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. Running out of Hope, Newport News, Va.

    Randi, the reason CNN is not considering your question is it makes about as much sense as you seem to be for asking it! Just for record, how many "white" churches out there don't have a single black person in the seats? You don't hear anyone questioning them about being racist do you? Well do you?! So the church you seem so hell bent on demonizing has a firey pastor who calls blacks on their behavior, and anything else that causes them to fall down as a people. Asians and middle easterners stick together rather well don't they, but let someone encourage blacks that they should help one another to become a better people and the likes of such as yourself immediately go on a search and destroy mission. We may think that this a joke of sorts but the past can't lie, the present is deceptive and the future is not promised! If we don't stop this crap there will soon be sheer HELL to pay! Barack Obama's church is no more racist than he is. However based on what we know now I don't think the same can be said of you...Open bigot mouth, insert bigot foot. I don't believe that the majority of americans are bigots anymore. I do however believe that they are "Bigger" than to stoop so low as to try and divide this country taking it to place no one with any "good sense" really wants to go. Barack has not one time said vote for him because he's black, white or combination of the two. But good ole' Hillary say's all the time to vote for her because she's a woman for crying out loud! On that note I presume it's safe to say that some folk never get it. Get it?
    Obama '08!

    January 13, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  2. C Martin

    I love the spin. At the beginning of this race Obama said he hates talking about race. He even went to say that he doesn't expect black people to vote for him because he's black. He said he believes he has to earn it just the same way as any other candidate. Then to have Hilary go on national television and say that Obama is making it a black thing.....WHAT!!!!!! Does she think the american people ignorant. Obama hasn't made any comments about her words since the media initiated this mes. So as an independent voter......Hilary is now out of my possible choice for a candidate.... Spin Spin Spin.....!!!!

    Ps. Obama is not a black candidate he is Candiate running for office and he just so happens to bi-racial ( 1/2 white and Black) lets get the facts straight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 13, 2008 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  3. John

    the obama camp should be ashamed of themselves. they've made it so that no one can discuss obama's positions or truthfully critize him without being called a racist. the media has already stayed away from scrutinizing him for this reason and now hillary won't have a fair race because she can't even criticize her opponent. and obama just stands there silent; he should be a man and set the record straight and announce that the clinton's remarks were not racist. but it helps his campaign so he'll let the lies prevail.


    January 13, 2008 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  4. Hogwash!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ASK YOURSELVES::: What has Mr. Obama done for the African American Community?????????????? I mean, look at his poor grandmother in Kenya living in stark poverty while he lives in a 1.6 million dollar mansion in the US. Go Figure!

    January 13, 2008 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  5. Fred, TN

    Who understands black issues better than a rich white women from Arkansas??

    January 13, 2008 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  6. sn

    Real leadership starts with a "dream" or ideas which has to move the people into action. It is funny that what she criticizes is what got her husband into the White House and what made him so successful and loved around the world.

    If she can't inspire the people, how is she going to cross party lines to get any bills of significant passed herself? Where I live, in NY Hilary country, she hasn't inspired anyone to go out and fight for her. I have not seen one single Hilary button or t-shirt or march in support of her - but I've seen all of the above for Obama. I know she has New York in the bag, but where's the love?

    January 13, 2008 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  7. Ysca

    In these crucial times when the American economy is going downhill, when strong foreign relations need to be worked on to establish and bring back foreign diplomacy, when America is the only industrialized country that does not have a universal health coverage for its citizens, when more than 40 million American have no health insurance, in the midst of war, and grave threats to homeland security abound-who will you vote for? The one who delivers the great speeches, gives you goosebumps and makes you cry in political meetings, promises unity and change, but has no track record to back up his promises, who almost always votes "present" in Congress because he has no convictions over American issues? Or, a choice of choosing a candidate who gives you the facts (and truth hurts sometimes), who is a White House "insider" who may have the right connections to get the ball rolling, experience and track record of private and public service, has specific plans for the "dreams, hopes, and changes" to come to fuition?

