September 21st, 2009
07:37 PM ET
9 years ago

Bill Clinton weighs in on charges of racism against Obama

'I really think that we should disaggregate lingering problems of discrimination from the attacks to which the president is subject,' Bill Clinton tells Larry King.

'I really think that we should disaggregate lingering problems of discrimination from the attacks to which the president is subject,' Bill Clinton tells Larry King.

(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

soundoff (163 Responses)
  1. G'er

    I agree with President Clinton...there is racism out there, including a small percentage of Obama critics.....but the overwhelming issue is the terrible policies of the President including bad healthcare reform programs. The issues are the big problems not the race.

    September 21, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  2. Andy

    I have gained a new and profound respect for the Former President for making such a bold statement. Hopefully this will be the beginning of a cure for hatred within our society.

    September 21, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  3. Maggie Picot

    President Clinton is right not everyone is racist toward Obama. Please let's not forget how much of the same language we heard when he was running for president. We always are going to have racism in America, let's face, it is what it is until the end of the world, but let's focus on the real issue here which is health care, there is so many people including seniors that don't have health insurance and are waiting for the promise land here in their own america to at least be able to get some decent medical attention without going broke, because some of this people are presently using credit cards to pay for their prescriptions and medical care. It is a shame ,I seen seniors in front of me in the line at the drug store and my heart breaks when they pay a big bill with their credit card. President Obama I urge you to please let our elders enjoy their golden years with dignity and respect. Please resolve this issue as soon as possible.

    September 21, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  4. SS


    I am so incredibly thankful that Bill Clinton at least has enough sense to look through these issues and see what's happening. Are some of the people that protest Obama racially motivated? Absolutely. But to make a blanket statement about it is ridiculous. Not everyone at these TEA parties are racist, perhaps it is even a minority. Having Carter and DMB pop in to give their two cents has caused more problems than what it was worth. They made blanket statements. Its like saying every Muslim is a terrorist.

    Was Wilson a racist? I think the honest answer is: you're better off asking him because no one can know his motivation but him. Speculating about these issues is terribly unhelpful.

    September 21, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  5. neuroperson

    "It depends on what you think the definition of the word 'is' is"

    September 21, 2009 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  6. Joyce Minor

    Can't we all just get over it !!!
    This whole race this is really getting old you guys. GIVE IT UP.

    We have folks who are losing jobs, who are hungry. When we watch the news , we do not want to hear a bunch of yelping from Congress blasting their mouths about race !!! Give me a break. We're hungry, out here, unemployed and don't have medical insurance...


    September 21, 2009 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  7. Rhonda

    Every President who has ever been in office has had opponents, and those who disagree with his views and agendas. Please stop accusing everyone who disagrees with Obama's health care plan of being racist. It is ok to disagree, it is ok to have a different viewpoint. It is NOT ok to try to hush people who want to express their opinions just because our President is African American.

    September 21, 2009 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  8. ding1

    About time a Democrat realized that opposition to Obama is not all, or even mostly, racist. African-Americans ONLY comprise 10-11% of the population in the US. If we were racist we wouldn't have a black president. It is the ridiculous POLICIES that we object to, the corruption of his team, and his naive belief that he is GOD.

    September 21, 2009 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  9. Texas Liberal

    I didn't care for President Bush, but I would have been just as angry if a congressman had shouted "You lie!' at Bush the way that fact-challenged Joe Wilson yelled at President Obama. That behavior is inexcusable.

    September 21, 2009 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  10. Gee

    Hmm...I am not a Bill Clinton fan, but that is the smartest thing he has said lately.....I still oppose Obamacare however and the whole emergency nature about passing this legislation as soon as possible or the country will fall smacks of a contrived state of affairs.....until this last election I heard nothing coming out of DC or the media or people on the street that would suggest we have this huge healthcare emergency.....and I don't know where people are geting this $12,000 to $20,000 dollar a year insurance premium stuff from....they must have 20 dependents....Anyhow, doesn't matter if Obama is black, brown, green or purple, I still oppose his socialist government power grab and can't wait until I can get a chance to vote him out of office. We as a country don't need this and can't afford all of the spending that is going on in DC. It will take decades to reverse this last 8 months.

    September 21, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  11. Mike

    Bill and Hillary were charged with racism during the campaign. It appears if you oppose Obama .... it's racist. We need to get past this and concentrate on finding common ground and solve America's problems. Like it or not, Obama is PUTUS until at least 2012. We can vote him in or out then.

    September 21, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  12. ga1976

    I know that race is going to be apart of our live as love as people teach it to their kids,and if this country have two political party

    September 21, 2009 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  13. Kevin

    Is George Steph a racist now that he showed Obama a dictionary with the definition of a "tax" proving he lied about a tax increase.

