January 8th, 2008
04:10 PM ET
12 years ago

Bill Clinton targets media coverage of Obama

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Watch Bill Clinton's comments Monday night.

(CNN) - On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, former President Bill Clinton criticized the media for not pressing Barack Obama more fully on Iraq, and accused the Illinois senator of shifting his position to reflect changing attitudes on the war.

"It is wrong that Sen. Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year, enumerating the years, and never got asked one time, not once, 'Well, how could you say that when you said in 2004 you didn't know how you would have voted on the resolution? You said in 2004 there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war," Clinton said at a campaign stop in Hanover, New Hampshire.

"And you took that speech you're now running on off your Web site in 2004. And there's no difference in your voting record and Hillary's ever since."

He added, "Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen."

Clinton's wife, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, is battling Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The former president briefly acknowledged that his wife's senior campaign advisor, Mark Penn, was mistaken to claim that Obama had no bounce out of Iowa after winning the state's caucuses because the poll numbers on the day after were relatively unchanged.

Then he abruptly changed the subject - suggesting that Obama's campaign had employed underhanded tactics.

"What did you think about the Obama thing calling Hillary the senator from Punjab? Did you like that? Or what about the Obama handout that was covered up, the press never reported on, implying that I was a crook. Scouring me - scathing criticism over my financial reports. Ken Starr spent $70 million and indicted innocent people to find out that I wouldn't take a nickel to see the cow jump over the moon.

"So you can take a shot at Mark Penn if you want. It wasn't his best day. He was hurt. He felt badly we didn't do better in Iowa," said Clinton. "But the idea that one of these campaigns is positive and the other is negative when I know the reverse is true - and I have seen it and I have been blistered by it for months - is a little tough to take. Just because of the sanitizing coverage that's in the media doesn't mean the facts aren't out there."

He added, lightheartedly, "Otherwise, I do not have any strong feelings about that subject."

The former president made the remarks as polls showed his wife trailing Obama in this important first-in-the-nation primary state.

Responding to the comments later Tuesday, Obama said the Clinton campaign was "frustrated," and he dismissed the notion the press has gone easier on him.

"Maybe I've been missing something, but it seems like you guys have been reporting on me the entire year," Obama told reporters. "I remember this summer when we were down 20 points, we were getting knocked around pretty good. And I didn't hear the Clinton camp complaining about how terrible the press was."

Related video: Watch John King and Jessica Yellin on Bill Clinton's comments

- CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

soundoff (1,430 Responses)
  1. sally

    Poor Clintons, They though the invisible

    January 8, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  2. Obama-man

    Slick Willie,

    I lost all respect for your wife when she decided to "stand by her man" after you embarrassed her and the country she so (teary-eyed and weeping) loves. But then, she used you as well to get herself positioned for the presidency.

    Both of you are hypocrites.

    January 8, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  3. David, Kansas City

    obama – edwards / edwards – obama... either ticket will defeat the republicans. But make no mistake, they are ALL crooks and liars. Including Hillary.
    The past 2 elections have been botched and swept to the extreme right.
    Anything other than that BS suits me fine.
    Obama has no experience? Fine, have him accept the VP nomination, with Edwards in the presidency.
    It's amazing that a platform as simple as "Change" for America gains so much support, huh? Perhaps that's because we're ready for and demanding change...?
    Hillary has some great strengths but I think it seems destined that she will not win. And if she were the nominee, she would not defeat the republican ticket.
    So let's stick with a chance to win and vote edwards,obama or obama,edwards in '08.

    January 8, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  4. Metto G

    I am democrat, and I am also a black educated woman, I agree with Bill Clinton, the media has been harder on Hilary than Obama. I will not vote for any candidate because of the color of his/her skin, neither will I vote for Hiliary because she is a woman. I will vote based on the one candidate I feel can do the job. I view this a a deleberate act by white America to ensure that a Republican will be in the white House. We all know that inspite of all the (hoop la) the Regan republicans will rather have a white women as a president than a black man. We have come a long way but racism is still with us...we have not come that far! Wake up black people this is all a game!. How many of you truly think that Obama will have any chance of winning the General Election?.

    January 8, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  5. Nancy - Dallas

    FINALLY! Maybe Bill can wake a few people up to this media-driven frenzy around Obama. I agree with him and others here it's unfair coverage and it is a fairy tale. I also agree it's an insult that the media think they can fool America into electing this man President of the United States with no experience at all. I have researched all the candidates and Obama is the least qualified of both parties. Please, America, wake up - do your home work - we do not need another inexperienced president in the White House.

    January 8, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  6. Susan S.

    Hillary Clinton is the one distorting her record on Iraq. What a nerve she has siccing Bill on Obama. I'm a flaming liberal and I can't stand her for exactly this reason.

    January 8, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  7. ABC

    I will vote for ABC (anyone but Clinton)

    The Clinton and Bush dynasty is over.

    Let's have some new changes.

    January 8, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  8. John

    Bye Bye Billy Boy

    January 8, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  9. Emmitt Bowles Chicago Il

    Former President Clinton's comments should be taken at face value.Especially after lying to the American Public about a scandal that almost caused him to be impeached.Negative comments and flippant attitudes are why Americans are so fed up with the American Political process.

    January 8, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  10. Gabe Polson, The Woodlands,TX

    It is about time the Clinton campaign started stating the obvious. Case-in-point...the final poll out of NH shows the race closed over night. CNN is touting a poll from two days ago with Obama leading by 9. However the latest poll released today shows the race has tightened with Obama leading by only 5. CBS also has a similar poll. I have watched CNN political reporters talk about the huge Obama crowds yet no stories about Clintons huge crowds. In fact, Clinton's rally in Manchester last evening drew more than 4000 people; the largest of any campaign this season. The night before there was a crowd of 3700 hundred in Nashua. But this is not being covered by the press. I feel the media is going to be disappointed when the NH primary is over and the race is a lot closer than they would have liked it to be. I don't care who you vote for but I want people to make up their own minds and don't let the media choose our President. Thats how we got the president we have now. That is why we need change.

