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. Bob Potter

    Clinton is not being truthful about Clyburn. He is genuinely offended and her remarks may help her lose the SC primary. Her true colors–and those of her husband's–are showing through in the stress of a hard-fought campaign. They will do or say almost anything to be elected.

    January 13, 2008 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  2. redflag

    All these white people including Clinton need to watch what they say- there will be reprisals. White people are never giving us our due. This will change once Obama becomes president. Your years of racism are about to come to an end!

    January 13, 2008 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  3. Markus

    MLK spoke up for the black but also the poor. Obama is the second coming of MLK! We shall overcome and now we will also have jobs that pay us twice as much as before!

    January 13, 2008 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  4. EE

    I dont support Sen Obama but in all fairness its silly for Sen Clinton to accuse Obama for being behind the reactions of the black leaders .I dont know why Sen Clinton is doing everything to drag Obama into a race argument when Obama has made it abundantly clear that he doesnt talk race.

    If Sen Clinton wants to talk race let her go and meet Al Sharpton or Clyburn who reacted to her interview. This attempt to drag Obama into race issues seems to me like a tactic to start dividing the country again. Is it divide and conquer?

    January 13, 2008 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  5. tyu90

    What is Clyburn arguing? MLK could have signed the Civil Rights legislation into law? LBJ (flaws and all) had a lot of guts for the time period- a white southern president making civil rights a cornerstone of his presidency for the time period was amazing.

    Talk about trying to re write history

    January 13, 2008 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  6. William

    The Clintons are master spin-doctors. The definition of "is" is whatever they need it to be, the "fairy tale" alludes to whatever they need it to be. Their patterns of shifty rhetoric are starting to wear on undecided voters. Count me in as another South Carolina Democrat who disapproves and will vote for Obama.

    January 13, 2008 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  7. charlotte

    Hillary is correct about that, Without the Civil Rights Act, Martin Luther Kings' dream would have been just that, a dream. Susan B. Anthonys, fight for womens right to vote, would also be just a dream without the law to back it up. She was not comparing the two, merely pointing out the president must sign the law, or have their veto overrode by the congress, or all the protest are for naught . The president can also do a pocket veto. Don't sign anything, just let it expire.

    January 13, 2008 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  8. Anonymous

    The Clinton's are very caculating and know at all times what they are doing. There was no mistake on this matter. Shame on them....

    January 13, 2008 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  9. Desiree

    The Obama camp is playing the race card just to get votes. His campaign is just a lot of talk. He has the power to move people with his words but nothing comes out. He feels he can get the sympathy vote with his ads like "mother".

    January 13, 2008 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  10. Jack K.

    That's rich.

    You now...the one breath of fresh air with John Edwards campaign-he only tries to take credit for things he's actually done.

    Hillary places herself, Bill, and Johnson–right up there with ML King.

    Too bad the "big money" liberal lobbyists like NEA and AARP are pushing the DNC to distance itself from John Edwards





    He might be able to make some changes. The DEM party is so scared of losing the gargantuan donations from "big money" they've left John Edwards dangling in the wind–when his agenda is closest to the "purported beliefs" of the party.

    If Obama or Hillary win the DEM nomination–I'm either going to vote for John McCain or just stay home on election day.

    January 13, 2008 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  11. Xavier, Washington DC

    Sen Clinton, you can't minimize the importance of MLK and not expect the black community to get upset. Outside of Jesus, he's the most revered person in the black community. You can't blame Obama because you committed a major no no. For the first time, the Clintons are not considered the black candidate and are under a scrutiny by the black community that they've never faced before. Stop crying about the backlash and take your lumps like a grown up.

    January 13, 2008 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  12. Xtina Chicago, IL

    How typical of Shillary to play the victim even though it was Bill's big mouth that said the words.

    January 13, 2008 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  13. OJC, PHX

    Coming from the Obama Campaign? Seriously? How about coming out of your mouth? Just so you understand...

    Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most important figures in African American heritage. To diminish his role in ending the biggest stain on this countries history, Is just not gonna fly with many people in the black community.

    First, I don't even understand how what she said was relevant anyway. Is her assertion that Obama wouldn't have had the "courage" to sign the bill? I think we can all agree thats just silly.

    So, was she trying to say a black man can only do so much, it takes a white person to get it done? I am guessing "No", because an Obama presidency would give him the power to make such decisions. So thats silly too.

    Clyburn was the one the spoke out and he has pubically stayed neutral up until this point

    Hillary knows that invoking the issue of race (dinimishing MLKs efforts, in light of LBJ is obviously invoking race) is going to spark reactions, some positive some negative. I think that its a part of her campaign stratgy, but I just don't think its wise. Why go there?

    Stop blaming Obama for peole reacting to what you say. How about stop race baiting and tell people what you are gonna do for them.

    January 13, 2008 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  14. mike

    ahh hillary you can not say that and be real... what so you want hiom to do ask one of his staffers to resign. it did not come from him, it came from you playing your gender card and as a consolation prize you got obama accidentally playing the race card. how does that feel?

    January 13, 2008 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  15. J. McKinney SW MO

    Yes, let's pick apart the wording of every sentence the Clintons make, and try to make something racist out of it. Obama is living his life as a black man (tho I realize he is only half black) so for some reason every tiny criticism of his campaign can be blamed on racism, which is ridiculous. He should be able to be criticized for different areas of his campaign without everyone screaming "racism".

    And as far as Hillary's comment on King and LBJ. Is it true that King's "dream" started to come true when LBJ passed the civil rights act of 1964? If so, then what is the problem of Hillary mentioning that?

    I realize you Obama followers want him to win, but let's stop screeching "racism' every time someone says something negative about him. Let's face it–he needs more experience, and experience has nothing to do with white or black.

