September 21st, 2009
07:37 PM ET
5 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. ken

    If a majority of white Americans were racist, Obama would not be President now. Opposition to his health care proposals are ideological, not based on who is doing the proposing. To say this is racist is another attempt to demonize the opposition, something we see too much of from both sides in our politics. Debate about the role and size of the government has been around as long as our republic; it is a valid debate in which good people can disagree. Those calling opposition to their point of view racist are removing themselves from this category.

    September 21, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  2. Daniel R. Peirce

    Because God knows, there are no racist Democrats or liberals. Gimme a break.

    September 21, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  3. Jeremy

    Finally...FINALLY, one thing I agree with Bill Clinton on "And I believe that if her were white, every single person who opposes him now, would be opposing him then." I never thought I would say that about Clinton... :-)

    September 21, 2009 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  4. The Mamba

    Jimmy Carter is the only person so far to have the cojones to call it like it is. President Obama has to say it's not racism, but the WH knows what is driving the nastiness being directed at him. No president has ever been the target of the type of ugly rhetoric and personal attacks being spewed by the right wing obstructionists. This is not playing the race card, just stating facts: Racism is alive and well, thriving in the U.S, and Obama is a target.

    September 21, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  5. Julie

    The racism I see on the blogs, on FOX, in the town halls, from Republicans and their leaders – makes me hurt and angry – I've even spewed out crap back in response – and for that I feel ashamed. No more blogs and no more watching FOX for me!

    September 21, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  6. Jason L

    If you dont agree with this president it seems your always going to be called a rasist. Belive it or not some of the Presidents votes came to him because he was Black, like it or not.
    But did we forget about his Rev. that was blasting Whitey on a video?

    I guess we must have. What I'm gettng at is, it comes from both ends the left and the right, black, white, red, brown, what ever.

    And until we stop teaching it to our children it's going to stay with us.

    Jason

    September 21, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  7. the girl

    it's the socialism stupid! are you blind, deaf and dumb? obama has to get his controlling hands out of everything. he is supposed to be a president – not a king!

    September 21, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  8. DORSEY MARSHALL

    I take issue with former Presidents Clinton and Carter, who claim racism as part of President Obama's plight. Yes, there is still an element of racism in this country, but these former Presidents do not speak for me. President Obama's negative press primarily stems from the poor choices and decisions he has made. And, like typical humans, he wants to blame someone else for his own mistakes. Let President Obama take some responsibility for HIS actions!

    September 21, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  9. lluvia

    I completely agree with Ex-president Bill Clinton. A great solution would be more African Americans and more Hispanics should run for office and lets all vote them in. This would change the pictures nationally quickly.

    September 21, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  10. roger

    People were and are against Obama not because of race it was his 145 days as a senator. His history with Acorn and neighborhood organizer Never running a business Voting present on the hard questions in Chicago . Lets face it he gives a great speech and got the people involved. They voted for change and now the change is not what they wanted. Yes Bush had a part in it when he did the first bail out of 700 billion and filled with goodies. Then AIG stockbrokers car companies the WAR health care.while taking over the govrnment. The people are pissed millions going to DC to protest and want to take back their government. These people love this country want this country to be a better place for their children want a strong defense low taxes and take care of our fellow man in the US and the world. Jimmy Carter was wrong as president and is still wrong today

    September 21, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  11. Przemek

    Too funny. So when Bush was criticized were his critics called left wing extremists? So are we now putting Obama's critics on the same level as terrorists? Extremist is pretty close to a terrorist. This is just getting out of hand. Democrats need to get a reality check. Anyone who criticizes Obama is now labeled either a right wind extremist or a racist. Get a grip Bill.

    September 21, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  12. Ruth Smith

    What a bunch of bunk!!......no body cares if the president is PURPLE...it is his policies and actions.

    September 21, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  13. Lawrence Moses

    Clinton hit it right on the button. The democrats definitely have to focus on getting healthcare reform through and put aside the racism against our president for the time being. Obama will endure much more of it throughout his presidency and the democrats should save the fight against the racism for another day.

    September 21, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  14. Tim

    I am tired of the race card being played over and over. If someone doesn't like Obama and his policies, then he is a racist. It is another way to guilt people into liking the guy...call them racists until they fall in line.

    September 21, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  15. Charley B.

    Bill Clintons comments are on the same ignorant intellectual level of those of Jimmy Carter and should be regarded of similar significance.

    Nobody cared what they said when they were president and nobody cares now.

    September 21, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  16. phoenix86

    Pretty ironic, given that Obama's camp charged Clinton with racism during the campaign.

    The ONLY group that is sowing racist animosity is the Obama crowd. They are the most racist bunch ever to hold office.

    September 21, 2009 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  17. bess

    we thought Bill C was smarter than this - joining the Dem's desperate efforts to silence everyday American's by calling them an offensive name with cheap-shot tactics of poor taste. guess we were wrong.

    September 21, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  18. Jacque

    No matter what any body says and how often they say it, it is racism and they resent having an African American president, but guess what, get over it!

    September 21, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  19. yen

    Yes, there will be racially motivated ressistance to Obama's Health Plan.

    September 21, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  20. Bill

    First the worst president in history, Jimmy Carter, says it and now Bubba says it. The truth of the matter is that the only color that matters in the current situation is red. That is the color of Mr Obama's policies, straight from the Communist Manifesto. The more the Dems misread the publics anger with this big government takeover of the economy, the bigger trouble they are in for 2010.

    September 21, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  21. Obama fan...Yes!

    The Elder Statesman speaks wisdom as usual

    September 21, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  22. beauderek

    He contradicts himself when he says if Obama was white the same people would oppose him as those who oppose him as a black man. Wouldn't that mean the opposition is because of disagreement with the healthcare plan and not because of the color of his skin? Please make up your mind whether or not anytime we don't agree with a policy from this administration if we're racist or we're just Americans enjoying our First Amendment rights.

    September 21, 2009 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  23. Bobby

    Are some criticisms of Barack Obama's policies racially motivated? Absolutely. It's only been a year since the campaign and there are still those who believe that Obama forged his Hawaiian birth certificate, is Islamic – which shouldn't matter, and is trying to take over America, whether it'd be for his "terrorist buddies" or with socialism. And let's not forget there are those who still have Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright in the back of their minds. It's rhetoric all designed to scare America, and Republicans are adding fuel to the fire when they say that his proposals are going to have budget concerns. Well guess what? Whatever they propose will have the same budget concerns!

    WE LIVE IN A RACIST AMERICA! Just because we were able to elect a black President by no means indicates that racism is over. If you want to find racism towards him, all you have to do is Google it.

    September 21, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  24. Donna

    I am not one to use the racism card however, I do believe there is this element in the opposition to this president. I see it in my own family where relatives that I would never imagine speaking in the manner they do against a sitting president are critical and demeaning in everything from his birth certificate to his "Muslim" connections to this health care issue. It is dispicable and I find it hard to be in the same room with them. It's so sad...it really is.

    September 21, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  25. Charles Harold

    Clinton is on target, as he usually is. I also agree with those who state that a lot of white southerners, in particular, are either consciously or unconsciously ill at ease with the growing reality that whites will be the minority within a generation. (By the way, I am a white, southern male.) Change doesn't come easy, so these anxieties are understandable, but, of course, this doesn't justify the racist and even violent rhetoric coming from the extreme right.

    September 21, 2009 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
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