    It is your choice America. It is your county. Where would you want to see it in the next four years or so to come?

    You are electing the next PRESIDENT of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA-this is a tough task...it is not an on-the-job-training. You cannot afford to have that done to your country at these crucial times.

    Decide based on facts, not fiction. Decide with your minds, not with your emotions.

    I hope this is something for you Americans to ponder upon.

    January 13, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  8. Janel, St. Paul, MN

    I have followed this campaign very closely. NEVER have I heard from Obama that he is playing the race card. This is a Clinton lie!

    I watched "Meet the Press," and I felt Senator Clinton was very much on the defensive and saying things, like, "Obama is comparing himself like President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr." If she listened to his speeches - and I have - he never compared himself to these great leaders. He was speaking about the "HOPE" these individuals mustered.

    Good grief!!

    January 14, 2008 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  9. Al

    A Black American is no more an African American than a White American is a Eurpoean American. We are ALL Americans, plain and simple!

    January 14, 2008 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  10. Cathy

    After reading all these comments, I have concluded that a large majority of the people responding, scare me. They seem so full of hate , as well as evoking such degrading language. Maybe it would be best if people like this couldnt vote. Think about it...

    January 14, 2008 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  11. James E. Johnson/California

    It's real simple. When Barack Obama is president he will be able to pass legilation to see that the dreams become law! Unlike MLK's Time, this country is not afraid of a black president. The reason is because we are all americans equal and accountable to each other regardless of skin color.

    January 14, 2008 04:57 am at 4:57 am |
  12. James E. Johnson/California

    It's real simple. When Barack Obama is president he will be able to pass legilation to see that the dreams become law! Unlike MLK's Time, this country is not afraid of a black president. The reason is because we are all americans equal and accountable to each other regardless of skin color.

    January 14, 2008 04:58 am at 4:58 am |
  13. James E. Johnson/California

    My comment is to Mr Fairy tale.Tom Davie.
    Do you believe that if someone votes for war funding that they support the war? Please tell me how you would arm our fellow brothers and sisters in a foreign land without funding? It takes money to help ensure the safety of our troops. If you think I want our troops over ther you are sadly mistaken. However if they are going to be over there i want them armed to the teeth with every life saving and bomb detecting gadget known to man.

    January 14, 2008 05:09 am at 5:09 am |
  14. AJ; Montpelier, VT

    “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.

    What is not to understand about this? African American leaders can go into their usual frenzy all they want, but the truth is the truth. And why should anyone have to walk eggshells around the truth. Had Johnson ignored King and the civil rights movement or vetoed it, it would not have gotten done when it did. Thank goodness Johnson did the right thing.

    Sen. Clinton’s remarks about Obama were right on target. He's made great speeches during his career and written a couple of books, but what has he really accomplished? How many times did Obama vote present while a legislator in Ill.? 130 times. He refused to take a position 130 times. This is such a blatant attempt on the part of Obama to avoid accumulating any kind of legislative record that could later be open to scrutiny if he decided to run for president one day. He has criticized others for their US senate votes, while he has failed to vote on those issues himself. Yeah, Obama likes to talk a good game but the truth is, he is an empty suit running on arrogance. Much like G. W. Bush. He is truly the “do nothing” candidate!!

    January 14, 2008 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  15. Shari in MN

    All the ground work for Johnson was layed down by Bobby Kennedy a huge cilvil rights supporter. When he was attoneny general for his brother, John. They where big supporters at first due to civil unrest but they where for the cause. Bobby was well loved by the blacks and poor when he ran agaianst Johnson and push him out of the presidental race before he was shot. So Hillary is right. But Johnson really had little to do with it. But with out Rev. King it never would of got the media attention to be an issue to adress. The media sent it to the main stream with Dr, Kings help!

    January 14, 2008 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  16. bob

    How come in this time and age that if someone other then a black person makes a comment about our racism issues they are insensitive to our black population. If LBJ didn't back civil rights we wouldn't be were we are now. I do not back Clinton but it wasn't an igornarant statement. I know this isn't the right forum for this comment, but a Fox Sports Anchor made a comment durning the pre game show for Giants/Dallas game, to the tune of "In my best White Voice" Now nothing is said about this, but Clinton making a postive type statement is making national news in negitive manner.

