January 22nd, 2008
09:35 AM ET
8 years ago

Obama: Is Bill Clinton really a 'brother'? I'd have to see him dance


Watch Barack Obama respond to a question about Bill Clinton.

(CNN) – The first leading black presidential candidate got a tough question last night about one of his biggest campaign trail foes: the ‘first black president.’

CNN’s Joe Johns asked Barack Obama whether he thought former President Bill Clinton was the nation’s ‘first black president,’ an observation famously coined by black Nobel laureate Toni Morrison.

“Bill Clinton did have an enormous affinity with the African-American community, and still does, and I think that’s well-earned,” said Obama, who has spent the past few days locked in a high-profile war of words with the former president, who has been stumping on behalf of his wife Hillary Clinton.

But he wasn’t quite ready to grant Clinton Morrison’s honorary title just yet. “I would have to investigate more Bill’s dancing abilities, you know, some of this other stuff before I accurately judged whether he was in fact a ‘brother,’” joked the Illinois senator.

Monday’s Democratic presidential debate was sponsored by CNN and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute and held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Roughly half the Democratic primary voters in this Southern state are black.

The Democratic presidential primary will be held this Saturday, January 26.


soundoff (335 Responses)
  1. AtlantaVoter

    Obama gets in trouble when he goes "off script" because his true self shines through. Remember that next time you are entranced by his oratory.

    Hillary Clinton 2008

    January 23, 2008 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  2. JS

    "Racist?" Anyone who was legitimately "offended" by that response has serious issues. How about Hillary adding to it by saying it could be arranged? Certainly you must have been offended by her joining in this hateful display. Oh, wait, but you're all HRC supporters grasping for anti-Obama straws, aren't you?

    And to all the "Obama isn't black...why doesn't he talk about his white family members," people: Obama has not been running as a "black candidate" or as a "mixed race candidate." He frequently mentions his "mother from Kansas," and his "grandfather who fought in Patton's army," and I've seen plenty of pictures of his mother's side of the family in campaign ads. If you read his books or have just been paying attention to his campaign you would know this.

    If you want to take issue with the media labeling him as "black," fine, but to suggest that Senator Obama has either downplayed or disrespected any aspect of his heritage is just a flat-out lie.

    January 23, 2008 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  3. Aaron

    Are we forgetting that Hilary laughed at Obama's comment? If it was such a racist comment (which it wasn't), then maybe she should have said something to take advantage. Instead she laughed and added her own humorous comment. Some of you people are mentally insane and wouldn't know a racist comment if it smacked up upside your heads.

    January 23, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  4. Steven

    What happened to my post CNN? It was right after Zima's! It wasn't offensive! Ever hear of Free Speech? This is ridiculous!

    January 23, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  5. Tiffany

    Why do white people get all worked up when they can't say something that a black person can get away with saying? Give me a BREAK! Try waking up in the morning and being black in this country for ONE DAY. Try living with the legacy of slavery and discrimination that is inherent in EVERY INSTITUTION this country holds dear. There is a double standard, because we face discrimination EVERY DAY. If you don't get that, maybe you should wake up.

    Guess what...I'm biracial too...and when you walk down the street as a biracial person, they don't say,"hey, she's white" they say. Oh, she's black. Dishonoring your white mother? I don't think he dishonors his white mother. I don't dishonor my mother by marking the box "african american" either. It is what it is. If he said he was white, nobody would believe him.

    January 23, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  6. Joss

    I'm sorry but all you people who are offended or didn't like this comment need to lighten up in my opinion. It was a joke.. everyone in the room was laughing. Clearly he wasn't being racist and was just trying to make light of a clearly absurd question.

    January 23, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  7. David

    Can someone from CNN please explain why this question was asked? At the beginning Wolf Blitzer said that this debate would be about the issues. What does this question have to do with the issues? Do better CNN. Worry less about ratings and more about responsible journalism.

    January 23, 2008 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  8. Steve

    Some people feel that Obama's terrible reference to race and dancing ability was just a lighthearted joke. - Since Obama's father was black and his mother white - Would it be a lighthearted joke for any of the other canidates to ask Obama if he has one leg that dances better than the other?

    January 24, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  9. Ken Lampkin

    The Last Word on Race.

    The Black Democrat voters of South Carolina have certanly answered the Pivotal question of the 08' Democrat debate season. "Do you think Bill Clinton was the first Black President of the United States?"....... By a 80% majority they have concluded that the 42nd President of the United States was "Not A Brother".....


    January 27, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  10. Brenda Kay

    I was appalled at Obamas remark. What are you, American or a "brother" -Talk about racist! If a white person had said that they would have been crucified! I want a President that is NOT going to divide us. Go Hillary!

    January 30, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
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