July 10th, 2008
10:20 AM ET
10 years ago

Roberts: What was Jesse Jackson thinking?


Watch Roberts' interview with Jesse Jackson.

(CNN) - Rev. Jesse Jackson has been known to utter some intemperate language in the past. Remember his famous 1984 description of New York City as “Hymietown”? It was deeply offensive to many people and Jackson was eventually forced to publicly apologize, though it took a month. It took far less time for Jackson to apologize for wanting to cut off a certain sensitive part of Barack Obama’s anatomy.

His comments were stunning to say the least and prompted many people to wonder – despite his proclaimed support for Obama – what he really thinks about the Senator, and Jackson moved quickly to apologize. "For any harm or hurt that this hot mic private conversation may have caused, I apologize," he said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. "My support for Senator Obama's campaign is wide, deep and unequivocal..."

Some believe Jackson, who ran for president in 1984 and 1988, is deeply envious of Obama for succeeding where he failed. I asked Jackson about that on today’s American Morning program. “That’s ridiculous,” Jackson assured me. “He’s running the last lap of a 54-year marathon. He is running that race. I am part of that race.” He added that whether it is “in 1963 Dr. King speaking about the dream or Barack in Denver, it’s a moment I really cherish...”

If Jackson so cherishes the moment, how is it that he wants to leave the Senator with – as Austin Powers might say – “a twig and no berries”? In his ‘open-mike’ moment, Jackson said he thought Obama was “talking down” to African Americans with his faith-based initiatives. This morning, when I confronted him directly, he refused to repeat that charge — in fact, he denied it completely. He also offered a convoluted explanation of why he thought faith-based programs can’t solve all the problems of the inner city.

Why did a media-savvy pro like Jackson describe his remarks as part of a “private conversation”? What was it about the microphone on his lapel, the camera and the appearance on nationwide television that led him to believe anything he would say at that moment was private? In his defense, there are still plenty of media veterans who every year get caught uttering one of the seven words you can’t say on television - but he ought to know that you can’t say what he did in a television studio without it completely blowing up in his face.

The Obama campaign is rightfully incensed over what Jackson said, though the Senator has accepted his apology. So is Jackson’s own family - after all, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is co-chairman of Obama’s campaign. "I thoroughly reject and repudiate his ugly rhetoric,” said Congressman Jackson in a statement released Wednesday. “He should keep hope alive and any personal attacks and insults to himself."

So – just how much trouble is Jesse Sr. in with his family?

“He is my congressman and I am his father,” the elder Jackson told me this morning. “And ultimately, we get along.”

Filed under: John Roberts
soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. Rob Kole

    Will people now start to realize the "black vote" that Obama received during the primary was more to support "our guy" that support for him and his policies?

    If more cracks appear in his black support wil the supper delegates rethink their vote at the convention? Or does the money spent on getting a NFL stadium, sorry convention hall not good enough for " I am one of the people", to make a nice photo op preclude that?

    July 10, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  2. Carole

    Obama will use all of the AA like he used Rev Wright, until he no longer needs them. Right now he is looking for more white votes. He knows he has the AA–they have no one else they like. i don't blame the great leaders of civil rights–he is giving them no credit for all their years of work, including the Clintons. Yet he uses Race as a Mantra whenever he needs it!

    July 10, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  3. jimmy velman


    July 10, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  4. Tori, Oregon


    So you are going to go with McCain who's top economical adviser says the economy is failing due to peoples "Mentalities" and we need to stop "whining"? I am going with the person that understands that we need long term solutions and that we need to break the current cycle.

    July 10, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  5. proud army and navy mom

    Sen Obama has not pandered or flip-flopped on these issues. In the father's day speech, he was talking about all absent dads, but he did qualify that it was very apparent in the African-American community.

    It's true. Fisa was a compromise. We still need to be protected. I do not personally agree, but I understand his reasons behind it.

    Democrats, we have to understand that Sen Obama will be a president to all Americans, not just the so-called far left democrats.

    Understand that we will all never agree on any one issue, but we will be able to work together for a reasonable solution.

    July 10, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  6. Joel

    He was ticked and shot his mouth off. Big deal – everyone shoots their mouths off once in a while. Who cares?

    July 10, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  7. Abby

    Can we talk instead about what Phil Gramm, McCains top economic advisor, is thinking when he called us a 'nation of whiners’ regarding the economy? Can we please get our priorities straight and stop bailing out Senator McCain on the real issues? Please stop acting like a tabloid?

    July 10, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  8. Independent Fred

    You know I would really Really like to put Rev Jackson, Hannity, Rev Wright, Limbaugh, and the rest of those Ignorant dopes on a desert Island.

    America is trying to get past this divisive crap. In all honesty Obama's message was right on point. If you don't agree try looking up statistcs.

    July 10, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  9. spice

    intresting i think the disgrace are the people that dont believe in change not BARACK OBAMA.

    OBAMA 08.

    July 10, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  10. arc, Lugano CH

    PUMA-SF: Puma Power SF

    Take a trip to Zimbabwe and spend some time witnessing true electoral injustice at work. There you can share your expertise and knowledge in the fields of governance and fair elections. For your efforts, perhaps you’ll receive a well-deserved machete welcome party.


