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. Mag

    CNN's headline is even more absurd than Hillary's comments, and are shameless. Obama has had nothing to do with Farrakhan, and in plain and simple terms that apparently only Hillary can't understand has clearly rejected Farrakhan. As a Jew from Chicago, I support Obama 100% and don't trust Hillary any more than Farrakhan.

    February 27, 2008 03:25 am at 3:25 am |
  2. Switzerland Observer


    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.


    February 27, 2008 03:26 am at 3:26 am |
  3. Tommy

    I'm trying to picture other world leaders taking President Hillary seriously after all the whining, crying and flip-flopping she's done, and I just can't see it. She (and her silly husband) lost this contest before it was run...thank God.

    February 27, 2008 03:27 am at 3:27 am |
  4. Tracy

    denounced is a stronger word then reject.

    Hillary was so unprofessional tonight.

    February 27, 2008 03:27 am at 3:27 am |
  5. Stephen

    It's disapointing that CNN feels this was a more important part of the debate than any of the real issues presented tonight. Sen. Clinton sadly came off as trying to land punches where none needed to be thrown, such as whining about having to answer first...or trying to pin Sen. Obama down on a support that he clearly didn't ask for or want. Given her careening all over the emotional and political map since the last debate, with rage, sarcasm, and more pointless attacks, it shows the true desperation of a campaign in trouble. Tonights debate only served to solidify my opinion on that. I felt Obama clearly seemed well prepared to defend himself, and presented well thought out responses. I don't see this debate benefiting Clinton at all.

    February 27, 2008 03:28 am at 3:28 am |

    Hillary is a wonderful candidate, i like her as a person, but i see HIM as a president. Obama is the ONE!!!!, he has the common sense, satisfactory experience, and personality needed for the job.

    February 27, 2008 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
  7. Tony

    This wouldn't even be an issue if most Americans really understood English.

    February 27, 2008 03:33 am at 3:33 am |
  8. Nancy

    Tonight's debate made two things clear to me.

    Obama is presidential; Hillary is petty.

    Not only does MSNBC put on a better debate, they provide balanced, fair journalism.

    FYI, Barack was right in using denounced.

    reject: (verb) to refuse to have, take, recognize, etc...

    de·nounce: (verb) to condemn or censure openly or publicly: to denounce a politician as morally corrupt.

    February 27, 2008 03:35 am at 3:35 am |
  9. joe

    it is all very clear that hillary clinton is not having the kind of result she was hoping for in this election, so this is her way of trying to make obama the bad choice. sorry it did not work.

    February 27, 2008 03:35 am at 3:35 am |
  10. Ed, Houston, TX

    I think Sen. Obama flipped back and answered that question perfect. I believe Sen. Obama shows more strength on foreign policy, health care and education. I think many people underestimate Sen. Hillary, but she still have a chance.

    February 27, 2008 03:37 am at 3:37 am |
  11. HCheng

    I think Obama's point was since Farrakhan was not offering anything, there is nothing to "reject". He did state emphatically that he "denounced" anything Farrakhan said about the Jews, etc..

    But Tim Russert pushed the point, making as though Obama is refusing to "reject " Farrakhan's views.

    And here's where I actually think HRC did some good and piled on Obama, who quickly realized he was digging a hole if he didn't make it clear and use the word "reject" explicitly.

    To Obama's credit, he saw how explosive this could become if he insisted on splitting hair with Tim Russert.

    With the African robe thing still in people's mind, the last thing Obama needs now is another "ethhnic" headline.

    You sometimes really have to thank Hillary for making Obama a better candidate going into GE.

    February 27, 2008 03:38 am at 3:38 am |
  12. Zen

    This was a pivotal point in the debate. It's the kind of question that can make or break a candidate. Barack answered it with honesty and integrity and no hesitation. Clinton tried to make an issue by splitting hairs and it didnt work. Denounce or Reject... what? My confidence grows more and more in Senator Obama. I see why the Republicans are so concerned. McCain will get more than he can handle going up against Obama.

    February 27, 2008 03:38 am at 3:38 am |
  13. Dave. San Diego, CA

    Reject –
    1. to refuse to have, take, recognize
    2. to refuse to grant
    3. to refuse to accept
    4. to discard as useless or unsatisfactory
    5. to cast out or eject; vomit

    Denounce –
    1. to condemn or censure openly or publicly
    2. to make a formal accusation against,
    3. to give formal notice of the termination or denial of

    Looks to me like Denounce is the stronger term. Once again, it looks as though Senator Clinton deserves the uneducated vote.

