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. Lauren

    How can she possibly blame this on Obama's campaign??? These are comments she made herself! I'm so tired of her incessant, sniping, baseless comments about him. Her insincerity and wilingness to deceive people to win the race are the top reasons why she won't get my vote. We need honesty and openness in the White house. I have had enough of a president lying to my face every time he gets on TV for the past 7 years (and before).

    January 13, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  2. Jimenez

    "Clinton blames Obama campaign for comment controversy." It is so true. Obama has been running a under the bridge dirty campaign from day one. It's not only them – it's some of the media and also some people on the blogs.

    I watched Obama a few times. He doesn't do anything for me. I watched him on two debates where he totally looked out of place. And, I watched him on two or three of the campaign trail. I watched to understand who he is. I didn't see or hear anything that was mind bottling. He talks about change and so forth.... but he sounds the same as most of the candidates that are running now or have run in the past. With the exception of Clinton. He doesn't talk like her. Doesnt come close.

    I don't understand how some people of this great country are going solely on this sing along. This is real. This is not a game. Clinton 08

    January 13, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  3. Robyn

    South Carolina radio ad:

    "This is Jacqueline Jackson. My husband, Rev. Jesse Jackson, is a native of South Carolina. Let me tell you why I decided to support Hillary Clinton for President. As a mother and a grandmother, I know that raising children begins and ends at home. It begins with a loving family that builds esteem. It ends with a woman’ touch that inspires children to make their dreams a reality. That’s why this election is so important. It is also why I believe Hillary Clinton is by far the most qualified candidate to be President in these tough times. Hillary believes that the way we treat our children reflects our nation’s values. For 35 years, Hillary has fought for families. As first lady, she fought for universal health care and fought just as hard to pass the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Women are used to making difficult choices, but this is easy because it’s about what’s best for our families. Join me in supporting Hillary Clinton."

    January 13, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  4. Deborah

    Coming on the heels of Bill's comments about Obama's record being a fairytale, this is truly disturbing. I think it is reflective of a deep-seated attitude (arrogance?) with both Clintons. Does Hillary truly believe that there would have been ANY positive change for African Americans without Dr. King's sacrifice and great leadership? I am not an African American, nor an Obama supporter, but I am embarrassed and angry on their behalf.

    January 13, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  5. Sara

    His camp never brings up race but she keeps trying to bait him into a race debate. I'm disliking her more and more.

    January 13, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  6. Bess Cannon

    This is what Obama is running on and hoping for....the racial unrest in this country. I wonder if he has thought and looked foreward to the pressures his race will put on him if he is elected, and the unrest in the whites as a consequence? I can see the black wringing their hands together, just waiting to pounce and whine, complain and demostrate when they don't get all they want.Corporate America is a mighty powerful force now and mostly run by whites.
    He may rue the day he ever decided to do this and, if we elect him, we may forever rue the day. This is NOT the time yet for a colored president. Maybe down the line, but, not now with so much arrogance , misunderstandings and displeasure with their lot is rampant. Look, when they demostrate, lot of times it turns into a riot so, they can burn, destroy and loot. The right mentality has not evolved yet for a colored president. I can see it sending the country into caouse. I hope all think this through before jumping the gun.

    January 13, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  7. Comedy Queen

    Children, Children, take a break from all of the mud-slugging! Can't we all just get along? Every One knows that the only man for the job is a woman.

    HIlliary for Prez 2008

    Sorry, I mean President Hilliary Clinton!

    January 13, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  8. Nick Ann Arbor, MI

    Yes, the reactions must have been engineered by the Obama camp, because the independent reactions of numerous African American leaders, political commentators, and congressmen must be a vast conspiracy to bring down Hillary. Because implying the greater importance of LBJ over MLK and numerous other civil rights leaders and groups that lead to change certainly couldn't be argued with based on its own merit.

