery says recent controversial comments he made were intended as a joke. The remarks were made at a voting rally at St. James Baptist Church in Forsyth on Saturday, according to a story by Diane Glidewell of the Monroe County Reporter.

The Monroe County Reporter says that the Rev. Lowery "said that when he was a young militant, he used to say all white folks were going to hell. Then he mellowed and just said most of them were. Now, he said, he is back to where he was."

Lowery told FOX 5's Amanda Davis on Thursday that he has made those remarks a number of times over the years, and they were not meant to be taken seriously.

The 91-year-old Lowery, who gave the benediction at President Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009, is also quoted as saying "We've turned our backs on the faith."

"America is going to hell in a hand basket. We need to straighten up so God can use us," Lowery said, according to the newspaper report.

Fellow civil rights icon and former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, who was also at the rally, defended Lowery.

"I immediately thought that I hope that it's not taken out of context," Young said. "He said, I think, 'Are there any press here? This is off the record.' And it was clear he was about to tell a joke."

Young says that he's known Lowery for decades and he doesn't believe there was hate behind the words.

"I think it was just one of those attempts to be humorous that, out of that context, isn't really that funny," Young said.

Young told Amanda Davis that anyone who knows Lowery knows that he isn't racist and that he's spent his life fighting for civil rights working with all people.

"No preacher with the experience and time in the ministry that Joe Lowery has had would have the audacity to seriously think that they can decide who is going to Heaven and Hell. That's God's judgment only," said Young in a phone interview.

Diane Glidewell, the writer of the article, says she was trying to avoid controversy – the controversial quote is only mentioned near the end of the article.

"I debated whether to include it, but he said it and it was a part of it. It was a big part of his speech," said Glidewell.

Forsyth Mayor John Howard, who was also in audience Saturday, and is black, is quoted as saying he was shocked by the Rev. Lowery's remarks.  Had someone said the same thing about black people, the mayor said that he would have walked out.

Lowery said that he'll address the uproar at a press conference on Friday morning.

Read the original story from the Monroe County Reporter here

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