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. Carol

    Look up the definition of the words, because denounce is rejecting only a much stronger use of the word. Hillary should know better than to debate semantics with the President of the Harvard Law Review

    February 27, 2008 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  2. Kevin Garick

    After reading this story, I'm more convinced that Hillary is nothing but a manipulative and mean politician. Why don't we focus on bigger issues instead of some "comments" that Farrakhan uttered 15 years ago? What Obama said makes sense: "I can't say to somebody that he can't say that he thinks I'm a good guy".

    February 27, 2008 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  3. Eva

    The problem isn't whether or not Obama rejects or just denounces Farrakhan's support. The problem is that his church and his minister (the man who inspired him to become a Christian and with whom he has a very close relationship) have glorified Farrakhan, going so far as to do this in their magazine just a few months ago. In the 1980's (before Obama met Minister Wright) his minister even went with Farrakhan to Libya to meet Quadafi. Personally, if Obama belongs to a church that aligns itself with a man who called Judaism a "gutter religion" and listens and is inspired by a minister who consorts with such anti-semitic and racist individuals, he does not deserve to be a presidential nominee. If any other presidential candidate belonged to a church that openly proclaimed such things, they'd be out of the race in an instance.

    February 27, 2008 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  4. TW2

    And by the way, Rozanne, the reason that Obama was asked about his views on Farrakhan's support for him is because Farrakhan came out this weekend and spent much of a two-hour speech on praising Obama and his candidacy. Moreover, Obama's minister and longtime trusted advisor, as part of the church that Obama belongs to, awarded Farrakhan a lifetime achievement award. In sharp contrast, neither Bill O'Reilly nor the person making the speech earlier on the McCain front has come out and publicly endorsed Clinton. Thus, your examples are totally non-sensical.

    February 27, 2008 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  5. Sammy James

    Look - we don't need another politician who doesn't use the english language properly. I love Barack Obama, because he understands how to use words. Whose words they are is almost irrelevant. Most presidents don't even write their own speeches. As far as I know. Obama is responsible for most of the language that he uses on the stump.

    If we are given a choice between a candidate who is "almost good enough" with english, and someone who is excellent at it, I will pick the latter. Go Obama.

    February 27, 2008 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  6. jay

    I really think that hilliary is too the point where she is just sad. All the name calling and she is maybe a little too sensitive to be a president. Its not the fact that she is a woman, but she is just too touchy and offended by everything. In all, i think they should be nicer to each other than they are. Leave it to Barack he'll bring the bond back lol.

    February 27, 2008 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  7. Peter Damoah-Afari

    Is Farrakahn not an American citizen? How about the support of a former president who lied under the Oath on his infidelity, and he is supporting Hillary? Has Hillary rejected Bill Clinton's support???

    February 27, 2008 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  8. Madam Sheriff

    Hillary dances around questions posed to her (i.e. release of her tax returns) but she has no problem answering Barack's questions to her satisfaction. She really thougnt she had him on the Louis F. question...reject versus denounce...come on Hillary, get real.

    February 27, 2008 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  9. Joseph, Dallas

    I agree with Hillary's point that she usually leads when it comes to the questioning, and then Obama merely reiterates what she just said. That was the point she was trying to make. It was even more obvious in the last debate. She clearly has the substance, while he is merely rhetoric. Does Obama really think he can change the Establishment, Washington, the military, Corporate America and the Global Economy. Get real!! If you want to change any system, you have to be part of it. As a Democrat, I will vote for John McCain if Hillary loses the nomination.

    February 27, 2008 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  10. TN_Dave

    Hillary's grand standing sucks. Like Barack said he can't tell people not to like him or this movement. Minister Farrakhan did not endorse him, just praised him. Wow, what's the problem.

    February 27, 2008 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  11. Cry baby

    I think Obama answered the question of 'who is more Presidential'. Hillary is a whiner! Her sarcastic tactics backfire every time. You'd think the Black man would be whining. In addition, if he said the country would be better because of a "Black President", he wouldn't have gotten away with that. It seems to be ok that she thinks she'll be a great President because she's a woman. Double standards. But guess what? He never whined about it. Way to go, Barack!

    February 27, 2008 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  12. sundra

    Clinton won the debate, hands down. She showed that she's the fighter and the one that's best equipped to run this country. Way to go Hillary!!!!

    February 27, 2008 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  13. vic nashville,Tn

    Hillary save himChange didn’t save him experience saved him today

    February 27, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  14. christin

    when she tried to jump in on this question it just made her sound very pedantic. Denounce/ reject it's all semantics!

    And why do all black political figues have to defend them self from farrakan when he announces approval of someone? I don't ever see anyone of any other race having to denounce any group or person.

    Clearly he is an independent figure making up his own mind. Has nothing to do with Obama pronounced policies.

