December 18th, 2007
07:15 AM ET
11 years ago

Former senator: Obama's Muslim roots 'a substantial strength'

Watch former Sen. Kerrey's interview in the Situation Room Monday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former senator Bob Kerrey, D-Nebraska, told CNN Monday that Sen. Barack Obama’s Muslim ancestry would add value in conducting American foreign policy if Obama wins the White House.

Obama is Christian but his father was Muslim as is his paternal grandmother and Obama lived in Indonesia, a Muslim country, early in his childhood.

While Kerrey acknowledged “there is a smear campaign going on,” in an effort to use Obama’s background against him, Kerrey told CNN’s John King “I feel it’s actually a substantial strength.” “That connection to Indonesia and a billion Muslims on this Earth, I think is a real strength,” explained Kerrey.

The former senator, who has endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton, also said that “as an African-American,” Obama “can speak in an authentic way to underperforming black youth who I think will follow his example.”

Kerrey spoke with John King Monday on The Situation Room.

Watch Kerrey's entire interview.

–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Faith • Hillary Clinton
soundoff (97 Responses)
  1. Eric, MD

    I was surprised by how many digs John Kerrey could take at Barack Obama, and how backhanded the remarks were.

    Posted By Peggy McGilligan, Washington, DC


    This endorsement came from Bob Kerrey, NOT John Kerry. Unlike the Senator from Massahussetts, Sen. Kerrey is a former Navy SEAL and true war hero. This is coming from a conservative that is not used to complimenting liberals.

    December 18, 2007 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  2. Mireille, Charlotte

    Oh the shame of it all.

    She's got so much help. Ex senators, Big Daddy Bush, Ex President and husband Bill Clinton.

    So much help and this is the best her campaign can do? Not only that. These tactics are old. didn't we tell her we want new and change, not smear and same?

    December 18, 2007 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  3. Fred, Greenwich, CT

    I never liked Bob Kerrey very much; there was always something about him that I didn't like. Now I know why I never liked him.
    As far as Hillary and Bubba Clinton are concerned, I would never vote for Hillary because I feel she is using subtle racial negatives to smear Obama and her husband, Bubba Clinton is doing her dirty work for her.
    If Hillary and Bubba win the nomination, I will vote for Huckabee if he wins the Republican nomination. I would consider Romney because my mother was a big fan of his father, George Romney. I would also vote for Ron Paul. I would never vote for Giuliana because he is just another Bubba Clinton skirt chaser.

    December 18, 2007 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  4. Justin, Columbus, OH

    It's pretty obvious that Kerrey, a Clinton-supporter, is raising the issue of Obama's 'Muslim ancestry' as a smear in the guise of a compliment. I didn't expect these kinds of underhanded attacks to happen until we were facing off against the Republican candidate. Ugh, I'm going to be sick...

    December 18, 2007 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  5. RuthieM

    I wish Obama would tell these folks thank you but no thank you on the compliments! Funny, they weren;t 'complimenting' him when like he said his poll numbers were 20 below.

    December 18, 2007 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  6. Mick B. Los Angeles Calif.

    Last I checked "Muslim" was not a race but a regligious choice. So how is it being racist?

    December 18, 2007 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  7. Ray, New Brunswick, NJ

    This is just another indicator of how the Clinton campaign is losing and trying desperately to regain its footing. Funny a short time ago, when Hillary was in the lead Obama was a nice guy. Now you have spineless Clinton edorsers who have sold out to the Clinton Machine, willing to make political kamikaze's (Bill Sheehan) and this guy. All of a sudden you have a recycled Magic Johnson endorsement story, and Campaign about people who know the "real" Hillary. lol. Who's next in line from the clinton camp to make an off the cuff attack, so Hillary can say she has no idea what's going on and "fire".

    December 18, 2007 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  8. b. moore johnson city tn.

    It,s bad enough he used to be or still is a closet muslim but the main thing i,m worried about he is a devout communist.

    December 18, 2007 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  9. JACK, NY, NY

    Too bad Obama isn't a Muslim and never was. He's a Christian!

    Shame on you, CNN, for repeating the lie!

    Posted By Bethany, St. Louis MO : December 18, 2007 10:33 am

    another pothead in complete denial of Obama's muslim roots. Can't change how he was raised.

    December 18, 2007 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  10. Mark, Shreveport, La

    Obama is NOT African-American; he's mixed race. Why does the media and his campaign refuse to admit that?

    December 18, 2007 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  11. JD, Syracuse, NY

    A good save for him.

    Thanks for pointing out Obama's muslim root though, although Obama has been trying hard to hide it, like not using his middle name "hussein".

