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. Zach

    Senator Obama is playing dirty politics. The media is playing right into his hands or perhaps the media is driving this kind of sensationalism. It will not serve the senator from Illinois to pretend he had nothing to do with playing on words of Senator Clinton concerning the civil rights period.

    January 13, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  2. Huh?

    How is this somehow the Obama campaign's fault?

    Sorry, Hillary, take responsibility for your own words.

    It don't look to good fer ye.

    January 13, 2008 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  3. Ayyub, Richmond, Va

    So, Obama the blame for some outraged Black people questioning the content of you and your husbands words. I don't think so, I haven't heard one person close to Obama or in his campaign bring this up, just the media and the Clinton campaign.

    January 13, 2008 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  4. Jen Cedar Falls, IA

    Pop Quiz: 5 Questions, yes or no, 5 pts each

    1. Can you recall Hillary or Bill Clinton EVER taking responsibility for any controversy or comment? If so, please elaborate.

    2. Will it take a failed presidential term for people to finally realize that Hillary's attempt to appear as the candidate for black people (now Hispanics, too) is just an attempt to get votes?

    3. Should Pres. Johnson receive the praise for all the hard work and sacrifice that Dr. King put forth motivating and awakening the passion in our country to bring equality to ALL people?

    4. Knowing this country needs to move forward with a different and more united approach to our political process, is it in the best interest of the USA to have either a Bush or Clinton in the White House since 1980 when G Bush was VP? (Hint: that's 28 years in a row, 32 if she wins)

    5. Is it in the best interest of the USA to have another President who would continue the division and hatred between the 2 major political parties as we have had with the Clinton's and Bush's?

    I will check back for your answers, good luck being honest if you're a Clintonite.

    January 13, 2008 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  5. Heath, Bronx, NY

    Does anyone believe the polls anymore?

    January 13, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  6. James

    Yeah, blame the people calling you out for your uninformed comments. Give me a break.

    January 13, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  7. Ben, Boston, MA

    This is just ridiculous on Clinton's part. She slipped and said something she shouldn't have and instead of apologizing and explaining what she meant, she immediately goes on the attack.

    January 13, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  8. sherry dupriest

    I don't believe it would be a good idea for the Black voters to make Obama an issue of race. Clearly the Black leadership has always praised the Clintons on their work with the Black communities. I see nothing wrong with the Black community wanting to support a promising Black candidate but like the White community in Iowa and in New Hampshire (understanding the importunates of it but not emphasizing it) ultimately it was about the issues, and, or personalities that prevailed. Because of this it would be a clear message from the Black communities to show support in wanting a good president whether black, white, man, or women. This would allow the White and Black communities strength for ultimately being one people.

    Disclosure: I am a White women, I was a fan of Obama back in 2004 but he lost me in October because his beautiful clear, sincere message caught my attention for support did not evolve into issues. I am a Hillary supporter now.

    January 13, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  9. OBAMA 08

    We know two things for sure: Neither Bill or Hillary are anywhere near being a Martin Luther King nor will their legacies ever reach his status. I do know, having lived through his time in history, he never whined and blamed!

    Is Obama another Martin Luther King like figure.? Way too early to tell. When King started his campaign for freedom he was vilified, water hosed and jailed!!

    We will have to see at the end of his presidency !

    January 13, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  10. M.E. Akam

    Americans ought to know now the benefits of having an Obama presidency,he represents another hope of unity for this great nation & restoration of trust from other nations that America once had.Ride on Barack.

    January 13, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  11. Ann

    I'm glad to hear someone got around to asking Hillary what she thought about this business. She's right. It is misinterpretation and the worst type of campaign tactics on Obama's part.

    January 13, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  12. Boring

    Yes, CNN we get it.... Obama gooooood, Clinton baaaaaaaad.

    The discussion of white's being racist will end as soon as Obama's machine is past South Carolina.

    January 13, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  13. Pac

    I find it disgusting how the Obama camp uses the race baiting before the SC votes..