    February 27, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  15. Julie B.

    To DENOUNCE is stronger than to reject – what's wrong with some of you?

    The guy's not afraid of alienating anyone. Blacks in general are Christians and all denounce Farrakhan so don't act like just cause this fringe guy's black, he's one of "Them." I can't believe the racism in this country has you confuse a racist like him with the average American black. Completely opposite ends of the spectrum as people.

    February 27, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  16. dale in indiana

    i see obama couldn't wiggle out of that one, he tried but he got cornered. i agree with VIG he needs to vetted more and the brakes put on him in ohio and texas.

    February 27, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  17. Marjon

    I am looking forward to Clinton being out of this nomination. Her comments are silly and unimportant.
    Please somebody get Clinton out of this race!!

    February 27, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  18. MARIE

    I agree with Don, Obama should have put him in his place ....when Farrakhan's likes someone he has did his homework the man is a racist of the worst kind and he does not like white people either. And i know this for a fact letting my friend take me to hear him speak.. he wants the black people to control the white people.....get your head out of the clouds people this is serious.

    February 27, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |

    Tonight, Barack Obama showed why he’s the one candidate who has the judgment to serve as Commander-in-Chief and can draw a clear contrast on foreign policy with John McCain. Barack Obama opposed this war in Iraq from the start, and said that it would distract us from the terrorists in Afghanistan. When he is President, he will end this war, take the fight to al Qaeda, restore respect for America in the world, and bring this country together to deliver the kind of change that will help struggling families afford health care, stay in their homes, and send their children to college.

    February 27, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  20. Texas

    Obama won the debate 70% to 30% according to MSNBC nation phone in while one the show it went 12-9 in favor of Obama.

    Clinton has no experience, USA Tpoday proves that non of the canidadets do. So it comes down to Judgement. and Clintons NAFTA, Iraq war, she says she fight for us, but in congress she'll do other things.

    Tax Returns could say alot about her, thats why she wont realese it. Clintons supporters would have a field day with this if it was Obama

    February 27, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  21. Heidi

    Overally I think the debate was dry. If anything new was to come out of these candidates, tonight would have been the night. So we've basically heard everything they have to say in regards to why each should win the nomination. I don't think Hillary was effective in slowing down Barack's momentum. I think that Barack was effective in maintaining his composure and gave more depth to his plans. I feel that even though both plans and objectives are similar, Obama was effective in defining their differences.

    In regards to campaign ethics and telling the truth about the other opponent's position on certain politics, I think Sillary...I mean Hillary should practice what she preaches.

    With that being said....

    OBAMA'S YO MAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 27, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  22. gohillary

    I have no clue what makes people actually think that Barack Obama would be a better president? All of the polls show that the Republicans don't want to run against Obama so that makes him the better candidate? Did it ever occur to anyone that the Republicans may just be saying that he is the better candidate because they want to run against him and he has no chance of winning against McCain? Clearly not. No doubt Obama is an amazing speaker but he has no chance of being a great president or beating McCain. After Bush being in office for 7 years the country needs a democratic president and Obama is not the answer. The Republicans play nasty as we will see in November and all of the negative things not being said about Obama right now will come out. Then see how well he does. And to the comments about Hillary complaining about the negative publicity. It isn't complaining, IT IS THE TRUTH. She gets criticized for everything that she does negative or positive and everything Obama does gets praised and glorified. The media will be the media and obviously create drama for ratings.

    February 27, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  23. Pete from California

    Both were strong in the debate. I think overall Obama won due to a generally more positive approach.

    Hillary and her campaign appears to be devisive, while Obama offers a big tent. I'd be very proud to have him as my President.

    February 27, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  24. C.J.

    I think the main issue here is not whether Obama rejects or renounces Farrakhan's support, but why should Farrakhan even support him in the first place. It is very unusual for a Muslim to openly praise a committed Christian and even proclaim that he (Obama) will be able to "heal the world". There was also no mention of the links between Farrakhan and the church which Obama says he has been attending for 20 years and whose minister also praised and honoured Farrakhan. If Obama really rejects and renounces Farrakhan, then he should logically dissociate hinself from his church by leaving it.

    February 27, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  25. Anthony P

    throughout the debate, hillary sounded tired, beat, desperate...there was a deep sadness about her, as if she has waited all her life for this presidency and is desperately trying to achieve it...

    it must be truly sad, overwhelmingly sad for her to lead her life towards that one overarching goal and seeing it slip away...

    i do feel sorry for her but observing her unpredictable temperament, unchecked ambition, and more importantly observing Obama's keen sense of dissecting a position, argument, or foreign policy, with his balanced temperament, and breadth of his knowledge... I more convinced than ever before that obama is the better candidate...

    February 27, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
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