    January 14, 2008 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  17. Alvaro isla

    What the Clinton's did for blacks? Nothing. They only acknowledge them at election time, then they signed welfare reform, etc etc. What they did for gays? nothing. Don't ask don't tell is not policy is saving face doing nothing.
    The Clinton's because both are attacking Obama are master politician, but what they actually acomplished. nothing

    January 14, 2008 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  18. roger, conway sc

    GET READY AMERICA if Obama is elected president this is all we will hear the entire time he is in office, everytime he or one of the black leasdership thinks or feels offended the entire nation will hear it for weeks the media loves this crap & the black leadership seem to love the attention. If Donna Brazzelle, Jessie Jackson, Roland Martin, Al Sharpton, or Jim Clyburn are offended by what Bill & Hillary said they are looking for something to offend them. I believe that white americans are ready for a black president but I do not believe that the black leadership are ready to take the responsibility of leading this nation. SO you had better think twice about supporting & voting for Obama unless you want to hear this nonsense the entire time he is in office.

    January 14, 2008 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  19. JC, Topeka, Kansas

    “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.

    What's the matter, the truth hurts? Dr King fought for it, but Johnson had the ability to take the first steps to make it happen, at least if people will let it happen. MLK brought the issue to the front pages of American news papers and the the evening news as Americans sat down to eat their evening meal, but he did not have the power to enact anything. By the way I am a little confused as to how Senator Obama was even even effected by the Civil Rights Movement, seems to me from what I have read about him that he has lived the American dream.

    January 14, 2008 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  20. Rudy Garcia

    There are several shameful aspects to this episode. To begin with, once again we are faced with the deliberate misinterpretation of a perfectly reasonable and truthful statement meant to establish that dreams require pragmatic action to become reality and, in that respect, MLK's dream required legislative and executive action to have it implemented. Those leaders of the African-American community who jumped on Sen. Clinton's remark to the effect that MLK's dream required action by Pres. Lyndon Johnson to become reality once again saw an opportunity to get their names in the news by distorting her remarks and claiming the statement showed a lack of respect for MLK. I doubt whether MLK, himself, would have reacted in that manner. As an example, the dreams expressed by early science-fiction writers and some visionaries about putting a man on the moon would have remained as objects of fiction had it not been for JFK's commitment to space exploration for the U.S. and a concomitant commitment by the Sovier Union at that time. To say that is not to denigrate the vision or dream of the early science-fiction writers and visionaries. Two other shameful aspects of the Obama-Clinton episode have to do with, one; putting into question the commitment of both Sen. Clinton and former Pres. Clinton's commitment to civil rights, a commitment that even some of her current critics have, in the past, acknowledged with praise, and, two; that Sen. Obama has allowed himself to become part of that unseemly wave of criticism. Far more worthy of him would have been a statement to the effect that Sen. Clinton's meaning was clear in that it was an effort to point up her belief in the importance of experienced political leadership as opposed to inspiring Americans to vote for a change in leadership -as – usual which is what he represents and that there was no intent to diminish the role of MLK. Instead, it would appear that the virus of presidential ambition has bitten him and he has agreed to forego honesty for immediate political gain. What a shame!

    January 14, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  21. IJ baltimore, MD