    July 10, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  11. Lisa

    Debbie just because Jesse Jackson is black doesn't mean he has to support Obama. I'm an African American women and will continue to bash Obama everyday. He messed with the wrong person and that was my girl Hillary!!!

    July 10, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  12. randy

    Well i still dont care about what jesse jackson said. He need to understand that things are changing. We are trying to go foward not back ward.

    July 10, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  13. Praetorian, Fort Myers

    Jackson has the same discontent for Obama's agenda and rhetoric many of us have. For 3 years now he's been the wunderkind of the left and way-left flank of the Democratic party–in the realm where Jesse Jackson and many others have always resided.

    Now that he appears to be the nominee, he is blatantly moving his rhetoric and platform towards the moderate/conservative center. While his words may sound more moderate even a little conservative–his agenda (the most socialist in America's history) still remains.

    With good reason, Jackson and others are shocked that he distances himself from old liberal allies in favor of appearing more centrist in his ideology. Jackson feels duped and that the people he has been fighting for his entire life are being led down a flower garden path that doesn't exist in the reality of an Obama administration.

    Reality sucks.

    July 10, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  14. Glad to be an Independent

    Jesse is for Jesse. Unfortunately, there is an issue with a segment of the black community with regards to drugs, crime and fatherless families. In some areas, it is very high in those three categories. There is not any government program or whites to blame for that. As a young black male, I see too much of this. I did not grow up with much money but I was determined not to become involved in crime, drugs and becoming a young father. I worked hard to get a college degree and get a decent job. Excuses need to end. Personal responsibility needs to happen with a segment of the black community. Jesse and others need to stop being dismissive of people's wrong decisions and start with some tough love. I thank Bill Cosby and Barack Obama for saying what should be said. I am not perfect, but at least I accept that my choices will either help me or hurt me.

    July 10, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  15. slkwly

    This is generational issue and is a case of jealousy as well. Jesse is not the only "Civil-Rights-era" figure who is envious of this "newcomer". People like Jesse have made their living on the MLK style of leadership and over the years have convinced the media that they somehow "represent" black people. We in the African-American community know this to be false.

    Jesse and others like him (AL Sharpton) have many, many detractors in the black community. I wish the media would stop putting these guys on TV to expouse the "black" persepctive when we are just like every other ethnicity in America, as in we all have differing opinions, and if that doesn't prove we as black people don't always agree, then take a look at black-on-black crime, starting in Wash, DC.

    Obama did not bow down and kiss the rings of these self-anointed succesors to MLK, nor should he. Again, he is running to Prsident of the United States, not just of black Americans.

    July 10, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  16. Len

    Lucky for Jesse, that he is black.

    There are no double standards in America. right lol

    July 10, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  17. Tasha from Houston, TX

    Clearly, it was a private moment. Barack Obama said this week in Georgia, that people are not going to agree with him on everything. We may agree on 95% and need to agree to disagree on the other 5%. Now, Rev. Jackson doesn't agree with Obama's faith-based programs. Ok. Let's not act like we have never said anything negative about someone we like. Rev. Jackson obviously made a terrible mistake, he got ahead of the news media and apologized. Obama accepted the apology. Let's move on.

    July 10, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  18. ac

    I am sorry, but this Jackson attitude personifies how people prejudge many African-Americans. Jackson criticizes Obama for commenting on personal responsibility (Obama directed this message at Black fathers, but I feel it could easily apply to many other people too!)
    and says Obama needs to focus on what the government should be doing for them.

    I dont think the government should have to do anything for ANYBODY who isn't at least willing to help themselves in whatever way they can.
    No tax system could afford that if everyone had that attitude!

    If you bring a child into this world, you need to care what happens to it, and work as best you can to provide for it. Then, you can EXPECT your hard-earned tax dollars to be well spent on quality public education, healthcare accessibility, economic prosperity and safety in your neighborhood.

    July 10, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  19. Chuck Paugh

    Jealousy is an ugly demon, and Mr. Jackson is obviously possessed by it. I won't call a man who utters such contemptuous comments "reverend" any longer.

    July 10, 2008 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  20. The US abolishes century old clinton dynasty

    I cant believe that old man........he is jeaulous as many are,, he and clinton would make the great team..

    lets think for a minute, why has Jackson accomplished so little and why people wont support him, ???

    Jackson and clinton they might go well together,
    two oldies,
    afraid that a young smart senator is taking ALL they "fought for,"


    oh clinton
    oh jackson
    oh mcbush

    you all belong in the past.. none wants to remember

    July 10, 2008 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  21. jay

    Jessie who?

    July 10, 2008 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  22. John Wilson

    Jesse Jackson has a right to air his views. He has done alot for this country. History seems to have overlooked his service. Remember the hosteges in Iran, I do, and I don't care what anyone says I say Jesse Jackson negotiated thier release.He is a patriot in my book. Obama08

    July 10, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  23. Ez

    Janey /Michigan does standing up for truth means any thing to you?

    July 10, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |

    Charlotte: What about Madonna, Angelina Jolie, Brittany Spears sister, and a whole host of celebrities having children out of wedlock? It happens in all races and we all should take responsibility.

    July 10, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  25. P. M. Guther

    Reverend? Not so much.

    Ancient proverb: "As a man thinketh in his heart so is he."

    P. M. Guther

    July 10, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
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