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. Gil - California

    You stupid woman, you haven't rejected Bill's support have you?

    February 27, 2008 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  2. M. Frederick Voorhees

    I agree with everyone who said this headline was misleading. Mooney does not do justice to the spirit of the moment. Anyone who actually watched the exchange concluded that Hillary came across as a foolish, desperate, nitpicker. Her dignity is escaping her.

    February 27, 2008 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  3. Jorge from California

    Nice way to come back to her attacks!!!

    February 27, 2008 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  4. Alice Rea

    Read abut the man that supports him
    There is an article in the Chicago Tribune Feb 24 or Feb 25 2008.
    Search Louis Farrakhan on the internet also
    We all need to see why he is supporting Obama.
    This is a new world and we need to be cautious

    February 27, 2008 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  5. Robert

    Obama will be bad for Israel, and bad for the Jewish people. When will we see this wolf in sheep's clothing. Soon, we will learn that the Nation of Islam contributed to Obama's campaign. The IRS is now investigating his church. Just wait.... McCain will kill Obama in the general. Take off your blinders before it's too late. Obama is a pro-Palestinian demogogue!!! Stop watching reality television and do your homework.

    February 27, 2008 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  6. Peter

    Thank you CNN I thought you would never post something contoversial on Obama.

    Can you look into his real estate dealings that appear in the chicago area.

    February 27, 2008 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  7. Georgie

    Obama called him " Minister Farrakhan" that suggests they know each other very well, as Obamas "church" is affilliated with Farrakhan. Hillary called Obama out on rejection instead of just denouncing. Obama danced around the whole issue. Seems Like Obama has an agenda. Don't take a chance.Hillary is VerySmart !!! Vote for Hillary !!!!!!!!!!

    February 27, 2008 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  8. caroljac

    Farrakhan's remarks about Jews was very questionable. Obama addressed it. He has no control over who endorses him. He stated VERY clearly, that he denounced this endorsement, Hillary Clinton said that he needs to reject it. Obama said he denounces the endorsement and that he feels that denouning it or rejecting is semantics. He clearly REJECTED it when asked. Me personally, I don't see why he had to reject it, denouncing was good enough for me.

    February 27, 2008 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  9. John, from Las Vegas, NV

    From Merriam-Webster (look it up yourself if interested):


    Main Entry:
    de·nounce Listen to the pronunciation of denounce
    di-ˈnau̇n(t)s, dē-
    transitive verb
    Inflected Form(s):
    de·nounced; de·nounc·ing
    Middle English, from Anglo-French denuncier to proclaim, from Latin denuntiare, from de- + nuntiare to report — more at announce
    13th century

    1: to pronounce especially publicly to be blameworthy or evil
    2 archaic a: proclaim b: to announce threateningly
    3: to inform against : accuse
    4 obsolete : portend
    5: to announce formally the termination of (as a treaty)

    And now, Hillary Clinton's idea of strong language:


    Main Entry:
    1re·ject Listen to the pronunciation of 1reject
    transitive verb
    Middle English, from Latin rejectus, past participle of reicere, from re- + jacere to throw — more at jet
    15th century

    1 a: to refuse to accept, consider, submit to, take for some purpose, or use
    b: to refuse to hear, receive, or admit : rebuff, repel
    c: to refuse as lover or spouse
    2 obsolete : to cast off
    3: throw back, repulse
    4: to spew out
    5: to subject to immunological rejection

    I don't know about you, but I think denounce sounds a lot worse.

    Think Hillary wants to edit the Bible and make sure Peter "rejects" Christ three times instead of "denying"? Just throwing that out there.

    February 27, 2008 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  10. PA Voter

    Don, I agree with you. You can't say Hillary is wishy-washy. That's what I like about her–she's direct and to the point. Obama doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings including Farrakhan.... Oh boy, this should be interesting.... I think more of the point is the connection to Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright Jr who's been close to Obama all through this campaign. It was his pastor who not only travelled with Farrakhan in earlier years but just last year awarded the "Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award" to Louis Farrakhan, a man who "truly epitomized greatness".... That's the problem with it....

    (If you go to Obama's church's website by googling "Trinity United Church of Christ", this will link you to his pastor and the magazine "Trumpet Newsmagazine" and from there you can link yourself to this award being made.... It's all connected...)

    February 27, 2008 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  11. Long-term Memory

    Whew, thank you, Hillary. I was not quite ready to tolerate (as liberal as I am and as politically correct as I might want to be) Louis Farrakhan's endorsement of anyone in the Democratic party. I hate to be another spoiler (CNN moderators, watch out, here I go), but, my goodness (are all these commas too correct for your editors?), do you imagine that your reporting is doing something other than solidifying the GOP against the Democrats?