    January 13, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  14. S.A.Alagarsamy

    Respected My Dear Brothers and sisters of America
    This time i forecast ...It is OBAMA ...who will enter White House
    Let have a change..
    The world expects no war and America should be the best country under a great Leader like OBAMA

    January 13, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  15. Jarrod

    I don't think she was out of line in saying that. It did take someone in a position of power to make th changes in civil rights in this country. MLK, Jr. could have held marches and protested everyday, but nothing would have changed if it had fallen on deaf ears in the government. I don't understand what the big deal is. MLK obviously didn't author the Civil Rights Act or have any say in it, it was the people in power.

    January 13, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  16. Jim Donch

    Enough is enough! Do I really care if a Clinton advisor gets a DWI? No! Why don't you start writing about what really matters. If your such in need of material to write about, just jump on the republican band wagon. There is plenty to write about there!

    January 13, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  17. RPW

    Give me back the Clinton years anytime...no wars, good prosperity, economic fairness, (the rich did not get richer under his terms in office), no real terrorist threat to the homeland, and a BALANCED BUDGET ..,Bush has made terrorism to the US far worse with his one-side policy favoring Israel and his invasion of Afganistan and Iraq (Pakistan and Iran are next) and has bankrupted the US (seen the deficit lately?) in two wars that have left us more vulnerable...Bill Clinton was one of the best presidents this country had had in the last 40 years-since then, we have endless war,economic instability, a widening of the gap between the rich and poor (notice how many megamillionaires have been created ibn the last 8 years?), the housing crisis, a terrible balace of trade problem, a weak dollar, and now, for his farewell gift, a recession...We need competence and experience running this country, and Hussein Obama falls far short of the mark.. do we trust our country to the kid with the big mouth?

    January 13, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  18. TexanforHillary

    COME ON DEMS- just get the facts!

    Is it a Fairy Tale?
    " I voted against the war"
    Obama was NOT in Congress during the vote to go to war. He has in fact since his short time as a Jr. Senator voted to continue funding the war on each and every vote. There is no public record about his view on this vote or indication that he was even aware of such a vote. He has only been in the Senate since 2004 and for the last year has been on the campaign trail in his quest for President.

    On foreign policy experience. "But you know, probably the strongest experience I have in foreign relations is the fact that I spent four years living overseas when I was a child in Asia — Southeast Asia." He left Asia at age 10. Do we want a President who received his foreign relations before the age of 10?

    On Affirmative action...
    In a television interview
    Obama: Well, first of all, I think that my daughters should probably be treated by any admissions officer as folks who are pretty advantaged, and I think that there's nothing wrong with us taking that into account as we consider admissions policies at universities.
    But in congress Barack Obama – “This administration sought to slam the doors of higher education in the face of African Americans and other minorities. It’s a sad day for the cause of equal opportunity when the President of the United States, the land of opportunity, calls for the Supreme Court to rule against policies that seek to open institutions for historically excluded racial minorities,”
    What about disadvantage white students??
    On being raised in poverty and understanding it. " In his memoir, Obama describes his experiences growing up in his mother's American middle class family. He lived with his white mothers middle-upper class family in Hawaii, hardly by anyone's definition disadvantaged.
    On Family Values" Of his early childhood, Obama writes: "That my father looked nothing like the people around me—that he was black as pitch, my mother white as milk—barely registered in my mind." The book describes his struggles as a young adult to reconcile social perceptions of his multiracial heritage. He wrote that he used alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine during his teenage years to "push questions of who I was out of my mind".
    Racial Equality and Religion“We are a congregation which is unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian,” says the Trinity United Church of Christ’s web site in Chicago. “We are an African people and remain true to our native land, the mother continent, the cradle of civilization.” That’s just the beginning. The church has a “non-negotiable commitment to Africa,” according to its website, and its pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. subscribes to what is called the Black Value System.In sermons and interviews, Dr. Wright has equated Zionism with racism and Israel with South Africa under its previous policy of apartheid. On the Sunday after 9/11, Wright said the attacks were a consequence of violent American policies. Four years later, Wright suggested that the attacks were retribution for America’s racism. "

    Fairy tale campaign or not. You decide. Or is Bill Clinton on to something?

