JACKSON, Mississippi (CNN) - A few days after an aide to presidential contender Hillary Clinton accused her rival Barack Obama of behaving like Ken Starr, the Illinois senator kept up a recent string of counter-attacks, charging her campaign with strategically leaking a photo of him in African clothing and employing the “Republican playbook” in their effort to re-take frontrunner status in the Democratic race.
“When in the midst of a campaign you decide to throw the kitchen sink at your opponent because you’re behind, and you start - your campaign starts leaking photographs of me when I’m traveling overseas wearing the native clothes of those folks to make people afraid, and then you run an ad talking about who’s gonna answer the phone at three in the morning - an ad straight out of the Republican playbook - that’s not real change,” Obama told voters at a Mississippi campaign event Monday night.
The photo of Obama dressed in traditional local garb during a goodwill trip to Africa surfaced in the days before the critical March 4 contests. The Clinton campaign denied reports of any connection with its appearance, and Obama said at the time that he believed the New York senator’s assurances she did not know anything about the picture before it was published on the Drudge Report Web site the week before voters went to the polls in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont.
"...I take Senator Clinton at her word that she knew nothing about the photo. So I think that's something that we can set aside," Obama said at the Ohio debate late last month - a remark re-circulated by the Clinton campaign Monday night.
In a statement, the Clinton team attributed Obama’s Jackson remarks to his losses in last week’s primaries, and pointed to the Ohio comment, in which he seemed to absolve Clinton herself, though not her campaign, of responsibility for the photo’s distribution.
–CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand and Chris Welch