December 20th, 2007
11:50 AM ET
15 years ago

Kerrey apologizes to Obama for Muslim comments

Kerrey formally apologized to Obama.

(CNN) - Former Sen. Bob Kerrey sent a letter to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama Wednesday in which he apologized for raising the issue of the Illinois senator’s Muslim heritage on the campaign trail several days ago.

Kerrey, who has endorsed Hillary Clinton, had earlier told a reporter that he hoped Obama would continue to play a role in public life because he can reach out to Muslims worldwide. He made the remarks following an event at which he officially announced his support for the New York senator’s candidacy.

"It's probably not something that appeals to him, but I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama and his father was a Muslim and this his paternal grandmother is a Muslim,” he said at the time. “There's a billion people on the planet that are Muslims and I think that experience is a big deal."

Related video: Kerrey defends comments in CNN interview Monday

Critics said the comments were intended to remind voters of Barack Obama’s Muslim heritage. Kerrey denied the accusation.

In his letter, Kerrey has high praise for the man he didn't endorse:

Dear Barack,

I want to sincerely apologize for the remarks I made on Sunday in Council Bluffs, Iowa, after an event at which I endorsed Senator Hillary Clinton's Presidential candidacy. I answered a question about your qualifications to be President in a way that has been interpreted as a backhanded insult of you. I assure you I meant to do just the opposite.

After you and I met during your primary campaign for the Senate, I wrote a public letter in which I said that that you were among the two or three most talented people I have ever met in politics. Nothing in your performance in the Senate or your campaign for the Presidency has altered that view.

The question I was asked in Iowa on Sunday was something like this: "Senator Kerrey, you ran for President in your first term in the Senate. If you were qualified, why isn't Senator Obama?" With the benefit of my computer's capacity to make certain that my words reflect my belief let me answer that question in this letter which you are free to use anyway you choose.

You are exceptionally qualified by experience and judgment to be President of the United States. I do not doubt that you would use the power of the Presidency to bring peace and prosperity to as many people as possible on our fragile planet. You inspire my highest hopes for that office's potential: That it be used as a force for good in America and the world.

It is your capacity to inspire hope that is your greatest God given talent. Without spending a dime of tax payer's money or changing a single law your presence in the Oval Office will send a clear and compelling message to four groups of people who will be altered for good as a consequence. That was what I was trying to say on Sunday and what I hope I said more clearly in this letter.

Again, I am sorry for the insult and wish you the best on January 3 and beyond.

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Respectfully yours,

Bob Kerrey

An aide for the Obama campaign, which provided CNN with a copy of the letter, said that "of course Obama accepts his apology."

–CNN’s Jessica Yellin

soundoff (157 Responses)
  1. Jack Berkeley, CA

    FOR ALL WHO MAY HAVE MISSED THIS POST - IT BEARS REPEATING: "I don't know about the rest of you, but I am getting a little sick and tired of Obama's thin skin.

    You're running for President of the Unites States of America – suck it up, man!

    Jeesh, already!!

    Posted By Ron, Regina, Saskatchewan : December 20, 2007 12:16 pm"

    🙂 YES from the perspective of a neutral party!!!

    December 21, 2007 02:38 am at 2:38 am |
  2. Heather, Nashville, TN

    While I have no problem with his heritage I do wonder about where he goes to church now. The May 07 issue of the magazine I believe it was the United Century Chrsitian had a revealing article on the church and how it was about advancing the African American which normally would be his business but we, when looking for a president need to view all aspects of their lives before making our choice.

    December 21, 2007 03:31 am at 3:31 am |
  3. calvincito, Tampa, Florida

    This is such blatant and transparent effort to demean Obama with lies and innuendo it's despicable. Hilary better rein herself and her surrogates in or all the denials about her veracity and fairness will fall on deaf ears.

    December 21, 2007 04:22 am at 4:22 am |
  4. james

    so if i understand this right.....Obama is a communist junki islamic fundamentalist?

    ok, just checking..

    also I did not know you could inherit muslim. My great great grandfather was a turk.... Does that mean I inherited some muslim from him?

    December 21, 2007 04:35 am at 4:35 am |
  5. calvincito, Tampa, Florida

    Reading through some of the postings on this issue is another clear indication that our schools are failing miserably at fostering critical thinking. In many cases lies now pass for facts because too many of us are so wed to a position we filter out anything that should make us take pause and reevaluate our positions/opinions. Such a sorry state of affairs. This is one of the reasons we got George Bush (twice).

    December 21, 2007 04:38 am at 4:38 am |
  6. ariane, brazil

    He should now issue an apology to muslims for apologizing to Obama!

    December 21, 2007 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  7. Mark R. Fort Lauderdale FL

    stoopid,stoopid,stoopid! (misspelling intended for effect)

    December 22, 2007 03:28 am at 3:28 am |
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