(CNN) – Former President Bill Clinton told CNN Monday that he thinks some of the criticism directed at President Obama is racially motivated, but added that not all of Obama’s detractors are racist and urged his fellow Democrats to remain focused on trying to enact health care reform.
“I believe that some of the right-wing extremists which oppose President Obama are also racially prejudiced and would prefer not to have an African-American president,” Clinton told CNN’s Larry King in an interview to air Monday evening. “But I don’t believe that all the people who oppose him on health care – and all the conservatives – are racists. And I believe if he were white, every single person who opposes him now, would be opposing him then. Therefore, while I have devoted my life to getting rid of racism, I think this is a fight that my president and our party – this is one we need to win on the merits.”
Clinton later added, “I really think that we should disaggregate lingering problems of discrimination from the attacks to which the president is subject.”
Clinton was reacting to Rep. Joe Wilson’s, R-South Carolina, outburst when he shouted “You lie” at Obama during the president’s joint address to Congress and former President Jimmy Carter’s assessment that racism is an issue for Obama in trying to lead the country.
Watch Clinton’s entire interview on CNN’s Larry King Live Monday night beginning at 9 p.m. ET