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. Blue in a Red State

    Unfortunately, Obama opened himself up for this. The gloves are off on both sides. We'll see who is left standing at the end.

    January 8, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  2. hollie

    We need to start raising the voting age.......end of story.

    January 8, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  3. Seam, Philly PA

    WOW. Talk about desperation. The true Clinton colors are coming out full force with all the negative attacks. It doesn't matter what you say Bill, it's time for change.

    Obama 08' – take that Mr. Bill Clinton.

    January 8, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  4. Please read the truth

    Please be informed!


    January 8, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  5. Ryan, New York, NY

    <i?Gbryant January 8, 2008 12:39 pm ET
    It is about time someone talked more about the sugar coating of the media and why Obama Hussein has not been interrogated like everyone else. Let's start with his family in Kenya. There are so many unanswered questions.

    It might help if you were a little more descriptive about what questions you want answered about his family in Kenya because I have no idea what you're talking about. It sounds like a thinly veiled attack on his heritage and is going towards that "Obama is a Muslim" smear.

    Am I right? Or are you unwilling to answer a straighforward question just like Hillary?

    January 8, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  6. gene

    The news media, MSNBC, CNN and Fox over this past few months has been bias and almost shameless way they have been reporting the primary election. In fact, on the Sunday Reliable Source show, one of the reporters stated that he was embarrased by the way the last two months of this primary season had been reported. The Hillary bashers on these post are either republicans and independent that are Clinton haters. The bias starts with their stupid headlines that starts out with a negative and then tries to go on to prove it. As the primaries move towards super tuesday and to those states where the democrats and the republicans get to vote on just who they want to be their candidates, Hillary will win in the end.

    January 8, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  7. S in Texas

    It is very sad that many people once again are blinded by "words and phrases" and "personal appeal" and not looking deeper into the political background of Obama and Edwards. The media nor the commentators who appoint themselves political experts do not question what Obama says or what he has or hasn't done. They treat Obama like the golden boy–the rock star. They have crowned him—no questions asked. But this will not help cure the ills of our country. Everything said on CNN and MSNBC is negative concerning Hillary. No one has mentioned the last speech she gave last night in Manchester much less commented on what she said. The media knows what they are doing. They don't like her and they don’t want her to win. So they plant in the minds of views how bad she is and is doing. There are a lot of misinformed and stupid people out there—they believe everything they see and hear from he media. Yes, the media knows exactly what they are doing. Hillary has a lot of strikes against her and no matter if people do not want to voice it–the main one is that she is a woman and political standards are different when it comes to Hillary. Watching the debate on Saturday confirmed to me that the good ole boy network is alive and well. Edwards and Obama demonstrated that on national TV. It was sickening. It's sad that many voters are aiming at putting our country once again in the hands of an inexperienced candidate and are willing to risk all that for personal appeal. The presidency is not a popularity contest. Just like when we hire employees, we should not hire the candidate based on their looks and how pretty they sound during the interview. But instead we should hire based on their employment record– what have they done and accomplished during their years that qualifies the individual for the position. I pray that this country doesn’t make another mistake by voting on appearances instead of truth. Hillary, you will always have my vote!

    January 8, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  8. JCH


    You wrote the textbook on underhanded, shady, negative politics. And where did it get us? A broken, divisive, inefficient system. Stop trying to put down a man of integrity who has run a clean campaign. Go away. We don't want your brand of politics anymore. It's tiresome, it's ugly and we will prove in 2008 UNSUCCESSFUL.

    GO OBAMA '08!

    January 8, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  9. Mike

    Is he really criticizing the same media that uses James Carville and Paul Begala as "independent" political commentators? Your time is over Bill, step aside and stop lowering yourself to unpresidential levels of desperation.

    January 8, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  10. DD, New York

    Family Values: Hillary has her mother living with her and her family. Obama has a grandmother and uncle living in Kenya, STILL in poverty.