    I don't know where the Clintons get this sense of entitlement when it comes to this election. Hillary keeps talking about her experience, but if you look at her record it is a record of misjudgement, polarization and failure. Obama has more experience in elected office and has a history of sound judgement and the courage to stand up for it.

    Hillary supporters cannot support their candidate on the basis of her record. They can only try to bring down Obama as if to say "He's just as bad as her!" Not good enough. The fact is that Hillary Clinton's record of experience is a sham and a fraud. 150,000-220,000 Iraqi civilians are dead now because of her. Universal Healthcare was set back a decade because of her, leading to however many untold deaths. We need a leader with the political skill to make the right choices and get legislation passed through both houses of congress. Anybody who thinks Hillary can accomplish this task is either sadly misinformed or delusional.

    January 13, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  9. BLM

    Anyone with half a brain can see that she has no business dragging Barack Obama into the mess she made.

    I've failed to see how the comments were 'twisted;' I've read Clinton's words all over the news and it's a direct quote. There was no more context to give to it. It seems to me that Clinton found her own voice and that the more she uses it the more she's going to put her foot in her mouth.


    January 13, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  10. Mati

    Why is it ok with Mr. Clyburn to be displeased that President Johnson was given some credit in the Civil Rights Act, while Mrs. Clinton is not allowed to make a connection between 2 historical events? She simply pointed that any movement that may in the beginning a dream needs to be finalized by a lawful act to be recognized. This is constitutional. It was no denigration in her words as Mr. Clyburn insinuates.

    Compare the objective tone of Clinton's statement with the insinuative tone used by Mr. Clyburn.

    “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.

    “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.

    People are not allowed to have opinions now? why should we be "very, very careful"? It was nothing offensive in what she said. And Obama's campaign made indeed a big deal of a remark that simply pointed the role of the American presidency which as far as I know is written in the Constitution.

    January 13, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  11. Jack, Greenville, SC

    Please post my comment. Thanks

    January 13, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  12. Joe Ossai, Bedford, NH

    I'm a big supporter of Bill Clinton when he was in the White House, but today I can't stand those two. They are beginning to repulse me.

    January 13, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  13. An Informed Voter

    Clinton makes me want to puke. Keep up the blame game, Hill. It's everyone's fault except your own.

    I have yet to see any negative campaigning from the Obama camp... and don't expect to ever see any no matter where his standing in the polls. Sen. Obama is in a entirely different league of class than you, Senator Carpet Bagger (in reverse).

    I see that one of your advisors just got popped for a DUI.... I'm sure that had nothing to do with the pressures of working for your campaign. The wheels are coming off and will be sold on eBay!

    OBAMA 08!

    January 13, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  14. Mary, Michigan

    I have been following this race very closely. It's the Clintons who have been going negative. This is clear.

    January 13, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  15. TomBari

    Barack Obama is a combination of all the "good stuffs" of ALL great Americans from Washington, Lincolm, King,Jr., JFK, even Bill Clinton and many other unsung heroes. He is an embodiment of the great ideas and necessary change American people need and want. Barack is the only presidential candidate on both platforms that symbolizes the dreams of our forefathers and hope of our country. Don't judge him by the color of his skin but the contents of his character.

    Hartford, CT

    January 13, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  16. YouthVoter, CA

    Obama tells me change is new, I agree (not knowing every election Presidential politicians talk about change and nothing changes).

    Obama tells me to hope so i start hoping.

    Obama tells me to change, so I change my parents since they are past and status quo.

    My friends (fellow Obama supporters) tell me to repeat Hillary hate posts 100 times a day, so I do it. It's a change from my other work.

    Obama tells me to convince my other immature youth friends to cheer for change, I do it.

    Obama tells me to ignore experience, so I ignore my parents experience of knowing the world as again, they are past and status quo.

    I ignore every old person who was served nationally as they are status quo. Your national service doesnt count in the new world of hatred filled starry eyed fairy tale following youths like me.