    Come on Dem's ....Experience does count and in your hearts you know it. Don't let the Republicans pull this off- they are pushing Obama for us as they know they cannot beat Senator Clinton. If Obama wins the nomination the Swift Boat ads will seem like childs play. They have access to all of this information and more, and we, once again , will have a Republican President.

    January 13, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  19. jsg

    Every time this woman opens her mouth it is to accuse somone else, primarily Obama, of doing something to rain on her parade. It is only because she is scared (rightfully) that she will lose to him – she who was supposed to be the shoo-in for the nomination, haha! If she wasn't complaining about what Obma was supposedly doing to her she would have nothing to talk about. She and dandelion head are well known dirty fighters, certainly the majority of voters must know that. I say again, if you are foolish enough, and get sucked in, to vote for "that woman" and her sad sack associate, then you deserve exactly what you are going to get.

    January 13, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  20. Randi

    CNN, when analyzing race in this election, I wonder why the media does not cover the question of whether Obama's church is racist. Based on the website for Trinity United Church of Christ, it seems like this is a question worth exploring.

    This is the second time I've sent this post.

    January 13, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  21. Thomas

    This is why democrats need to select Edwards in the primaries. Hillary will divide this country. Look at how she polarizes everything.

    We need a change from the politics of dividing this country. We need someone who will unite the country and who is not in bed with the corporate interests.

    I think Hillary has already established she would just be more of the same in office. She is not a "change" candidate.

    January 13, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  22. Hugh

    Does anyone who has been following this campaign see a trend.

    First the Clinton team throws out some mud. Examples: kindergarden essay,
    drug use – possible cocaine dealing, big time lobbyist endorsements

    Now they claim that it was Obama who is bringing race into the campaign.
    A La Carl Rove this campaign will stop at nothing to get in power.

    And once in power we get another 4 years of Big Money Power Brokers running
    our administration and our country. Just take a look at the Democratic Leadership unwilling to take on the current adminstration over it's blatant trashing of our Constitution and laws. Could this be because they realize once the Clintons are back in the White House they acn continue the movement away from a Democracy.

    People wake up before it is too late! Put an end to the Political Aristocracy in Washington!

    January 13, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  23. Ginny Ca

    Everyone who has been paying attention over the years knows that both Clintons have a solid record on civil rights and that they have had great support from the black community because of it. It is on the record that ,since Hillary's college days, Martin Luther King was her hero. It was a life-altering event for her when he was killed. She rededicated herself to a future of fighting for the rights of blacks and improving the lives of the middle class in whatever ways she could. Now, here comes the Obama camp spinning a comment she made and twisting it into somehow showing disrespect for MLK. I understand their desperation considering Obama lost in New Hampshire in spite of supposedly being ahead by 14 points going into the election. That had to be hard on them. But , by intentionally misconstruing the intent of Hillary's words about MLK, they are showing their desperation. I hope that, instead, they will focus on helping Obama get his message (beyond hope, dreams, change and other catch phrases) to something substantial so that we will understand his clear position on a number of important issues. Edwards and Hillary have done a pretty good job of that so far; now it is time for Obama to do the same.

    January 13, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  24. nihal

    I think CNN is doing "a great job" to ensure that race is left out of this. Just keep on showing Zain Verjee's visit to Kenya and rub in Senator Obama's ancestry. The next polarization is bound to come via Larry King; I am sure you know what I am talking about.
    To a lot of us in this part of the world the campaigns preceding the primaries (from both parties) are quite amusing – to say the least. Here are Democrats – or Republicans – telling their party members why their opponents are totally unfit to be President. Finally, one of them is selected, and then they try to convince the country that that's their man (or woman!). A bit daft, isn't it?

    January 13, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  25. PSK Lakeside, AZ

    I hope she keeps opening her mouth – everytime she says something, a couple thousand more people get sick to their stomach. Keep up the good work, Hillary- Obama should be paying you a salary.

    January 13, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
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