    January 8, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  11. Linda

    "Change" doesnt' include 4 more years of the Clintons. But four years of a man without a plan isn't a good idea either. Obama can spread pixie dust everywhere he goes but what good will that do him when he tries to deal with the Middle East? Or North Korea? Or our own Congress for that matter. Bill's right, it's a fairytale.

    January 8, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  12. john barber

    wow if that's not negative you sure fooled me. That was Bill defending the fact that hillary is not running a negative campaign. Let's just consider the source, the response, and the defense-nuff said!

    January 8, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  13. lorraine

    Bill Clinton right -Obama is nothing more than a Fairy Tale and we better wake up and do some real serious looking at him, I of course am a Hillary supporter and would like to see her win, she is what you see you are going to get, no secrets, my God we have lived through everything with her and seen she has the backbone and strength to lead us.

    January 8, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  14. Mati

    Double standards were systematically applied in looking at candidates' records. Bill Clinton is absolutely right. Whoever started this should be ashamed. It was very low politics. Hillary is the only one who explained how she would govern. Edwards too, even if all his fight against corporations is quite difficult to accept. Hillary clearly pointed a pragmatic approach, analyze issues one by one and balance budgets. This is how you fix things. Obama was the one who said nothing concrete.. only words and vagueness about this self-government vision that God knows what it means.

    I am glad Bill Clinton spoke out and pointed this unfairness. The campaign is not over, and I hope Hillary will have the strength to continue. However, America is like in dark ages when it comes to gender equity. Its a shame.

    January 8, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  15. Jack M.

    Bill, it's over. We are onto your game. We don't like you or your wife. NH voters can see through you. Go to the race track and have some fun.

    January 8, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  16. Kathy

    I absolutely adore Bill Clinton. If he could run again I would vote for him in a heartbeat. But Bill is better off keeping quiet. He sounds a little desperate right now.

    January 8, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  17. LGD

    Go Hillary!
    One minute she is criticized for being too hard and stoned faced and no people are criticizing her emotion as weakness. It’s about time the true Hillary is shown and her passion displays the love for this country and ALL the people that are in it. Her experience and expertise demonstrates leadership in this up-side down country.
    Don't get me wrong Obama is good in the position that he is in (Senator) and I think he would be an excellent Vice, but for 2008.....Hillary all the way!!!!

    January 8, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  18. Rob

    Wait a minute.... he wasnt complaining before Iowa about the media? Maybe thats why everyone was calling it the Clinton News Network.

    January 8, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  19. James

    I think the war in Iraq is half the issue.. I think people don't like your wife, Bill.

    January 8, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  20. terry

    I'm sick of cnn not hitting the important isuess concerning the candidates Qiut putting your cameras on Obama People who are fired up for him don't have an idea the important issues at stake. Obama has not proven any thing that tells me he could handle the serous crisis we face over seas . If you folks wanna see A Movie Star GO TO HOLLYWOOD. Don't mess this up for the folks who are concerned about our dead and the young Men dieing every hour, Hillary or McCain is the answer. Terry

    January 8, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  21. jawhar rajan

    It is time that we have someone other than a "Bush" or a "Clinton" in the white house. This America and we do not have Dynastic governments here. So lets move on to some new faces and new ideas for America.


    January 8, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  22. Shelly, Greenville SC

    "implying that I was a crook"? What is there to imply? You ARE a crook. No past tense about it!

    January 8, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  23. Wayne

    The hot air has deflated. Too bad, Mr. President.

    You cant beat the people even if you have a whole network named after your name - CNN.

    The people have spoken. Enough is Enough!

    January 8, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  24. lorraine

    roger: all former presidents make money from speeches and appearances

    January 8, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  25. Mike

    Wow....although I agree with him, this is why past Presidents shouldn't run for First Lady. Let's all just hope Laura Bush doesn't run in 2012.

    January 8, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
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