    I started out as a Hillary supporter. But her campaign is pushing me towards Obama. I see the ignorance here in these posts, and more and more I see how he's right about the type of change that's needed.
    A few facts:
    1. Obama is not Muslim, has never practiced Islam and has always been Christian. Period. Anyone saying otherwise is lying.
    2. Obama has put forward a health care plan and an economic plan as well as other policy plans. They're on his website and detailed. Anyone telling you he's just given speeches with no policy is lying.
    3. I have not, at any time, seen Obama bring up race. Not once. Hillary brings up the fact that she's a woman every time her poll numbers slump.
    Despite her shoddy campaigning, I still wouldn't mind Hill as prez. She'd be great in office, so would Obama. In truth, if either of these two become president, we'll be doing pretty darn good. That's the truth. I hope whichever one wins they make the other a major player in their administration.
    Let's quit the devisiveness. Come November 8, if the Hillary supporters see Obama's name across from, say Romney's, do you think they're actually going to NOT vote for Obama? If Obama supporters see Hillary's name across from Thompson, do you really think they're going to NOT vote for Hillary?
    We've been blessed with two candidates who really, honestly, ain't that far apart on objectives for the country. Let's focus on their policy, both of which make those policies available on their websites, and quit the petty infighting. If we have EITHER of them as President, as opposed to someone with an R behind their name, supporters from both camps will be cheering in the street come November.

    Hillary OR Obama in 08!

    January 14, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  22. Tou

    Such a typical statement from a crooked politician. Is she really telling us that it was just MLK's dream for Civil Rights but LBJ should take the credit for it ? Saying that it was LBJ that passed the Civil Rights Act as though he implemented it as his vision. If it wasn't for MLK, there would be no Civil Rights Act of 1964, ignorant wench. We don't need a president to get it done. It took the will of the people to provide equality for all, not the pen of a president.

    January 14, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  23. Voter 08

    Go ahead, folks. Keep dividing the Democratictic Party, and the only conquerers will be the Republicans. The issues have left the frontburner and are only simmering on a backburner. The Republicans are waiting for their dessert to come out of the oven. Rip each side to shreds as in the Thomas/Hill hearings...and when you awakened you had moved the court another step to the right. Let the media usurp your common sense..and provide you with soundbites that fuel your negative emotions. Take this debate back and demand to know the true issues and the candidates positions. Stop letting the media define our candidates with sensationalism.

    January 14, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |


    January 14, 2008 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  25. Jimmie - Las Vegas NV

    The race for President is not all about slandering one another – it's all about what are the plans and goals for our country and how the candidates plan to acheive their plans and goals. The majority of Americans have voiced their opinions about the illegal immigrants that are plaguing our nation today, but how many candidates are really addressing this issue during their campaign? I don't think Hillary has came close to addressing this issue – she is avoiding it. She was in Vegas last week and she is trying to draw votes from the Hispanics population. If she draws votes from the Hispanics population, she is not going to keep the illegals from crossing the border or to deal with the ones that are already living and working in our country. She will give them anmesty. Folks, she is not listening to the people of the United States – she wants what she wants and to lead everyone else to believe that she wants to put a stop to illegal immigrations..

    We all know that both Bill and Hillary has never admitted fault for anything – it is always the other candidate/person's fault. I don't want something like this in the White House – we need a good sound person who can work with both the Democrats and Republicans to bring about a happy medium for everyone in the United States. As long as the bickering continues among the candidates, it only adds to what their true character really is and I find it to be deploring and tacky to say the least.

    Voter 08 – I am not trying to divide the Democratic Party, I am just facing the facts as they are presented. I am more concerned for the goals and plans for our country then what I am about where a candidate attended elementary school and if they did or did not try drugs in their younger years. I don't think that's a subject that either Bill or Hillary wants to touch. And, most imprtantly of all, I do not see the Democrats setting the goals or trying to reassure the American people what their goals are and how they plan to carry them out. What I do see is Hillary stealing the ideas of the other candidates and that she is presenting to her supporters as her own ideas. Hillalry is NOT a responsible enough person to be Presient of the United States, she is NOT a smart woman. Don't be fooled by her.

    We have had 20 years of the Bush's family in the White House – do we really need 12 years of the Clintons in the White House? I say enough is enough of this family-run business – we need fresh ideas and plans in the White House that will greatly benefit our country. Otherwise, America is going to be stuck in a rut and will never be able to get out. Mexico is famous for 6 of the richest family running their country and you see what that has led to? We don't need the same ole rich familes running the White House, either!

    January 14, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
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