    January 13, 2008 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  16. Eric

    With all the divisiveness that Clyburn, Jackson and Sharpton are perpetuating, I figure it won't be long before they publish their own "Declaration of Independence", cecede from the US and form the AUSA (African United States of America). Guys, it's time to stop putting race in everything. You are hurting the Obama campaign much more than helping it and you don't realize it. I shouldn't complain because I support Hillary. BUT, you are fracturing the country at the same time. You are alienating people and pushing us backwards.

    If you continue to criticiize every white person for opening their mouth, you'll push us backwards 60 years. Speaking of the civil rights movement, you're acting against it.

    January 13, 2008 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  17. S Wiliams

    Hillary's comments reveal she knows nothing about the civil rights movement.

    African-Americans will soon see that they're dedication to the democratic party has been unjustified. Protest the democratic party, BECOME INDEPENDENT!

    Hillary's 'fake' mean-nothing programs such as '3 month moratoriums on foreclosures' don't fool anyone.

    She will say anything to get elected.

    And Bill Clinton was NOT the first black president.

    January 13, 2008 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  18. cathy

    So Clinton is saying CLYBURN is Obamas PUPPET?

    And that HER words were OBAMAS FAULT?

    THAT isn't going to go over very well.

    January 13, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  19. James D.

    Hillary...GET A CLUE! Maybe Obama's campaign is doing things to keep your comments alive in the press...BUT.... *YOU* made the comments on national TV. Don't blame for Obama for your insensitive comments. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your actions.

    ditto for Bill calling Obama "a fairytale". Stupid and demeaning. Gee...that's who I want to vote for...a candidate who has to trash the competition in order to *appear* superior. No thank you. Clintons...just go away...and at least attempt to do so gracefully.

    January 13, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  20. kay

    Hillary's statement, wishing to leave race and gender out of the campaigns, seems a bit ironic to me. After all, wasn't her little display of histrionics in New Hampshire a play on her gender? Call it a play or a ploy, either way she's intent on exploiting ALL the angles.

    January 13, 2008 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  21. GimmehopeObama

    I thought Obama was about hope and to unite and change?
    His negative campaining is getting disgusting. Now he tries to mark the Clintons as racist? Ridiculous!!! As he is!

    January 13, 2008 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  22. AnnAloha, PA Independent Thinker

    Another reason for closeted Obama supporters to find a way out of supporting Clinton.
    Humorous to say the least.
    Now Senator Obama needs these closeted supporters to come to his aid, when a political comparison was made, the same type of comparison that all candidates make, but it's far more sensitive when it is made towards an African American.

    Independents are rolling on the floor on this one.

    If any African American Clinton Supporter feels the need and excuse to jump ship, be honest and forward about it. Don't hide behind false pretences, makes you look petty.

    January 13, 2008 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  23. Brandy. NYC

    Well the source of this whole story is Senator Clinton herself. If she was more focused on telling voters why they should vote for her as opposed to distortng senator Obama's record, we wouldn't be here.

    She needs to take responsability for her own mistakes and stop charging others for comments she made.

    January 13, 2008 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  24. Dave

    Typical Clinton move, never take any responsability for your own action and pass the blame to your opponet. They did this over and over again in the 90's; it was disgusting then and it's disgusting now. Let's try something new.

    January 13, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  25. Arshad

    How many times Clintons or her campaign had to come forward so far to apologize, or fire campaign workers or needed to clarify all kinds of negative attacks on Senator Obama so far? Many times. Senator Obama never had to do it.
    How many time Clinton mention being the first women president? Always. How many times Obama talks about first AA president. He does not want to be a president just because he is AA. He wants to because he is the most suitable candidate to work with everybody and lift this country from the mess.

    Clintons are lies. Obama always have been against war. He always said this is wrong war at wrong battle field. This is a war of ideology, not of reason. He said it's rush war, dumb war. No dispute, period. Now since the war has already been waged, 150000 young americans are risking their lives in a war zone, it's his obligtation to support the troops until Iraq stabilizes. He has been consistent: against this war but committed to the troops. So what's the fairy tale here, Mr Clinton?

    Clinton's campaign has been caught to spread e-mail that he is a muslim plant, trying to take over this country. He NH co-chair implied he could be a drug dealer in past. With MLK, Senator said MLKs dreams were dream and would not have realized with a president (LBJ). So where this come from? What does it mean? A black man can only be a civil rights activist or can dream or talk about equality and fairness. That's all Obama can do as well. But ultimately we need a white President (LBJ and future Clinton) to make sure right things happen. The fact is again, Obama is not running as a Black candidate to promote black issue at national level. He recognizes the problems the country face are color blind. It hurts some demographic little more than others but these are issues of all americans.
    Poor economy, lack of healthcare, a wrong war, global warming have nothing to do with black or white or hispanic or asian. These are american problems.

    It's unfortunate, Clintons look down on people. They insult people. Remember Bill Clinton's remark of voting for Obama is the "roll of a dice" or "this kid". ONLY Clintons have monopoly in wisdom and judgment and qualification to run this country for decades. Rest are roll of the dice. And if they are black, then it;s a fairy tale. Clintons are making insensitive, disrespectful comment on TV, people are seeing them for what they are. Some people among Black community are voicing concerns. And somehow, without evidence, she is blaming Obama's campaign.
    So they make offenses, they apologize and spin for those offense but again they call foul on the other side. Look at Clintons in NV. The democratic party decided about having a few large precints in Las Vegas to make sure casino/hotel workers can vote without taking off from work. 10 months ago. The people who were part of making that decision are the same people filing law suit to take these precints away just because union of those workers supported Obama. If this is how Clintons will run next 8 years, better think twice before electing Clinton.

    January 13, 2008 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
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