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. Danielle

    Who Cares!!!!

    February 27, 2008 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  2. Patrick

    Hillary is the epitome of desperate. She gets more ridiculous every day.

    February 27, 2008 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  3. Canadian Neighbour

    Seriously speaking, I think Hillary is getting a little annoying. She is really getting a bit too petty ! Oh Senator, please give it up. Throw your full support behind Obama and help to unite the Democratic Party.

    February 27, 2008 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  4. Cyndi, MD

    I still can't believe that Clinton whined about getting the first question. And even brought up the Saturday Nite Live skit to push her complaint about being the questions first.

    And then, she just kept talking over everyone and would not shut up about her health care plan.

    Why hasn't she been able to bring everyone together in congress to vote on it? She can't get anyone to work with her because she is so polarizing!

    She has proven that she CAN'T do anything she says she is going to do!

    She was so UNPRESIDENTIAL in this debate. She had a very hard time keeping her composure – an necessary characteristic of a true leader.

    February 27, 2008 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  5. Fabian Blache III

    He was very on point and very brilliant tonight. ONJce again, on the Pakistan issue, he was right. He truly does excercise good judgment and he sees things in a way that breaks from traditional paradigms.

    The MSNBC text message poll shows Who won the debate:

    Barack 65% Hillary 22% Neither Won 12%

    Who do you lean to after the debate

    Barack 30% HIllary 12%

    February 27, 2008 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  6. Trevor

    I don't understand people criticizing Obama for denouncing and not rejecting Farrakhan's support. He is actually right in his usage if you look up the definitions of the words. It makes no sense to reject someones opinion (Farrakhan's opinion is that Obama is better). You can denounce and say you don't agree with their position but it doesn't make sense to reject their opinion.

    February 27, 2008 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  7. JD


    February 27, 2008 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  8. Mark, Denver, Colorado

    I find the comments about Hillary Clinton unsubstantiated. Why did Mr. Obama vacilate on the issue? Why did she have to push him? Is that an example of his leadership style? Mr. Obama is a great orator – but what else is there? It's all great talk, warm and fuzzy, but with no substance or practical experience. Hillary Clinton is experienced and has paid her dues. Hillary's detractors are guilty of the very thing they accuse her of – namely they sound whiny and phony. They never point to a specific issue with which they disagree. I lived through the Kennedy years and the 60's. The world has changed and I don't want to revisit that time with Obama.

    February 27, 2008 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  9. Concerned Parent

    Based on the definitions below (cut and pasted from Dictionary.com) it seems as if Barak was right the first time...

    re·ject /v. rɪˈdʒɛkt; n. ˈridʒɛkt/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[v. ri-jekt; n. ree-jekt] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation
    –verb (used with object) 1. to refuse to have, take, recognize, etc.: to reject the offer of a better job.
    2. to refuse to grant (a request, demand, etc.).
    3. to refuse to accept (someone or something); rebuff: The other children rejected him. The publisher rejected the author's latest novel.
    4. to discard as useless or unsatisfactory: The mind rejects painful memories.
    5. to cast out or eject; vomit.
    6. to cast out or off.
    7. Medicine/Medical. (of a human or other animal) to have an immunological reaction against (a transplanted organ or grafted tissue): If tissue types are not matched properly, a patient undergoing a transplant will reject the graft.

    de·nounce /dɪˈnaʊns/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[di-nouns] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation
    –verb (used with object), -nounced, -nounc·ing. 1. to condemn or censure openly or publicly: to denounce a politician as morally corrupt.
    2. to make a formal accusation against, as to the police or in a court.
    3. to give formal notice of the termination or denial of (a treaty, pact, agreement, or the like).
    4. Archaic. to announce or proclaim, esp. as something evil or calamitous.
    5. Obsolete. to portend.

    February 27, 2008 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  10. Hubert V

    The most interesting part about this was the fact that Clinton tried to use this as a "gotcha" moment against Obama. Obama's response to this was measured, calm, reasonable, and made Clinton look rather petty for parsing words the way she did. Both Clinton and Obama agreed on the issue, so it seemed very odd to me that she would try to pursue this as a legitimate line of attack.

    February 27, 2008 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  11. Dr Gonzo

    CNN is as bad as Russert – why didn't you throw "gutter religion" into your story?

    Why waste bandwidth reporting on this crap instead of the substance of two strong candidates, either of whom would trounce pandering John McCain?

