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. Linda

    Hillary's EXPERIENCE shines every time! And, of course, Obama’s “lack of experience” shines even more…would you say he looked nervous...?

    Well, I guess Obama won the debate once again, right? Get a life Obama zombies!

    February 27, 2008 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  2. will

    CNN i watched the whole debate, in fact i have watched everyone of the debates republican and dem. the fact that you actually ran this as story is buying into the race baiting that as a white american i find disgusting. you could have pick a more important story or word it differently. it make me wonder if you are buying into the pressure the clinton supporters are putting on you? Msnbc did even make a big deal about and they hosted the debate.

    February 27, 2008 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  3. Robert

    The question was stupid, and so was Hillary's whole speech about "reject". Its so childish!! Its like beating a dead horse for God's sake. Obama said he does not agree with the man's statements and what he portrays...what more do you want???

    Geezz...how about we get to the real issues facing Americans. Oh no, Hillary is too busy worrying about the difference between reject and denounce. What you should have done was denounce going to war in Iraq!

    February 27, 2008 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  4. Joe

    Obama can always walk away from his church and his pastor. Actions always speak louder than words. Instead, Obama continues his membership in a church that praises Farakhan.

    If you are truly rejecting Farakhan and your pastor's embrace of him, then walk away from your church membership.

    Easy choice.

    February 27, 2008 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  5. Rose

    Don't forsake your brothers, they gonna miss you and may get mad for denying your background especially when you were in Indonesia. don't fool American people!!

    February 27, 2008 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  6. Eli-Wisconsin Dem

    Hey, I looked up the two words and denounce works better for me in this situation. It seems to me that the only power that reject has over denounce is familiarity. This seems fitting for Senator Clinton seeing that she represents the same old politics, might as well use the same old words.

    February 27, 2008 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  7. Maliek

    Wow she really nailed him on that! He never even criticized the comment of his minister that Farakhan is "a great man" Obama is beginning to really scare me– Clinton made clear how much smarter and fair she is.

    February 27, 2008 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  8. jesse

    One thing is clear, Barack is our man! Hillary, thank you and goodnight. Time to step down graciously and rally behind Obama. Take your negative energy and apply it towards anyone who gets in Obama's way.

    February 27, 2008 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  9. Peter

    The differnece is that you can se that Hillary knows mroe than Obama he simply copies Hillary and says the same thing mor eloquently.

    She debates better on topics, he was flat to me and copies Hillary.

    February 27, 2008 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  10. Juan Carlos(Las Vegas)

    He stumbled there is no doubt about it.

    February 27, 2008 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  11. mona

    The story of little red riding hood comes to mind with Obama's answer to this question when he refers to he is not going to denounce anyone who thinks he is a "good guy."
    "My what nice eyes you have Obama….oh…oh…what nice teeth you have Obama…" Hehehe their you have it folks, the possible nominee for the democratic party can't reject someone who says he is a "good guy." Obama are you sure you really shouldn't be a contestant on the "bachelor?"

    It also speaks to the fact that Obama can easily be influenced when he doesn't know what to say. Oh yes btw there is a difference between "reject" and "denounce". My american education has taught me that

    February 27, 2008 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  12. Joe

    To Debbie: Of course the support/endorsement of the KKK would and should be renounced/rejected. Being 'American' has nothing to do with it. There are immoral, hate filled Americans- being American does not guarantee any type of support- well, maybe welfare....

    February 27, 2008 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  13. Alfredo

    Hillary wasn't concerned about "denouncing" or "rejecting" anybody. She merely tried to get political gain by her comment. Senator Obama handled it well and demonstrated poise and presidential polish. Clinton just demonstrated small mindedness and politics as usual. Perhaps she should have taken the time to "denounce" and "reject" her own husband for his thinly veiled racial comments. How they forget.

    February 27, 2008 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  14. micah

    Hilary was right to counsel Obama about the need to
    REJECT outright Farrahkan's endorsement. Louis
    Farrakhan is a racist and I was pleased to see Obama
    agree with Clinton that he needed to REJECT
    Farrakhan's endorsement.

    February 27, 2008 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  15. Bev

    Hillary keeps challenging Obama to a debate and then the est she can do is quibble about the words reject and denounce and that she always gets asked the first question. She brings nothing new to the debate. It is just a rehash of the previous debate. All she wants is free publicity. She came out of the debate looking worst than before. In the Texas debate she at least with a few minutes that were positive for her. She wasn't able to pull that off this time. She should have quit while she was ahead.

    February 27, 2008 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  16. Roger

    Your missing the issue that really was a win for Hillary! Obama has skated on getting away with milley mouth answers on non kid glove questions. Tim tried and he started his dance number with I can’t help it if he thinks I am a good guy. Hillary saw the dance and called him on it…he had to stop the dance and finally answer. Can’t have Farrakhan voters and Jewish voter both Obama..choose! and make that choice on what is right! Make no mistake about it unless Hillary nailed him he wouldn’t have done the right thing!
    Comment by You are all missing the point

    February 27, 2008 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  17. Craig, Seattle WA

    The whole questioning line was really a bit pointless. The moderators tried to draw Obama out on something that is really a non-issue. Hillary tried to turn it into an advantage for her, by saying she made a stronger division between herself and people who supported her yet had questionable positions. It was really just splitting hairs, and certainly not her hitting or attacking him.

    February 27, 2008 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  18. John M

    How did I know that CNN would pick the most sensationalist and least news-worthy item to comment on in its debate reaction?

    A neutral observer saw two very, very good candidates who each have different strengths and weaknesses. Tim Russert was a fool for reaching to the bottom of the barrel on this issue – not because it is salacious, but because it is trivial and adds nothing significant to the debate about these two candidates.

    I don't know who "won" the debate. But it wasn't Tim Russert and it certainly was not CNN.

    February 27, 2008 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  19. Len

    This was a strange moment where Clinton seemed to get picky. What is the difference between reject and denounce. I think actually denounce is the stronger word and Obama was right to denounce it. Reject has less emotional impact. It doesn't seem so morally strong. You can reject anything without moral implication. To denounce is morally strong. So Clinton looked like she was parsing here. Obama was right to use denounce. It made Clinton look like a nitpicking lawyer.

    February 27, 2008 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  20. kg

    look i really don't write in these things but I remember from my SAT's that denounce is far stronger that reject. Somebody needs a webster's dictionary.

    February 27, 2008 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  21. Shirley Amato

    Hillary Clinton should be the next President of the great USA

    February 27, 2008 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  22. Me3

    A new style of politics...is still politics. The way that Obama responded to that shows his hesitation and "new political thinking" with regards to alienating a potential voting block.

    February 27, 2008 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  23. California 4 Hillary

    Anyone notice that there is only a couple 'pro-Hillary' comments on this thread? Wonder why?

    February 27, 2008 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  24. Mrs. America

    Molly - Where do you get your info? Reject is to not accept. Denounce is to condemn. And you mean "imply," not "infer." Just a quick lesson, and I hope it's helpful. Thank you.

    February 27, 2008 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  25. tk

    This certainly is a sensationalist headline. It was a lofty attempt by a desperate candidate to bring a non-issue to a head. I figured most people would see past the semantics. There were plenty of news worthy topics in the debate. This certainly wasn't one of them.

    February 27, 2008 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
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