    September 21, 2009 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  14. Chris

    Republicans: – One and for all :
    No one ever said that all republicans are racists.
    In fact we're saying most are not.


    A small minority are, and theyre showing it in public
    through their hateful speech and banners

    WHY NOT speak out about those people and put pressure
    on them to take their hate elsewhere, to distance yourself from them.

    Thats ALL independents and democrats are saying.

    NO youre not racist, but please tell that vocal racist dude
    that completely despise what theyre saying and to dissociate
    yourself from them.

    Thats all...
    ......................... too much to ask?

    September 21, 2009 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |

    I sure hope Bill Clinton is right. But there's the lunatic fringe (birthers, for example) who ARE also racist. Right in my Central Texas town I overheard two rednecks at a gas station while we were all filling up.

    One guy said, "We haven't had a good assassination since JFK.'
    And the other guy said, "Yeah. They're gonna bury Obama's black ass to Africa where he came from."

    This was so sick and it really bothers me.

    September 21, 2009 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  16. Joe Fattal

    If racism still exist in this country, Obama wouldn't have made it in the White House regardless how many votes he would have recieved. The only racist people left in this country, are some prominents black leaders that uses racism as a tool to achieve their financial benefits and promoting racism.

    September 21, 2009 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  17. catmom

    Which is exactly what Democrats are saying. It is only Republicans in Congress, conservative , right wing "entertainers" and the right wing nut cases who are trying to convince people that by pointing out racists tactics and rhetoric currently being used by them is racist. Their game plan is to blame the person being attacked and all those that are pointing it out. They know that gullible people will never admit to anything being racist and the best way to promote that is to blame the victim.

    September 21, 2009 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  18. Rob

    I never thought America had so many racist people. They hide out like everyone else, but under a guise of disagreement regarding policy they are actually just un-comfortable with a black man in charge of this country. The reason I feel this way is the number of jokes and comments circulating on the internet that are racially motivated or show racial stereotypes as the punch line. Like the one where there is water melon growing on the WH lawn and folks are saying well there isn't going to be an easter egg hunt this year....etc...

    September 21, 2009 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  19. Rose

    I believe that Bill Clinton is right, not all who oppose Obama's policies are racist, however, there is one point that no one makes regarding racism. I think it is a two way street. There are man black people who call white people some pretty nasty names as well. I truly believe that many black people voted for Obama simply because he is black.
    If the problem of racism is ever going to go away, it will take both sides, white and black to come to terms. That is going to be the problem because, in my opinion, it is the black people who scream racism, I don't hear whites saying that very often but it does exist.
    I recently saw a black man on u tube saying that all white people should be exterminated. It goes both ways.

    September 21, 2009 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  20. jon

    If Democrats think they're going to derail honest criticism of President Obama's failed domestic and foreign policies with insane allegations, they're in for a shock. They will see this in the coming elections. Jimmy Carter is a self-serving, bitter old man, who couldn't even free a few hostages during his time in office. He was the worst president in U.S. history and was proof-positive that elections have consequences. Obama would be wise to distance himself from this anti-Israel, far left loon; otherwise people may start drawing comparisons between the two, thus reducing his legacy to the joke that Carter's is.

    September 21, 2009 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  21. Mark F., Loganville, Ga

    I am just glad that prominent folks such as Presidents Carter and Clinton as well as Dave Matthews are acknowledging that some of the silly directives aimed at President Obama are because of the color of his skin. No one has ever said that all conservatives are racist. The ones who are against the sort of insulting rhetoric spewed at the president should speak up and separate themselves from the extremists. As a Black American most of us are always trying to fight stereotypes by calling out and separating the good from the bad. The conservatives should do the same. It only takes one bad apple.

    September 21, 2009 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  22. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

    "...this is one we need to win on the merits.”

    And since there are no merits to Obamacare, it's going to hard to do that.

    September 21, 2009 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  23. AndyB

    Bill Bill Bill What planet you coming from? All conservatives are racists, bigots and most of all anti-American. Their true leaders are Limbaugh, Beck, Coulter and Faux News et al to name a few.

    September 21, 2009 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  24. Jon B

    Way to go, Bubba! You expertly delivered the Race Card with a velvet glove.

    The person who I truly wanted to be president is an African American. Sadly, he didn't run. So, Bubba, am I racist against whites or blacks?

    I must be racist against something since I don't agree with you or the president...

    September 21, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  25. Markeith Lawson

    If President Obama was white Rep. Joe Wilson would have never shouted out "you lie" as bad a President Bush was no one ever did that in America!

    September 21, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
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