    February 27, 2008 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  12. Nick

    Gee big difference between Reject and Renounce...Let me go to my dictionary to figure it out....wait it is like the difference between fire engine red and scarlet red. Give me a break!

    February 27, 2008 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  13. Indy for Obama


    What next, shall we insist that Obama is not strong enough because he didn't also use the word "condemn?"

    What about repudiate? Disdain? Rebuke? Declaim? Decry?

    Let me get my thesaurus.

    February 27, 2008 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  14. Mike

    Official dictionary definition:

    renounce: To reject; disown.

    February 27, 2008 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  15. Todd Wright

    Hello, hello, hello?

    The reason that Clinton pressed Obama on his response to the moderator's question is that, once again, Obama tried to dodge the tough question by dialing in a "present." Since Farrahkan has recently come out and publicly supported Obama, the moderator - attempting to at least begin to vet Obama as they have done endlessly with Clinton - was asking him whether he rejects that support. Obama, surprise-surprise, waffled. In response, Clinton pressed. Good for her. I'm glad that someone is standing up and asking the tough questions.

    February 27, 2008 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  16. realchange

    I am sick of the media campaigning for Barack Obama! Obama can waver and say the most contradictory statements and he is perfect. Russert ask when taking all of the troops out of Iraq and the Iraqis began to give problems again would you send the troops back into Iraq. Hillary said you are making up hypothetical questions. Obama said yes he would send the troops back into Iraq. He claims he against war However after withdrawing all the troops he is ready to go back into it. What is that. Men think about war men think about power men think about money. Hillary was right when she said voting for a woman would be a change cause it is a change in the thought pocess. Men priorities is money and power. Women priorities are their children. To me by Hillary wanting to insure each individual displays human concern. Obama doesnt care because he would be messing with alot of big boys money. Hillary propose taking from the special interest and giving to the poor. That's like robin hood. That shows me she is about family. Men arent about family cause if they were we wouldn't have so many men in jail. Men are in jail because the majority of their fathers have abandon them. So america needs a woman's touch because a woman's touch will heal america and help our kids be the best they can be. Male presidents have never taking a stand on behalf of our children. Hillary is. Your boy Obama isn't even taking a stand for our Children. I am really disappointed with the media being bias, and our people not focus on the issues. Women wake up! We are missing an opportunity to save our Children!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 27, 2008 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  17. Jim, Carbondale, IL

    I thought Obama did a great job in the debate.

    February 27, 2008 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  18. Ahmed yussuf

    If Hillary wants to go back in the White House again and become vice President of Obama , she needs work With our nest president of USA Mr Barack Obama. We all know he is the man who will do good job in DC 2009 and we will support our president.Obama thank you.

    February 27, 2008 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  19. California Independent

    What is CNN talking about? Did anyone not actually watch the debate?

    To Shannon, Charlottesville...... change your name, you are making a fool of yourself.

    February 27, 2008 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  20. Eric

    This question was a lot of baloney. Obama must have won the point because HRC's 14 remaining supporters and their sock puppets aren't posting all over this board.

    February 27, 2008 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  21. Alma

    Hillary 2008!!
    It's about time we got a fair debate with fair questions. Too bad CNN could not delive it. MSNBC delivered it.

    February 27, 2008 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  22. George

    I am curious.....with so much energy being spent on how Obama should respond to Farrakhans meaningless endorsement. I believe Hillary was the one that actually fought against the civil rights when she was a Goldwater girl and part of the extremely racist right wing republican party. Where are those mind blowing questions of character?

    February 27, 2008 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  23. Kevin

    Brad, that's exactly what she was trying to do... and rightly so. He did not come out strongly enough against Mr. Farrakhan. So she wanted to draw a distinction between herself and Mr. Obama... in that he sometimes doesn't take a strong stand on things.

    He reacted quickly and not only gave a definitive answer, but completely defused her point.

    In debating terms, he won that exchange.

    February 27, 2008 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  24. Luci

    I am a New Yorker who is waiting for a clear win in NYC 80 Election Districts that gave Obama a Zero lost in these mostly Black communities. Ok Bill and Hillary release the tax returns before March 4th Primaries please...

    February 27, 2008 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  25. bill pike

    as someone who has spent most of his life on stage, i have to say that clinton was not even asked the question but thought she could score a point on using the race issue like she did-that is called 2 outs in the 9th inning and the pitcher is due up to bat. She used the "i am women" with little help. It was so obvious that it would turn anyone away from wanting her to represent us in the white house.

    February 27, 2008 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
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