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. Joe, Wilmington DE

    Yes, the squeaky clean esteemed senator from New York speaks.

    Please, please, please, etc...NO MORE CLINTONS; NO MORE BUSHES.

    January 13, 2008 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  2. Louise

    Sounds like the Obama campaign are trying to make something out of nothing...I don't think that anyone who knows the record of the Clinton's can see them as being racist in anyway...

    January 13, 2008 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  3. Frank

    It will be great to heve Hillary Clinton to bring back the Dreem of America back!!!

    January 13, 2008 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  4. Jack, Greenville, SC

    Funny thing is, she says it "clearly" came from Obama and she has absolutely no evidence to back up her accusation. This is the worst kind of politics.

    January 13, 2008 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  5. Christopher

    Oboma, God will be with you all the way to the white house

    January 13, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  6. jack

    Clinton is the one who has been consistently playing the gender card in this campaign. Obama never plays the race game. He is way too smart for that.

    Go Obama!

    January 13, 2008 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  7. Kim, Dallas, TX

    When will people realize that this lady will say or do whatever she can to get elected. If it tramples all over one of our former great leaders to make a point about someone running, she will go for it. Bill proved that he too will say anything to get votes, calling Obama a fairy tale. I dislike the campaign that Hillary is running immensely and cannot believe the amount of people that fall for her rhetoric, not to mention that fall for her false amount of experience. Geez, if we go by age alone, I have over 30 years of my own experience.

    It's this kind of politics that I don't want for our country anymore. We need someone that can pull us all together and get away from all of the corruption that surrounds many in our government.

    January 13, 2008 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  8. bob

    the clintons are the most conniving, deceitful, disingenuous people to ever walk this planet... they take blame for nothing, and credit for everything; it's never their fault, and always somebody elses... just go away, and take the bush family with you..!

    January 13, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  9. Phil Memphis, TN

    Oh you have to be kidding me. They are trying to paint Hilary as a racist? Suddenly the Clintons are not friends of Black Americans? That is what Obama the "uniter " is saying now? That the white Americans (speaking only of those who have been in power) who may have fought for Blacks more than any others are now bigots?

    I was originally voting for Obama but over the past few weeks have come to realize that he really isn't all that different than any other politician, and without the change or the experience he should not be elected.


    January 13, 2008 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  10. JB Boston MA

    And yet, Shrillary is so quick to play the gender card. You are nothing more than a power hungry hypocrite!

    January 13, 2008 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  11. Betsy

    Why can't she just take responsibility for her actions? Even if the comments had good motives, she still said them. We need a leader that doesn't try to play the blame game so early. If she continues to talk about it it will stay in the headlines. Bottom Line. She has "foot-in-mouth" syndrome.

    I would love to have a woman in the White House, but I would not want it to be here. I do not respect her.

    January 13, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  12. Sal......Illinois

    Obama's campaign likes to put dangerous spins on words coming out of Hillary's mouth and even Bill's mouth....They need to be very careful as to how they interpret ......Lets look at the facts....Obama Does Not represent the struggle...sacrifices...and the rise to glory of the African American community.....He a first generation American born of an immigrant.....Bill and Hillary's life story is about reform and rights for all ethinic back grounds especially the African American ....no wonder they call Bill the first African American President....

    January 13, 2008 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  13. Josh

    Are you kidding me Hillary? The Obama camp has never frayed into this. Black leaders have spoken out against your disgusting tactics. Stop trying to playing politics with race!

    January 13, 2008 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  14. Walt, TX

    Can't wait for her "I've got a dream" speech. Think she'll bother to change any of the words?

    January 13, 2008 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  15. Mcain - WAR MONGER

    Martin Luther had a dream

    Hillary is a night-MARE, she even sounds horse.

    January 13, 2008 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  16. S Logan

    Copy Cat Clinton is Hillary’s new nick name. She lacks originality. She tries to call Obama a flip-flopper, but she is the one that can’t decide how she wants to present herself to voters (one minute she is running on her resume; Oops, that did not go so well, let’s follow the Leader and change strategy ... constantly mirroring Obama and copying his style!
    A year ago if you asked me who I would vote for I would say Hillary, but now I would definitely not vote for her! Obama has proven himself to be a true leader; even Hillary knows that he is the true agent of change as she follows his every move!

