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. UNITE THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY

    NOBODY is Martin Luther King, Jr.-–not even those who try to give speeches like he did. He was the one and only-–did not emulate anyone, but was original in his life. Nobody is John F. Kennedy, either. Why can't candidates come up with their OWN original ideas and stop trying to act like other people? They need to blaze their own trail, if they can think of what they, themselves, can do for this country.

    January 13, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  2. Bill, NY

    Hillary should’ve watched what she said and apologizes for it. She said what she said, now take responsibility for it. No one twisted her words!

    January 13, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  3. Paul

    New Obama slogan (STATUS QUO- HELL NO)

    January 13, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  4. Trang, Fremont, CA

    Again, Hillary missed the point.

    Whether Obama is Martin Luther King – like or Kennedy – like is up to the American voter. Many people say Obama reminds them of the Robert Kennedy. His style reminds people of Martin Luther King. Both of these people used WORDS to inspire many people. Whether WORDS can change is the up to the people. Obama lit the fire, it's up to the American to deliver or not. They might let the fire die out ... or they can use the fire to propel them forward. In a time of hopeless, he came forward to offer 'HOPE'.

    January 13, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  5. JUST VOTE

    NO MATTER WHO YOU CHOSE ALL JUST VOTE

    January 13, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  6. Larry Buchas, New Britain, CT

    She is undermining everything Martin Luther King Jr. accomplished? That includes enduring the beatings, water hoses, daily segregation, Ku Klux Klan threats and his assassination?

    So you place the Vietnam War President (responsible for over 58,000 American deaths) at a higher level than the leading civil rights advocate. Hillary, you are ridiculous!

    January 13, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  7. SD

    As a Canadian, I am thoroughly disgusted by the tactics of the Clinton campaign. Senator Clinton should take responsibility for what she said, regardless of the intention with which she said it. Mr. Obama has done NOTHING to warrant such a baseless attack. Her words describing Mr. Obama as culpable for the mess she has created is nothing short of slanderous. What I also find appalling, nay unconscionable, is the MMS’s complicit participation in this dispictible behaviour by President and Senator Clinton.

    January 13, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  8. Hilary 08

    Why is it that Obama can say whatever he wants and not suffer any backfire.

    I have yet to hear how he plans to make his wild dreams of accomplishment really work. After all the president is in essence just a name that passes things over congress. He can have all the dreams he wants, but unless congress backs him his dreams for change will only be dreams. As a junior senator what has he truly accomplished. Would you rather have someone who has experience and has accomplished some of the visions that they have had.

    I think we need to look beyond gender and race and look at it all for what it really is. We all know in elections we pick the lesser of 2 evils because they are all the same promises they rarely keep. In the end the decision is ours. Look beyond the poetic words and the comments that they twist. Do you really want to elect someone that loves to accuse and whine about what is said so they can pick it apart and make you believe what they want you to hear or are you going to make your own choice.

    January 13, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  9. Amy

    How typical for Clinton to blame Obama's campaign for the justified reactions of others. I'm white, but I found her remarks – and especially her husband's remarks about "rolling the dice" and the "fairytale" aspect of Obama's campaign absolutely infuriating. This arrogant, condescending couple does not deserve another term in the White House. They've had their time, and it wasn't all so pretty as they suggest. Some of us remember otherwise. I'd like a president I can trust and admire, and that the rest of the world will view with respect. Democrats should read how foreign papers portray Obama's candidacy. They don't see it as a "fairytale," they see it as progress.

    January 13, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  10. Ben

    It's pathetic and disturbing when the Clintons and Bushs have to blame everyone else in this country to get ahead. Obama didn't make these comments the Clintons did. Bill and Hillary have been blaming people for their attacks for 20 years. Is everyone in the Democratic party who wants a change now part of the vast right wing conspiracy? Will America reward them?

    January 13, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  11. Mario Uy Streamwood IL

    I am not pro-Hillary. But I do not see what was wrong with what she said. It's factual. You can dream all you want, but you also need the faculties to execute your dreams. Further, you also need many other factors to play in your favor so your dreams are not oppressed. Factors such as laws, timing, other events, and such. For example, I'm sure that there are other people before JFK who had dreamed of sending man to moon. But it took a a government mandate to fund this and a political era of a race to world power against Soviet to do so.

    Mario Uy
    Streamwood IL

    January 13, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  12. Tony

    Talk abbot playing the race; which Obama clearly is. President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, so yes it took a president to get it done. Dr. King also endorsed President Lyndon Johnson for president, so they worked together to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. As an African American I have no problem with Clinton’s comments.

    January 13, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  13. Emily

    It sure didn't take long for Obama and his group to pull the race card...sigh. If that isn't a polarizing move on his part, I don't know what is. Again, as soon as his actions are scrutinized by anyone, he comes out crying. I guess because he is a guy it's okay...NOT!

    The Clintons have a rich history of representing and fighting for civil rights. Attacking them in this way, distorting their words by cutting/pasting here and there, is dirty pool!

    January 13, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  14. YouthVoter, CA

    So Mac the only change you want is a name change? No specific substance goes behind it but that's ok with you?

    Is that how people in America vote? Change because we dont like or hate some names?

    January 13, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  15. Paul, Tampa

    I don't know how much the Obama camp has to do with it, but I am consistently amazed at how bad the press is about accurately quoting statements. For example, FOX news, CNN, and NBC's Meet the Press (and may others) the recent speech given by Bill Clinton where he called Obama's telling of his position on the Iraq war as a "Fairy Tale" was misrepresented as the former president saying he was calling Obama and/or his campaign a fairy tale.

    It seems like if one person in the press reports something, then every other member picks up on it and runs with it as fact without even bothering to check validity of the story. The American press isn't "liberal," it's a kind of welfare-check-worth laziness. What is the quality control on this industry, a report without spelling errors?