    January 8, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  11. Karen

    Go Hillary!

    Obama is a slick talker and that's it. He wants to be President without doing any of the WORK to get there. He's only been in the Senate for two years and he's missed half of the votes. He's being held to a lower standard.

    January 8, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  12. Ted, Riverhead, NY

    Note to Billy: "Don't stop dreaming about tomorrow............." That's all you have now is dreams, cuz your philandering ass ain't going back to W's house!!!

    January 8, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  13. Armysoldier

    I am sick and tired of the Bush and the Clinton family. I do not want a Clinton in the White House. It is almost like the Clinton's believe that Hillary should be President because she is Hillary. The Clinton's have thier own agenda and it has nothing to do with the people of America. She speaks of all her years of experience so why is she crying because she is losing. I am not an Obama supporter, I am just anti Hillary. Please, I do not want the Clinton family in the White House.

    January 8, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  14. Mike

    Hey, Obama supporters,. I hear you: Bill should not express an opinion. But you fail to address the main point... What is so great about Obama other than he's not Clinton? What will he do that's different from Clinton/Edwards? Why is it that his lack of experience doesn't matter? How can he invoke the names of Bill Clinton and JFK and not invite comparisons to them? Why does he employ a lobbyist as his New Hampshire campaign chair while at the same time eschewing their influence? Why did he say he opposes the war and then vote to spend $400 million to fund it? Why does his insurance plan leave 15 million people without insurance? Why have objective observers noted that his environmental policy is toothless when compared to that of Clinton's or Edward's? These are legitimate questions that deserve answers, no matter who asks them.

    January 8, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  15. Al

    The Clintons are showing that they are poor loosers and it's ugly. If they keep these type of attacks up, Hillary's approval rating will be less than Bushs'. Show a little class and she may still have a chance.

    January 8, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  16. Margie, Atlanta, ga

    By the way, the media especially CNN, are biased and afraid to say anything negative about Obama. Why?, because they think any attack on him and the black community will be upset. Shame. What happened to balanced reporting and the viewers decide????. I am very dissappointed at John King, one of my favourite reporters. I know who they are all rooting for. Its so obvious in their individual comments. At least we know where fox news stand.

    January 8, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  17. Claustro

    Media bias, people. Right down to the 'Then he abruptly changed the subject.' Tell me that didn't make you feel something? They KNOW what to write. They KNOW how to make all the 'little human beings' feel the way they want you to. Get up and get out there and /talk/ with these candidates. Do NOT let these people (the media) paint you into their agenda. Obama? Clinton? Romney? Huckabee? Whoever! Just make sure you have the facts, and not some corporate smear job masking as truth.

    January 8, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  18. Mike in Kentucky

    "January 8, 2008 2:23 pm ET

    I believe that it is totally unfair and unjust that a former president–husband or not can get up in a public forum to speak on behalf of another candidate."

    That was from a post above.

    Bill Clinton did not surrender his First Amendment rights when his wife decided to run for President. No one has questioned Oprah's right to stump for her favorite candidate. There is little difference between the two in this regard, both are powerful, high profile national figures.

    By the way, politics has been, is and will probably always be a dirty business regardless of how much we "hope" it won't. There is simply too much at stake for niceness.

    And to tell the trruth, I want a President who knows how to attack and defend, the world is a harsh place.

    January 8, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  19. dorothy

    This is one of the most exciting years we have ever had. I don't want to run down any candidate. I want change and for the better for all, not just a few people. I like Hillary, Obama, John and anyone of the them can bring about change for the better for all. Everyone needs to get out and vote. This race is only about personality because no one's really asking the right questions, like how are you gonna make changes and what makes you think You can. I don't know why anyone would want this job but thank God we get to help choose who will Try and I say Try to make the lives better for all. I will vote Democrate because it's time.

    January 8, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  20. Harry

    God, what a hypocrite! I can remember a little more than 16 years ago the same things happening to Bill Clinton; the media tossing up "softball questions", his waffling on topics of National and International importance, the list can go on. His accusation of "underhanded tactics" against his wife was the same tactics his campaign team pulled off in 1992 and 1996. I beleive 'ol Bill is suffering from a touch of slective memory loss!

    January 8, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    Why is Bill complaining now?

    January 8, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  22. The Saint

    Finally, someone said what I have been thinking for months. Leave it to the greatest president of my lifetime to step up and say it right!

    Edwards '08!

    January 8, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  23. Mike H.

    I'm no fan of the Clintons but Bill is right on in arguing that the media has given Obama a free pass. We are in the midst of an important presidential election and the American public is being asked to buy a pig in a poke by the New York Times, Newsweek and CNN. There has been virtually no examiniation of Obama's views, record (such as it is) or how he would turn his high hopes into reality. The press depicts Obama as the Second Coming and is failing us miserably. Mike H.

    January 8, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  24. Jill

    Ladies and Gents:
    There are great people running for the Democratic Party's nomination. Our problem is we have an embarrassment of riches. The differences among the Democratic candidates are slight. Emotions are high. Everyone on the campaign trail is exhausted. Let's not become like the other party by tearing each other to pieces or attacking each other personally. I, for one, will be thrilled to pieces with ANY of our candidates as the Party's nominee, and will support him or her all the way to 1600 PA Ave.

    January 8, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  25. nathan Smith

    I'm pulling for hillary, and I hope they win, it always takes a clinton to clean up after a bush, however Obama wouls also be good, I hope they will join forces, that would truly unify our party.

    January 8, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
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