February 27th, 2008
09:08 AM ET
10 years ago

Clinton hits Obama over Farrakhan

 Clinton criticized Obama for not outright rejecting Farrakhan's support.

Clinton criticized Obama for not outright rejecting Farrakhan's support.

(CNN) - Hillary Clinton criticized Barack Obama at Tuesday night's debate for not directly rejecting the support of Louis Farrakhan.

“There's a difference between denouncing and rejecting," Clinton said. "And I think when it comes to this sort of, you know, inflammatory - I have no doubt that everything that Barack just said is absolutely sincere. But I just think, we've got to be even stronger. We cannot let anyone in any way say these things because of the implications that they have, which can be so far reaching.”

Farrakhan, the head of the Nation of Islam, recently made positive statements about Obama’s candidacy. The controversial leader has made many remarks that have been deemed anti-Semitic, including calling Judaism a "gutter religion." Asked tonight if he accepted Farrakhan's endorsement, Obama denounced those statements.

"I obviously can't censor him, but it is not support that I sought," Obama said. "And we're not doing anything, I assure you, formally or informally with Minister Farrakhan."

Pressed if he specifically rejected the endorsement, Obama said, "I can't say to somebody that he can't say that he thinks I'm a good guy" and that he didn't "see a difference between 'denouncing' and 'rejecting.'"

Responding later in the exchange directly to Clinton's comments, Obama said, "There's no formal offer of help from Minister Farrakhan that would involve me rejecting it."

"But if the word 'reject' Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word 'denounce,' then I'm happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce," he added.

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

soundoff (1,043 Responses)
  1. Surge

    Isn't it interesting that Obama heralds being against the Iraq war from the beginning...when he wasn't in a position to vote for or against it?

    Also, when is someone going to ask Obama how he feels about slave reparations....this week?

    February 27, 2008 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  2. rw in ct

    I agree with you Irma. But, Obama did not reject Farrahkan's endorsement. Clinton was talking about denouncing Farrahkan's words and rejecting his endorsements while Obama was saying that "denouncing" and "rejecting" his racist rhetoric were the same. He did not make a clear direct statement about rejecting the endorsement. Don has it right.

    Madame President, keep the kid gloves non-stop until the job is done.

    February 27, 2008 12:03 am at 12:03 am |

    I think Clintons you should admitt that the one that is has the idea of the moment is Obama,

    February 27, 2008 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  4. Franco

    CNN once again Hillary will not be the nominee, so cut it out......the more you try to score points for her the more it fails.....

    February 27, 2008 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  5. Azar

    I think that CNN headline is misleading. Denounce is much stronger word than reject. You may reject something for whatever reason, but when you denounce something, you are actually condemning it.

    By the way, initially Senator Clinton accepted the donation from the radical group, but when the Jewish voters in New York protested, she rejected it.

    February 27, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  6. Nico

    The reason Clinton missed the point was this, the Independent American Party is a political institution. Farrahkan is an influential person. The political support of an institution means organizational capability, volunteers, e-mail lists, etc. There is no real difference between "rejecting" and "denouncing" the words of an influential person; however, there is a difference in rejecting and denouncing the help and support of a political institution.

    She was right to reject the support of the party, and he was right to denounce Farrahkan, but effectively there is no difference. She wanted to make an issue out of a non-issue and Obama rightly made her look so silly for taking such an odd position.

    February 27, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  7. Stephanie from Ohio

    Obama won the debate for sure this time. All the others I would say would be a draw or HRC had a slight edge, but this time Obama won.

    He had less umms, was more cohesive with his words in that they flowed this time and weren't choppy.

    He held his own against her. FINALLY!

    February 27, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  8. Joel

    OMG- Here we go again. Stop it Hillary, you are making a fool of yourself.

    Hillary, you didn't REJECT bush war plan, so why are you acting the way that you are.

    It seems to me that Hillary ALWAYS want a DIRECT answer to her questions and sure enough SHE WILL NEVER ANSWER QUESTIONS DIRECTLY DIRECTED TO HER.

    Go sit down Billary, you are making us sick.

    Obama- Chief and Commander of the United States of America 08

    February 27, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  9. jdusek

    "Reject AND denounce".

    I'd say that's pretty unequivocal.

    If Hillary had been as strong in her rejection and denouncement of NAFTA a few years ago, then she wouldn't have found herself trying to explain why NAFTA was "on balance good for New York and America" then but bad for New York and America now.

    February 27, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  10. David

    OK, let me get this..."you can't use your word 'denounce' " you can only use my word 'reject'
    and then to add insult to injury " VOTE FOR ME BECAUSE I AM A WOMEN WHO THINKS DIFFERENTLY THAN A MAN"




    February 27, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  11. GEJ


    February 27, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  12. fornsworth for OBAMA

    With all the issues facing us, what Farrakhan thinks or seas is not important to anyone except Farrakhan and Hillary. When you can't win on the issues,which she is not, take the fight to the gutter. And it's a telling of Obama's character and intelligence that he absolutely will not play.

    February 27, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  13. Tim

    Who cares? Nobody listens to Farrakan. He is irrelevant. And for CNN to make this headline news – people are starting to call the networks motives in to question.

    February 27, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  14. Greg

    This is a complete joke and is yet another example of just how much Hillary DOES get more benefit than she deserves.

    Barack denounced Farrakan which bascially means he has ANNOUNCED his rejection. So yes there is enough similarity for this not to be an issue. Barack statement, if you listen to it, was more about he can't stop someone from endorsing him. It will be interesting to see if McCain will be asked the same question because I'm sure there are plenty extreme groups who will support him in some manner.