    Ridiculous!!

    January 13, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  16. adyacent

    I don't know if I am getting the story wrong, but from what I am reading, she is blaming the Obama campaign for something that she said publicly! That is really trying tu murky the waters.

    January 13, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  17. 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? 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 distort records. Obama always have been against war. He always said this is a 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, 150,000 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. Her NH co-chair implied he could be a drug dealer in the past. With MLK, Senator said MLK'ss dreams were dream and would not have realized without 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 as she implies. 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 faces 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. 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 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  18. HILLARY 08

    Give me a break!!! Are all you Americans still IGNORANT??? All those that don't want Hillary in Office were probably the same ones who voted Bush in for a second term and look what he has done for you!!! Change is definately what we need but not from a devote practicing MUSLIM. Are you guys that BLIND? Just because Oprah endorses him (Because he is Black) doesn't mean you have to also. Oprah endorsed and supported the plastic surgeon who killed Kanye Wests mother. Do you still want to support Obama? He is young, naive, and very inexperienced. Don't blind yourself like you did with Bush. It's time to take back America and make us the strongest country in the world once again. Thanks to Bush and all you ignorant Americans, China now has the strongest economy and our dollar to everyone is like a Mexican Peso to us. WAKE UP America!!! When Bill Clinton was in office you weren't complaining were you? That's because our economy was GREAT, a middle class actually existed, and the world didn't hate us!!! WAKE UP!!!

    January 13, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  19. Noble

    I would not like to be sentimental ever this type of ıssue. I personally on several occasions had seen Sen Clinton criticizing Sen Barack Obama over sensitive issues like experience , that he dont stand on his words , and that he voted for war in Iraq and now that he said that he wants the sodies to leave Iraq . forgeting that they are in the same party , I think Sen Clinton should make points based on issues that reflects to the proplems of the present Government , that will be enogh to convinece people to vote for her but not going on every day in the Media to tanish Sen Obama`s name in the name of desperacy , inviting race to this unique primary like this .Also I stroly believe that the electorate are of good experience to know who among Obama , Clinton and Edward are experienced . Finally Let her be informed that positions are been given by God and America is a big Country that really needs a big Mind not a crying heart.
    Thanks
    Noble

    January 13, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  20. Mccain Supporter

    I agree with Mac ! Do we really want another 4 years of this? We need someone in office that will actually do something about the issues we face as a nation. Not someone with baggage or someone who is a wimp and backs down to special interest groups.

    January 13, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  21. BRO

    It is disturbing to see that Senator Clinton is accusing Senator Obama's campaign of bringing up the issue of race and racial politics, when we have not seen that in his campaign. He has not asked the American public to make change by voting for a black candidate. But, Senator Clinton has indicated that the change would be voting for the first female president.

    The Obama campaign has attempted to be inclusive of everyone in this election process people of both genders, all ethnicities, income classes, religious beliefs, and residential state (red or blue).

    Maybe Congressman Clyburn and others made their determination based on the Clinton's remarks, from calling Obama's campaign ideals a "fairy tale" to calling Senator Obama a "kid." I ask the Clinton's to turn back the hands of time and ask them was President Bill Clinton's campaign ideals when he first ran a "fairy tale" or was the former president a "kid" when he ran for president. Or was it hope for better tomorrow. That is what Senator Obama is offering "Change We Can Believe In." A presidential candidate who wants to bring people together and not be divisive. Senator Obama is the best candidate to make the necessary changes for this country....to resolve our economy, healthcare, education, and environmental issues. He has the vision, intellect and inspiration to change the path of this country.

    Senator Obama, his campaign, and his supporters are "Fired Up and Ready to Go!"

    "Yes We Can!"

    January 13, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  22. Jay

    I mean this is over the line. Obama's Team didn't tell Mrs. Clinton to say what she did. Due to her reading th polls in NH she went for broke even if it meant using MLK to do it. Now since she stumbled her words she blames Obama go figure. Did i hear NH is being recounted! I think the Clinton's have shown their tru colors and i'm sad to say Mrs. Clinton's run is hurting Mr. Clinton's legacy with stunts like this one!

    January 13, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  23. Noble

    I would not like to be sentimental over this type of ıssue. I personally on several occasions had seen Sen Clinton criticizing Sen Barack Obama over sensitive issues like experience , that he dont stand on his words , and that he voted for war in Iraq and now that he said that he wants the sodies to leave Iraq . forgeting that they are in the same party , I think Sen Clinton should make points based on issues that reflects to the proplems of the present Government , that will be enogh to convinece people to vote for her but not going on every day in the Media to tanish Sen Obama`s name in the name of desperacy , inviting race to this unique primary like this .Also I stroly believe that the electorate are of good experience to know who among Obama , Clinton and Edward are experienced . Finally Let her be informed that positions are been given by God and America is a big Country that really needs a big Mind not a crying heart.
    Thanks
    Noble

    January 13, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  24. Independent in IA

    It's a very sad state of affairs when people, no matter who they are –politicians or Joe Blow–must be mindful of every word they speak lest they 'upset' some other politician or Joe Blow.

    It's especially sad that there are individuals in positions of either authority or popularity who scrutinize and parse every word and sentence to discover 'hidden meanings'. Frankly, this behavior is beneath our intellect.

    In forty odd years of suffering through political campaigns, I'm beginning to wonder exactly what it is candidates value so much that they would stoop to denegrating their opponents and looking for any excuse to vilify them, whether from some indescretion as a youth or accusing them of having 'hidden meanings that portray them as racist. The worst part of it is, this is only the beginning.

    January 13, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  25. Rob

    Clinton is shameless.

    January 13, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
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