    I hate to be a pain, but I will post this again if I feel that the moderators have been somehow intolerant of my views of Hillary, unless, of course, you would like the "Change" express to be engineered by members of the RNC.

    February 27, 2008 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  12. Peter

    i dont know how this counts for a point for Hilary because, Obama, showed more leadership qualities and judgment in addressing the issue, an experience Hilary clearly lacks.

    February 27, 2008 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  13. marlene

    Anyone who argues about trivial things such as the choice of using denounce vs. reject should not be on the same stage with Barack. I am surprised she is a senator! She should pack her bags and go home. ( Also denounce is a stronger word that reject)

    February 27, 2008 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  14. edge

    re·ject -a verb used as an 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.).

    de·nounce -verb (used with object), -nounced, -nounc·ing. 1. to condemn or censure openly or publicly: to denounce a politician as morally corrupt.

    1. to condemn or censure openly or publicly: to denounce a politician as morally corrupt.

    from MSNBC

    February 27, 2008 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  15. emma stein




    PARK . OBAMA RESPONSE "Hillary if you you are confuse with

    denounce and reject; just for you I REJECT " ......BLAM right out the


    February 27, 2008 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  16. Ken

    I think it outlandish for Obama to even be questioned about the endorsement of someone else. But in the grand scheme of things its even more outlandish that Clinton felt the need to take denouncing Farrakhan to the next step of total rejection...well played Obama let her dig her own grave.

    February 27, 2008 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  17. Margaret A.

    It is disturbing to know that Obama is still under a pastor who gave an award to Farrakhan, the muslim leader who made such hateful
    comments against the Jews.

    February 27, 2008 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  18. John Denney

    Denounce – to pronounce especially publicly to be blameworthy or evil

    Reject – to refuse or not to accept.

    but then again Hillary thinks words are meaningless.

    February 27, 2008 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  19. Andrea

    Obama is the ultimate whiner and he lets the press do his negative campaigning for him. I would like to know, what are they getting out of it? What a loser! He can never answer anything completely. Do some research and you will find he is the one that played the race card. This guy wines any time someone questions him on his position, even if it is legitimate. Wake up America! Don't you want a president with proven action?!

    February 27, 2008 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  20. Melissa

    Months ago my dad said to me–Melissa, you know that Hillary has been foaming at the mouth for this forever and she's gonna do what she has to to try to be the nominee. This was another attempt that backfired in her face just like the comment she made last week that garnered boos.

    As a woman, I was personally a bit offended that she spent a lot of that debate whining–even about trivial issues such as "answering first" when in all reality–doesn't the football team always want to receive? With being asked first she had the opportunity to set the tone for the debate. Which turned out, again, to be her highlighting her "35 years of experience" If she didn't bring in the slant about her being a fighter I would say Barack had a shutout. I just went on a tangent, anyway, she spent much of the debate whining and bantering and at first even getting so flustered that I thought maybe (if we're lucky) she may suffer spontaneous combustion she uses the if a woman were in the white house it would be a "sea change."

    I do not want Hillary to be the first woman president of this country.

    February 27, 2008 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  21. Donna

    I wish both candidates had the nerve to speak up for America protecting the safety and protection of the Palestinian people as much as it does for Israel. I also wish Russert and Williams would have had the nerve to ask the question.

    February 27, 2008 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  22. QuietStormX

    Clinton is so picky, it drives me crazy. It was just petty and she knew what the deal was... It just seams that if she doesnt get her way, Hillary gets mad and has to have the last word or point.... Someone should tell her too shut up!

    February 27, 2008 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  23. Fair America

    Failed attempt at a "gotcha" moment for Hillary.
    Yet another example of Obama rising above the political fray with common sense.

    I do have to say that I agree with a few posts above though.
    CNN – the story headline on the political ticker is more fair. The story headline on the cnnpolitics.com page is sensastionalist. This is not the type of journalism I have come to expect from you guys...don't Fox News us!

    February 27, 2008 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  24. Winkzilla

    Social security is mandatory when people are engaged in making incomes. If you are not working, your are not mandated to contribute to social security. The mandatory for social security is relational to your standing in regard to your work and income. Due to this, I do not understand Hillary Clinton when she attempts to make our mandatory social security the same as mandating everyone to pay health care premiums regardless of your standing. The two are not the same.

    February 27, 2008 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  25. Florida for Obama

    I think the media is doing a wonderful job of dividing the democratic party right down the middle. I hope supporters of both Hillary and Obama are able to put their differences aside in November. We should all agree that either canidate would be better than McCain

    February 27, 2008 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
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