    Now that reminds me Obama didnt pledge his allegiance to the american flag....

    December 18, 2007 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  12. Joe-KCMO

    It,s bad enough he used to be or still is a closet muslim but the main thing i,m worried about he is a devout communist.

    Posted By b. moore johnson city tn. : December 18, 2007 2:12 pm

    The main thing I'm worried about is devout idiots like you, moore. Do us all a favor and keep your ignorant ass home on election day.

    December 18, 2007 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  13. BobWhoCarey

    Seems like in his bid to be a VP candidate, he has fallen to great levels.

    December 18, 2007 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  14. Angela, Alexandria, VA

    Gloria Brizuela:

    You are DUMB on so many levels! Just because his first and last name say he's Muslim doesn't mean he is. And quite frankly, I've been Muslim my entire life and have never heard of the name Barak Obama. My last name is a Catholic, but I'm still Muslim. Name have nothing to do with it. A friend of mine has an Arabic last name, this doesn't automatically make her Muslim, she is Christian. It's SO sad to see how ignorant some people are.

    December 18, 2007 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  15. Julius

    Posted By Gloria Brizuela, Halifax, Canada : December 18, 2007 9:52 am
    I am Canadian and please let me apologize on behalf of my country for this low-level intellectual moron. I am in utterly shocked that we have such morons among us. I am an aficionado of Obama he is truly sui generis –God bless him. Obama/Bloomberg

    December 18, 2007 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  16. James D.

    How naive am I suppose to be? Calculated, the gutter dirty politics. A few months ago, I would have happily voted for any of the Democratic candidates. No Longer. I will not under any circumstances vote for Hillary Clinton. President Huckabee? So be it. I'll move to London.

    December 18, 2007 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  17. Vince, Phoenix AZ


    December 18, 2007 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  18. LQ, Rochester MN

    I've lost all respect for Bob Kerrey. This seems like a sleaze tactic to me. Anything to get that "Muslim" connection out. Personally, I really wouldn't care if he were Muslim, but he is Christian!! This is all fear-mongering, baiting these people who hate and fear Muslims.
    Then the comment about being able to talk to "underperforming black youth" – could this be a sneaky way to bring up Obama's youth, when he used some dope?
    Yeah, sounds like it is out of Karl Rove's handbook.
    I agree, let's start hearing about his white Christian mother!!
    Shame on you Kerrey

    December 18, 2007 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  19. Kim, Dallas, TX

    The roots of racism run so deeply in our country that any mention of differences causes distress for some. I would like to believe we are above that, but it's clear there are many that are not yet there. Having an understanding of differences can only help us with diplomacy. An eye for an eye mentality of this administration has not made America respected throughout the world. We need to overcome how we are currently viewed. Bush makes us look like a dictatorship desiring an empire by colonizing the middle east and controlling it's oil. It's going to take a very good leader to overcome these past seven plus years. I believe the Bush family and the Clintons are the most corrupt families we have ever had leading our country. Let's change the current face of our government and find someone that can restore the respect and integrity so lacking at this time. I support Obama because he has come from such a uniquely, diverse background. His understanding of the world, along with the experience he does have, and his good judgment are what our country needs. We DO NOT need one more corporate, lobbyist, pro-war supporter to lead our country. That will only continue the current course our country is on. With a recession looming over us and mistrust a common concern, really take the time to know what these candidates stand for and don't just follow along like blind sheep, or vote for someone simply because of their gender or race. I am female and yet would vote Republican for the first time if Hillary were nominated as the Democratic candidate.

    December 18, 2007 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    I question the validity of Sen Kerrey's role for the voice of people of color. It is a disservice and an abrubt attack for a white male of privilege to tell us -black people-who and what we need without understanding the role of racisim and historic discrimination in American. Sen Kerrey needs to re-evualte his beliefs before spounting loose ideals.

    December 18, 2007 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  21. Liberal Chic


    Posted By Vince, Phoenix AZ : December 18, 2007 6:43 pm

    his mother is not christian. she's an atheist (not that atheists are bad people). and his step father was a radical muslim and he lived in indonesia with them, so he does have a muslim background.

    December 19, 2007 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  22. J.S

    You can not even stand to read these comments anymore, since Obama has started back sliding in Iowa and N.H his supporters on the comment sections have become very negative and name calling. One can sure tell its the younger generation. I believe John Kerry bet a large chunk of his run on the young generation who are least likely to vote. Obama has been claiming it is time to replace the baby boomers. that is 48 and above. I wonder does he realize by history he himself is a baby boomer.

    December 20, 2007 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
1 2 3 4