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. Jasmine from NC

    Obama said that he denounced him and stated his position very well, but Clinton, I feel, in an attempt to prolong an attack on Obama seemed to be petty saying he should say reject vs. denounce….she’s trying to disagree with him even when she has nothing to disagree about? But what was more telling about her dictatorial style, and one that I would not wish to see in the presidential office, is that she said that Farrakhan should not have been allowed to say it. What happened to this is American and freedom of speech? At a time when we need a president to reverse the mentality that sacrificed individual rights and enforced the arguable unconstitutional patriot act and the “detentions” in Guantanamo Bay. This scares me…

    Barack actually touched on amendment rights as he denounced and called Frrakhan’s actions as reprehensible. A person who recognizes individual rights even when they are not in their favor, is the type of ethical person who respects the constitution and who we need in office now more then ever.

    Obama 08

    February 26, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  2. Prof

    Denounce (from the Latin renuntiare "to protest against the messenger) is a far stronger verb than reject. What was Senator Clinton's point? That her command of the English language does not equal Senator Obama's? Well then, point taken.

    February 26, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  3. tc

    great explanation!!!!! go obama!!!!!!!

    February 26, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  4. pj

    a brilliant answer. he killed her tonight, over and over again, killing her softly with his song...
    sorry hillary, back of the line, you missed your turn.

    February 26, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  5. menopausal me

    Hormone Hilary, there will be hell to pay Billy blunt.

    February 26, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  6. Marie

    Once again.....keep talking Hillary, the polls and people of America can see what you are truly about......divisiveness, inconsistency and attacking!
    Keep grasping.....it truly allows the REAL Hillary Clinton to shine thru!

    February 26, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  7. Bob

    Obama gave a clearly nuanced yet unequivocal response; it was Clinton who tried to up the ante with poor semantics. It was a cheap shot (one among myriad by her campaign). As Obama stated, he can't silence someone–no matter how reprehensible–in how he or she speaks; as he said, he can't censor him. It's a non-issue, except that Clinton tried to up it into kindergarten semantics. His final retort to her was to placate a harpy: fine, if you think that reject is stronger than renounce, than I do both–happy? It was like a teacher setting a pampered student straight....

    February 26, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  8. Dan

    There IS difference between rejection and denunciation, and its shocking that Obama even addresses Farrakan as "minister." Obama himself officially Farrakan during the debate, but actually said he wouldn't reject Farrakan. He literally refused to reject Farrakan's endorsement until Hillary brought out an example. She didn't address Obama or Farrakan. She just gave her own example, AFTER Obama's refusal.

    For all you guys criticizing Clinton and definitions, did you watch the debate? She didn't bring it up, she didn't press it. She didn't nitpick. Russert did. Yet all the Obama supporters so far are literally "hearing what they want to hear."

    But Obama seems to be set on semantics... THAT'S politics as usual.

    February 26, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  9. JD from Kentucky

    Who cares about Farrakhan?
    He should reject and denounce Hillary and Bill Clinton!

    February 26, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  10. TJ

    BARACK: JUST WIN BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 26, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  11. Todd Wright

    Give me a break. Obama once again tried to dodge answering controversial issues by dialing in yet another "present" to the initial question. He was trying to give the ol' typical politician's rabba-dabba-doo bob and weave. Clinton called him on it (since the moderators, of course, would never call Obama on anything). Obama then, essentially with his back up against the wall, wiggled out of it.

    If he ends up to be the Democratic nominee, I wonder when the media will begin to interrogate Obama the way that they've done Clinton??????? Hopefully, long before November so that Obama can actually begin to get some practice in "real" vetting. Seems to me there are a whole host of issues that await. . . .

    February 27, 2008 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  12. Hillary, the Hitler ghost!

    It would be terrible to have a President like Hillary Clinton!

    February 27, 2008 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  13. bdc

    apple dictionary widget:

    reject: refuse to agree; fail to show affection or concern
    denounce: publicly declare to be wrong or evil

    At the very least, I think it demonstrates Clinton's divisiveness in her inability to even agree on word choice. Completely inflexible – and that is why her healthcare failed in the 90's and that is why she would fail as president now.

    February 27, 2008 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  14. Glenn

    She seems weak! He seems like a leader that has answers not just empty promises.I Believe that he knows that she is on her last leg & feels for her.

    February 27, 2008 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  15. jessy

    Oh Hilary! u have displayed what u are actually made of! America has seen your true color and you are gradually fading. And u know what from my large family of eight, u have just lost eight votes already. And i hope that more people do so.......

    February 27, 2008 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  16. Vincent

    Please post this..why does he not reject his church because they gave Farrakhan an award last year????????

    February 27, 2008 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  17. mike

    did Clinton said (I WILL DO ANY THINGTO WIN)

    February 27, 2008 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  18. sbshield

    Why didn't they ask Clinton to denounce and reject the support that Ann Coulter said she was going to give her since McCain was the nominee. She's said some reprehensible things as well.
    And honestly, I almost forgot that Farrakhan was still alive.

    February 27, 2008 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  19. mmm

    Good job Hillary!!! Continue to be strong and clear!!!

    February 27, 2008 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  20. Marc

    Way to go Hillary! It is about time that someone called Senator Obama on this issue. Farrakhan is an anti-Semite. If he is, as he claims to be, all about bringing people together – he needs to reject the endorsement of this man. And he needs to look closely at the message he is sending to Jewish Americans be affiliating with a Church and a Pastor who consider Farrakan the epitome of greatness. It is not enough to denounce. Thank you Senator Clinton for making this a national issue once and for all.

    February 27, 2008 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  21. Dana

    He basically stole his mailer from a piece the healthcare industry and republicans did back in the 90s to defeat Hillary's healthcare plan. And no one criticizes him or questions him on this act? It's unreal. I'm voting for McCain if Obama wins without question. I encourage everyone here to vote for McCain if Obama wins the nomination because this primary has been a joke. There is no way this man qualified to be president.

    February 27, 2008 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  22. Jim

    Hillary manhandled Obama on the Farrahkan issue. She showed that she was in charge and made him reject Farrahkan.

    February 27, 2008 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  23. Paul Billings

    The story is very misleading, Senator Obama did denounce Minister Farrakhan.

    CNN made no reference of that.

    February 27, 2008 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  24. Sean

    Obama is clearly better at the old politics, fending off all of Clinton’s attempts to discredit him, yet he still wants to change to a better America with a new way of solving problems

    February 27, 2008 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  25. David Lawrence

    This issue made one thing clear – the next democratic nominee for president will be a lawyer.

    February 27, 2008 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
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