January 13th, 2008
09:15 AM ET
10 years ago

Clinton blames Obama campaign for comment controversy

The campaigns of Clinton and Obama have sparred over recent comments.

The campaigns of Clinton and Obama have sparred over recent comments.

(CNN) - Democrat Hillary Clinton said news reports that a key black lawmaker in the early-voting state of South Carolina had criticized her campaign for recent comments were inaccurate – and blamed the stories and much of the recent controversy on rival Barack Obama’s campaign.

"Well you'll have to look at the sources of some of it, but it is something I was disturbed by… I think it clearly came from Sen. Obama's campaign, and I don't think that it's the kind of debate we should be having in our campaign," Clinton told reporters Saturday after a campaign stop.

Clinton had faced criticism over comments she made in Fox News interview in which she tried to make a point about presidential leadership by comparing the legacies of President John Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done,” Clinton said, in a claim that her experience was more important than Obama’s soaring rhetoric.

Several African-American leaders objected to the comparison. On Friday, Democrat Rep. Jim Clyburn, a powerful member of congressional leadership, signaled his displeasure with her remarks in comments published in the New York Times.

“We have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics. It is one thing to run a campaign and be respectful of everyone’s motives and actions, and it is something else to denigrate those. That bothered me a great deal,” said Clyburn.

Clyburn, who has not made an endorsement in the Democratic presidential primary, later released a statement signaling his intent to remain neutral and encouraging White House hopefuls “to be sensitive about the words they use.”

African-American voters make up roughly half of the Democratic electorate in Clyburn's key early-voting home state of South Carolina, where Obama now holds a double-digit edge over Clinton in most recent polls. The Democratic primary there is scheduled for January 26.

Clinton and Obama have spent the past few days locked in a heated back-and-forth over the issue, culminating in a Friday Politico report in which Obama spokeswoman Candice Tolliver said “a cross-section of voters are alarmed at the tenor of some of these statements,” and that the New York senator would have decide whether apologies were in order.

“There’s a groundswell of reaction to these comments — and not just these latest comments but really a pattern, or a series of comments that we’ve heard for several months… Folks are beginning to wonder: Is this really an isolated situation, or is there something bigger behind all of this?” said Tolliver.

Clinton tried to defuse the issue when asked how big of a factor race would be during the primary season. "I hope none you know I don't think either Sen. Obama or myself want to see the injection of race or gender into this campaign. We're each running as individuals."

–CNN's Sasha Johnson and Rebecca Sinderbrand

soundoff (305 Responses)
  1. Dave4Change

    It's time to get focused! I would like to see the discussion be more about what the candidates would actually do to change the directions of this country. Obama's focus has been on an uplifting campaign reaching all Americans. It is the Clinton's that want to paint him as a "black" candidate. I don't believe that Obama wants to have the race discussion. How would his campaign benefit from doing this? It wouldn't and the Clinton's know it. It is the Clinton's who want to draw him into race discussions by the subtle hits they have been making toward him. Hillary's experience has made it clear to us who her choice for president was when she worked for Barry Goldwater while LBJ was president. Can you imagine what Civil Rights would look like w/ Goldwater? There wouldn't be any! The Clinton's know that Bob Johnson's comments were beyond offensive. How could she embrace this man and lower herself to his level? The Clinton's shouldn't stand behind him or his comments if they don't support it! America knows what he was actually referencing and he should be denounced by the Clintons. Everyone is not picking on "poor Hillary". There are no distortions! Her statements (and Bill's)were insensitive and she should have been challenged. Wake up
    African Americans! The Clinton's are living in a "fairy tale" if they think African Americans will be insulted and have their votes taken for granted. A democratic vote does not have to be for the Clinton dynasty. It's time for a change!!! Hillary needs to become a true leader and apologize to Obama and all citizens for the impact of her insensitive words. And, the likes of Bob Johnson is no different from Al Sharpton or others. He was offensive and she knows it! We need a president who will bring people together. These comments from Hillary is a demonstration of the type of experience this country does not need.

    After years of voting for and supporting the Clintons, I am voting for Obama!

    January 14, 2008 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  2. Ex-Clinton supporter

    It's actually kind of sad that I used to support Clinton, when she was on top she never said a bad thing about her compeditiors. She just stuck to her issues and defended herself, the second she lost Iowa her campaign changed....it wasn't about the issues anymore it was just about winning... she has become just another stereotypical politician using whatever the hot topic of the day saying whatever she has to to convince people to vote for her. This whole comment bickering was started by Bill he was the first to twist Obama's words during the build up to New Hampshire and as a part of the Clinton campaign the fault lies on Sen. Clinton.

    January 15, 2008 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  3. Cecile

    Quote: “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done,” Clinton said, in a claim that her experience was more important than Obama’s soaring rhetoric."
    She's right you know.

    January 15, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  4. Z, St. Louis

    Hillary is mainly P.O'd because she was pretty well nailed for using
    her surrogates to attack the other candidates while she stays "clean".
    The mistake was, she had Bill do it, and she's too close to him for it
    not to be obvious she was behind the attack ploy. Now she has Charley Rangle
    from the peanut gallery continuing the same message while trying to
    deflect away from her Machiavellian plan. She's as two faced and sleazy
    as Romney..Her polyester pantsuits and phoney smiles and tears are all
    the outward signs of her plastic persona..


    January 15, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  5. Jimmie - Las Vegas NV

    Clinton has said she would never bring in race or gender into the campaign, but I can count two times that she has gone back on her own words – and some voters want to trust this woman as a president!

    January 16, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
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