    January 13, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  17. Billy

    I really dont care what hillary nor any other desperate candidate has to say about d greak MLK jnr all i know is their comments wil not and cannot change history.u dont have to tel pple how great u are pple will knw wen u r great

    January 13, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  18. power_greed=destruction

    I don't understand how she would fault Obama's campaign for a statement she made.....please somebody bite me.

    I guess it was because of Obama then former President Bill Clinton banged that woman on the desk of the President of the United States of Clitoris.

    I guess it was because of Obama's campaign he smoked weed and never inhaled.

    Feel sorry for Obama; he has a good heart. But the truth the office of the United States of America is a family business.

    January 13, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  19. Karl Keene

    Barack Obama shares a characteristic that Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Ronald Reagan all displayed – the wonderful and powerful ability to uplift and inspire millions by their words. Such inspiration gave hope to millions and led to much positive change in our country.

    Without the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson would never have been able to enact the positive changes that he did. The way was paved by those crying out in the wilderness. They were the true leaders and agents of change.

    Ronald Reagan helped us all feel better about ourselves after so many years of negative and weak leadership, leading to economic revival.

    Hillary recognizes this same power in Obama. She has seen millions and millions of people fired up and given hope through Obama's positive attitude and words of hope.

    The only thing left for Hillary to do has been to try to cause doubt in the minds of those who have been given hope. I think it is a fatal mistake that she has become a hope destroyer in her quest to become the next president.

    I think the remaining primaries and caucuses will show that people are tired of the old faces and voices in Washington. People want a new face with a fresh new voice of real hope and real positive change... Barack Obama!

    January 13, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  20. Joan

    Hillary and Bill continue to blame others for their mistakes. First, it is the vast right wing, now it is the Obama campaign.

    They handle themselves like juveniles and we (as a country) put up with it!

    Obama in 2008!

    January 13, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  21. art

    Anyone that thinks Clinton's comments were racially motivated needs to have their heads checked up. Those commnets were very normal and had no intentions to minimaze the great role of Dr. King in the civil rights movement – no one could argue that. The ones that are complaining are the ones that always do so.

    January 13, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  22. Tim, Arkansas

    Im a white guy from Arkansas, but even I thought Hillary's remarks about Martin Luther King Jr were inappropriate! As well as Bill Clinton's comments about "The Dream, The Fantasy".

    We all know that Martin Luther King Jr was a great black leader of his time. It was because of him that Civil Rights and Equality in America became a reality!

    It is a shame and disgrace that the Clintons tried to belittle the actions of Martin Luther King, while attempting to gain votes for themselves, instead of their black opponent. Shame on the Clintons!!!! Their remarks were racist!!!

    Im a 35 year old southern white man that is a proud supporter of Barack Obama for President! Obama has served as an elected official longer than Hillary, his believes and plans for America are by farther better than Hillary's, and he's a guy that I can trust to do what is best for America!

    Both Martin Luther King's and Barack Obama's dreams will become reality in 2008, when Obama receives not only black voters but also white voters to make him the next President of the United States!

    So far Iowa and New Hampshire have shown that White Americans are PROUD to vote for Barack Obama. Hopefully Black Americans are just as proud to vote for him. Plus hopefully women will stop voting for Clinton, just because she is a woman. But instead, vote for the better candidate... Barack Obama!

    January 13, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  23. charlotte

    How can a comment posted after yours get moderated before yours?

    January 13, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  24. Beverly Bunton

    Although I would welcome Bill Clinton's economic knowledge, years of this duo is enough. I still don't understand Hillary's stance of 35 years experience. She hasn't held but the senate job and that one in the Rose law firm. The other years she rode on the coattails of her womanizing husband. Please, no more Bush or Clinton sagas. The way I see it, Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards would make a wonderful ticket.

    January 13, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  25. charlotte

    Did I get a pocket veto? two hrs. difference...Or are only Anti-Clinton remarks allowed.

    January 13, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
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