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. Daniel So Cal

    This debate illustrated why McCain would have a much easier time with Hillary than Obama: Hillary can be confrontational, whiney, and opaque. Obama's intelligence and thoughfulness to a problem such as Iraq is refreshing.

    McCain has sealed his fate by tying himself to Bush.Bush has huge negatives; Hillary type negatives.

    February 27, 2008 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  2. Jimmy O

    Clinton News Network. Shame on You... This is all you could get out of such a substantive debate.

    February 27, 2008 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  3. Jane

    I am eager for these debates to be over and the polls showing Obama is the clear winner and Hillary bowing out permanently. I watched part of this debate tonight and it is consistent that Hillary is sniping at and criticizing Obama. I too am ready for a new style of politics, leading with Obama bringing us together on common causes. Hillary comes off as an emotional vampire in these debates since her becoming emotional in NH. The polls are showing that Obama and McCain are leading nationally. I am very glad about that.

    February 27, 2008 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  4. Byron in CA

    For those confused about denouce it also means: to announce formally the termination of so it's not just about: to pronounce especially publicly to be blameworthy or evil

    February 27, 2008 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  5. sonny

    How about the Klan's Obama endorsement on the 7th. Can we denounce and reject that too. And I think my Uncle Eddie's barber endorsed him too...that needs to be denounced, rejected, and perhaps declined as well.

    February 27, 2008 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  6. Disenfanchised

    I am offended that an American would have to "denounce " or "reject" the opinion f another American. I think that was a low point in American History that I am said to see my favorite website be a part of.

    February 27, 2008 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  7. Jimmy

    When was the debate on tonight? I thought it was supposed to be at 9PM. I'm getting mixed signals here. Help!

    February 27, 2008 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  8. Andrew

    For those who missed their vocab lesson, renouncing has to do with views, rejection has to do with offers or actions. So because Farrakhan isn't offering support or acting on his behalf, the words are synonymous in this situation. The fact Clinton tied the debate up with that stupidity is a clear indicator that she needs to resign this race yesterday.

    February 27, 2008 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  9. Moses from Uganda

    In the greater scope of things, the Farrakhan episode in an otherwise issues-based debate was consistent with the "silly season" Obama pointed out earlier. Semantics aside, for Obama to 'reject' or 'refuse' support from Farrakhan would go against his message of unity. Unity entails a readiness to accept even your foes. If this is a tactic Mrs. Clinton hoped would work against Mr. Obama, I doubt it went through, and gadly so.

    February 27, 2008 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  10. Tanya

    I hope this debate finally puts to rest the Clinton campaign's whining about media bias. Obama took tough questions and came out looking better than ever. I applauded his response to Clinton's remark that there is a difference between denouncing and rejecting. He was willing to concede that point and I think the sums up exactly why he is the kind of politician we need!

    February 27, 2008 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  11. rich

    that is funny that Clinton wanted Obama to use the word reject when it is in fact not as strong of a word as denounce, no wonder Obama is killing her with the higher educated vote

    February 27, 2008 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  12. Pat from Florida

    I'm so tired of everyone thinking that Obama is the end all be all of political candidates. Did anyone notice tonight that he both deferred to Hillary, and looked to see if she agreed with his comments on foreign policy? He's just not ready...yes, he's a great political speaker but he's still green. A few years in the senate and a few years in the state of Illinois legislature does not prepare one to be president! If people would carefully inspect his background and positions like they dissect Hillary, we might be surprised! We also might realize that our best hope is not Obama...it's Hillary Clinton.

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

    Barack is losing his greenhorn vibe. I am excited to see him toughen up and gain more composure in questions like these, but I'm also a bit sad to see him lose some of his outsider's naiveté. The important thing is that after about 45 seconds of reflection, he did the right thing. The guy's got principles, and now he's got a bit of shrewdness as well... very presidential.
    OBAMA '08!

    February 27, 2008 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  14. Jimmy O

    This is very racist and meant to incite controversy. Shame on you. We all can see through you and tactics. Clinton News Network.

    February 27, 2008 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  15. Kamau Atlanta Georgia

    Rejected and denounced.
    Check and Mate

    February 27, 2008 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  16. Sukie

    Our "beloved" next president (whom I am gathering WILL be president because everyone says so, not because he is elected) will have a short-term love affair with his followers.

    It won't be long, once Obama is "the man," and the only one, that the hate and discontent will turn against him. It always does.

    He promises intangible things that can't come true in the real world.

    February 27, 2008 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  17. Brian

    What kind of headline is this??? Obama clearly distanced himself from Farrakhan... this is just silly. I've been pretty neutral so far, but I am getting tired of Shillary's verbage and am seriously starting to lean towards Obama... and MSNBC.

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

    Agreeing with Molly on this one. Denouncing is condemning and censuring. Rejecting is just refusing to accept. Denouncing is the stronger word.

    February 27, 2008 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  19. Frankie

    The HRC downfall is getting difficult to watch. She is flailing and scraping and grasping, but alas, she is still drowing.

    Go out with the little dignity you have left Hillary. You become less of a "fighter" and more of a desperate, cheap shotting sore loser every day. You had the nomination locked up early on, but your arrogance and sense of entitlement lost it.

    February 27, 2008 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  20. Steve

    You know what, when either of these Bozos actually stand for something let me know because until they do my Vote and my Whole Families Vote is with McCain!

    February 27, 2008 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  21. JOHN


    February 27, 2008 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  22. Will Hancock

    I see CNN is trying to help Hillarynow. They did not mention anything that Obama said during the debate especially on Foreign Policies. He ate clinton apart on this about his judgements not just on Iraq but also on bombing someone in Pakistan as the Bush Administration just did to kill a high ranking Al whateve menber. He was right on that too. He is ready to be President.

    February 27, 2008 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  23. alf

    I am leaning to Obama but I do agree that it's not a perfectly fair headline. However, you must take consequence when you offend the best political team in the first place, Mrs. Clinton.

    February 27, 2008 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  24. Julie N.

    65,000 people have responded on the msnbc poll so far – 65% say Obama won the debate, about 23% say Hillary won the debate.

    This doesn't look good for Hillary. She was too combative and looked angry and disdainful. It just isn't going down well. Obama looked cool and composed and tried to stay above the petty fighting.

    February 27, 2008 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  25. voice in laredo

    Hillary's attempt to make a distinction between "denouncing" and "rejecting" this matter is an act of desperation and did not score any points in my book. She was clearly unable to land any blows in the debate and chose to focus on an insignificant distinction. Tim Russert did a good job, as did Barack Obama, of exposing her flip-flop on NAFTA and the Iraq War.

    February 27, 2008 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
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