    Hillary was desperate and it showed. It takes her 2 weeks, 6 weeks and how many years to provide clear answers. Tonight did she address the FINES or mandates of her healthcare system? No!!!
    She finally said something about wanting that vote back for endorsing the war. Funny how she can refuse to call it a mistake.

    Luckily she got the last word, she doesn't seem to complain about that, because if it were me I would have tossed it back at her like her reject vs denounce wording.

    GO OBAMA!!!

    February 27, 2008 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  15. Kyle

    As a Jewish person, I was very much offended by Senator Obama's reluctance to reject the support given to him by the anti-semitic Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan. I have to believe that many Jewish and non-Jewish people alike were made to feel very uncomfortable tonight by Senator Obama's failure to immediately denounce Farrakhan's support. What is frightening is that a possible Presidential candidate of a major political party needed several minutes in a nationally televised debate before realizing that the support given to him by Farrakhan was unacceptable.

    February 27, 2008 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  16. Micahel Guinn, Ventura, CA

    Barack gave the perfect response to Hillary's comment. Tonight showed why Senator Obama is in the lead for the nomination and will be a great President. He handled this question in a splendid manner. He is cool under fire, he had an answer for the negative stuff like "all words and no solutions","hope without substance" etc. Hillary was pushy, whiney and overbearing. To those who call us koolaid drinkers, pied piper followers, cultist and delusional–You need to stop name-calling and LISTEN.. Barack Obama will win the nomination and the Presidency-and whether you like it or not: YES, WE CAN.

    February 27, 2008 12:05 am at 12:05 am |

    the fact that obama's preacher praises farrakhan, do you all believe that
    the preacher from obama's church where he's attended for 20 years will have know influence on mr obama.
    why would a man of his so call character stay in a church that said 911 was a retaliation on white America.
    why wont someone ask him to reject his pastors radical views?
    just pondering what the future of obama mania will mean to the future of this country. it doesnt look promising to me.
    but hell I've been out voted before, we'll be stuck with what we get,
    hope you young inspired collage students aren't thinking this is rave party. because the affect of this hangover will last four years.


    February 27, 2008 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  18. Michael

    I see most of the letter writers thus far are either ignorant, plain old tired hillary haters, not paying attention or perhaps anti semitic themselves. The real REASON Farrakhan is an issue is Obama's minister of over 20 years is a good friend of Farrakhan's. And because he IS politics as usual, and all you lemmings don't see it, he weasled out of it once again. HE is the phony, and the media IS promoting him. Blatantly. The fix is in. Again. and once again Americans are too stupid to have a clue.

    February 27, 2008 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  19. rafael


    February 27, 2008 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  20. Sarah

    Let's see whether Mc Cain will be subject to the same sort of grilling if if the far right Militia or the KKK make a statement that in any way supports him. The media need to keep things real and ignore the nonsense.

    February 27, 2008 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  21. Brian

    I thought this was an extremely awkward moment for anyone hoping Hillary would go on (win or lose) with dignity. The question wasn't to her, didn't really necessitate a response from her, but she jumped right in there with this odd little comment about how oh oh this happened to ME once too and Obama might DENOUNCE it but I REJECTED it. You could see the confusion in Obama, Russert, and Williams' eyes - like, what is it exactly you're trying to say? When Obama sort of flatly and politely said, fair enough, I denounce AND reject it...I don't know, I almost felt bad for Clinton, like she was at the point where she was just talking in order to be the one talking. I'm not voting for her, but I like her, and I really hope she either pulls it together or pulls out rather soon.

    February 27, 2008 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  22. JohnS

    Why are some women so bitter when talking about Obama?

    I do not want a President to be my role model. I just want someone out there who can BRING together the BEST and Brightest in this nation!!!! This is what Bill did, this is what Kennedy did, this is what King did and the list goes on.

    Clearly Obama has taught CONSTITUTIONAL law in a top rated university in this nation. I mean, the law of the land. What more could we expect?

    If any of the time-tested Senators was going to bring about change in this nation, they would have done so by now. How long has Hillary been out there? What is her record of bringing people together to IMPLEMENT solutions that are all over the place? How many enemies have she and Bill succeeded in making over the years? Are the Clintons reaping what they planted over these years? Is this the type of bickering anyone would want to wake up to for the next 8 years? You be the judge!

    February 27, 2008 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  23. Vic

    I am glad he was asked about Farakhan. He was also asked about the pastor of Obama's church and how he was connected with Farakhan, but Obama sidestepped that. But he was good tonight. But Hillary was brilliant. She is one smart woman, and I wouldn't change a thing about this campaign except to muzzle the MSNBC pundits who have bashed her since the beginning. Can't wait for this race to be over, then we won't have to look at the likes of Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, and Tim Russert.

    February 27, 2008 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  24. Katie

    CNN, you really need to think about your headlines. It's not fair to spin a soundbite into a news story. Stick to reporting the news, not creating tabloid headlines.

    February 27, 2008 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  25. luke

    I believe denounce is stronger than reject.

    Definition of reject (noun)
    form plural: rejects
    something or someone that does not match up to standards; object of lower quality; outcast

    de·nounce (d-nouns)
    tr.v. de·nounced, de·nounc·ing, de·nounc·es
    1. To condemn openly as being evil or reprehensible. See Synonyms at criticize.
    2. To accuse formally.
    3. To give formal announcement of the ending of (a treaty).

    February 27, 2008 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
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