    February 27, 2008 03:40 am at 3:40 am |
  14. Timo Garcia

    The way the clintons have been treated by some of these obama supporters (including the media) is stomach churning. It hurts to see our one shot at retaking the white house spiralling off on some mad poorly-thought through experimental hype trip that is Barack Obama. A voice in your ear whispers: He really is an eloquent but empty call for change. You think obama's still going to be the coolest kid in school a year from now? Come on. BUYERS REMORSE SUCKS. go hillary. even if the democratic party doesnt seem as decent and headstrong as it used to be, thanks to some of the shameful obama supporters, willing to trash the family thats done more for it than any other in decades, the clintons.

    February 27, 2008 03:40 am at 3:40 am |
  15. John

    Both are valid, I'm glad both were done, but I agree with Obama that denounce is the stronger word.


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


    1. to refuse to have, take, recognize, etc.: to reject the offer of a better job.

    February 27, 2008 03:40 am at 3:40 am |
  16. Open_ears

    Now I am not sure what debate the author of this was watching but it changes the order of statements and distorts how this really played out....CNN you should really review the transcript and edit this.

    February 27, 2008 03:41 am at 3:41 am |
  17. malka

    I find it absolutely appaling the comments received from Obamo supporters. They are so derogatory – do they not have any self respect. If these are the type of people who are supporting him then I cannot say much for the man himself. I am also astonished at the coverage CNN are giving Clinton. You are so biased with your whole political team especially that awful woman Gloria. Small facial features = small mind. Be fair. Clinton is a person who should also command respect. She is a woman of worth so please treat her with respect as well. Mr Obamo wants to please the whole world – Republicans and all the rest!!!

    February 27, 2008 03:46 am at 3:46 am |
  18. jacq

    Hillary's comments about who supports Obama just reinforces the point of how she will critise any and all things connected with him on a regular basis. Besides she didn't look presidential tonight. Attacking the moderators and Obama- I'm surprised she didn't attack the audience for not clapping loudly in support of her (lack of self control, eh?). Is this the behavior she will present to both America and the World if she is elected president? Maybe the voters need to DENOUNCE her attacks or is it REJECT them? 70% of people texting opinion-said Obama won tonight's debate according to MSNBC analysis.

    February 27, 2008 03:47 am at 3:47 am |
  19. Millie watson

    I'm greatly looking forward to all the obamamaniacs waking up in a year and realising they werent voting for american idol.

    February 27, 2008 03:48 am at 3:48 am |
  20. Laurie

    Don (above) is correct: If Obama genuinely disagrees with Farrakhan, he needs to say so without ANY reservation. But Obama is not one to publicly commit to a belief or opinion and IF he becomes president, Americans will be complaining not long after election day that he is "weak."

    February 27, 2008 03:49 am at 3:49 am |


    February 27, 2008 03:51 am at 3:51 am |
  22. Darryl M., Arlington TX

    Like Hillary,I just can not let this go Blacks and Jews have a great History. Equal Opporttunity would have not happen with out the support of the Jewish community.

    Hillary attemping to seperate the Blacks and the Jewish community nice try.

    Hillary has been losing her base support this was a question that was not asked of her, The reason behind her answer was to divide the black and jewish vote.

    Let not let Hillary win this was nothing but a cheap shot,

    February 27, 2008 03:55 am at 3:55 am |


    February 27, 2008 03:56 am at 3:56 am |
  24. James

    Clinton should have divorced Bill at the first when he got caught with Monica then I beleive there wouldn't be anything that could stop her.

    February 27, 2008 03:58 am at 3:58 am |
  25. D Nelson

    This is one of the dumbest arguments in a debate I have ever heard. Clinton is really grasping at straws on this one.

    First of all – you cannot reject someone's endorsement. An endorsement is some one basically saying "I support this person". To reject (meaning "to refuse to agree to") the endorsement would be to say "I agree to you supporting me." It is illogical. It doesn't make sense. You cannot accept or reject how someone else feels. People will support whomever they want whether that person "accepts" or "rejects" it.

    Barack Obama had it right. He denounced the anti semitic comments of Farrakhan, and stated the Farrakhan will have no connection with his campaign.

    Also, as stated by an earlier poster, denounce is a stronger word than reject – so Hillary was wrong on that account, too.

    February 27, 2008 03:59 am at 3:59 am |
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