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:
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.
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