    January 13, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  17. gerald williams

    it never fails the race card im irish and native American tell me about racism i wouldnt vote for obama now theres nothing weaker than that

    January 13, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  18. jim of ohio

    Hillarys record on race speaks for itself. She has always been an honorable person, the obama campaign leaders cant beat her honestly, so the time has come for them to fabricate stories for thier gain. As the sophist of old use to do, they will try to catch people who are unaware, and use edgy essues such as race in order to make gains. I would advise voters to be very skeptical of campaigns who use this kind of rhetoric. If they will lie to you on this issue, they will surely lie to you on another.

    January 13, 2008 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  19. zoo

    She would do better to take responsibility for her comments, and explain why she made them rather than trying to accuse the Obama camp for the controversy that followed.

    Another tip? Worry about the voters more than one "black leader"... because we heard the comment, too. We might not all be African American, and we might not all be political leaders, but we have a vote. And my vote will not be going to the person who wants to throw trash out, and blame someone else for the smell.

    January 13, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  20. Randi

    When analyzing the issue of race in this election, I wonder why the media does not raise the question of whether Obama's church, Trinity United Church of Christ, is racist also.

    January 13, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  21. Mark

    This so typical! Hillary is blaming someone else for her on words. She never accepts responsibility, the fault aways rest on another's shoulder with her. This is not the kind of people we need running the country.

    January 13, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  22. Nicholas


    This is really absurd. If someone is using race and gender issue, than it's Obama campaign. They are really so negative, so dirty on Hillary Clinton!!!

    It's unbelivable... looks like Obama is not much better then G. W. Bush, jr.

    January 13, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  23. Ron, TX

    I don't believe Obama called his vision of a Washington that gets things done a fairytale.

    I don't believe Obama asked himself whether or not he use to deal drugs (why didn't anyone ever ask those old white guys that question?)

    I don't believe Obama said that MLK's speech would have been useless had it not been for a President. I don't think Obama suggested that the Freedom Riders and civil rights activists that actually tackled racial problems in America head on when the government WOULDN'T do anything were worthless without Presidential action.

    And most importantly, Obama has NEVER suggested that ANYONE should vote for him just because he is half-black. NO ONE will be able to find a quote where he does. Whereas Clinton, she openly says to vote for her because she's a woman. She plays up the woman card when her experience card fails. That's not a strong woman, that's not feminism. That's crying because two guys ganged up on you, that's not a strong woman, that's the "just a woman" card. She's JUST A WOMAN so she can't handle debating two guys at once.

    January 13, 2008 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  24. Cathy

    Nice try, Hillary. We're sick of the Clinton Machine. What good is your fictional "35 years of experience" if it didn't teach you the judgment not to say things like that? And once you get caught you blame your opponent? How?

    January 13, 2008 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  25. PW Va

    ""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."

    This is in reference to comments that Hillary made pertaining to the legacies of Dr. King and President Kennedy.

    Hillary, you need to be very, very careful of accusing someone ("I think it came from the Obama campaign") without substantive facts/evidence to back up your claim(s). After coming under criticism from a key African-American lawmaker for your earlier comments concerning Senator Obama's invoking those names in a speech, you are now doing what you do best (skewing Senator Obama's integrity) in order to not further lose credibility in the black community.

    I am an African-American woman who, according to the so-called pollsters would fit into the category of those who would vote for Hillary. Once again, the pollsters and Hillary would be DEAD WRONG. I and many others like me are NOT AT ALL enamored with Hillary or her husband. I believe that they're both quite calculating and would stoop to any level to gain this nomination. I further perceive that they take the African-American community for granted and are quite chagrined that anyone, in this case, Senator Obama, is a threat to what they think BELONGS rightfully to them ...the black vote, en masse. I RESENT your implication, Hillary, that the African-American community will fall "lock-step" into voting for you!!!

    I have news for the Clinton campaign, there's a slate of candidates out there, both Democratic and Republican, that WE, as African-Americans can select from during the upcoming 2008 presidential election. Unbeknownst to you, Hillary, WE are smart, educated and we WILL do our homework when making our choices for who will become the next leader of our country!!!

    JUST SIGN ME: A VERY, ANGRY BLACK WOMAN (with many more of us out there)

    January 13, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
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