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. Bobby

    I have one questions for the gendar supportors. Stop it!! That is as bad as voting along racial lines. But I guess you think it alrigt it is females. WELL it Ain't!!! If Bill Clinton is the spokeman and protector of Hillary, IfHillary becomes president; Well, he be able to protect his wife when some one beat her and she cries????
    I think Bill Clinton will be a co-President. Obama's wife did not get in the fight WHY did Bill?

    January 13, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  2. Jim Bremer

    I'm always amused by Obama groupies who raise a strawman called " 20 years of Bush/Clinton"

    First of all, Bush and Clinton are not together.

    So your statement is about as accurate as saying

    "We're tired of 200 years of Republican/Democrat. We need change. How about we elect a hippie who grew up in a Islamic madrassa, did drugs and knows nothing about anything"

    Wait a moment ! That is exactly what you're saying 🙂

    January 13, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  3. chevy k

    This so typical of the clintons, smart but dastardly. They Clearly want to bring race and ethnicity into this campaign, they want to get Obama angry over their comments, which right now is not working. Hillary is losing this battle and she knows it. This is the end of the clinton-Bush era. Obama is about to put the United States on the Map once again!

    January 13, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  4. bukky, baltimore MD

    How can she blame people being upset about HER comments on Obama? Seriously where is the connection? You must understand that sadly has a white woman if you invoke Martin Luther Kings name to put down the work another prominent black men... you're gonna upset some people.

    Whether or not they should be upset....

    January 13, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  5. me

    It is plenty early to say if Obama is another Martin Luther King like person, He is NOT!

    Martin Luther King was not a talker but a man of action and conviction for the people, in order to be such a person, you have to act and unite on the promise of hope! Obama has rarely acted on anything but his own agenda of self advancement, never united and yet wants people to believe in his words of hope!

    Martin Luther King's record shows he did his own bidding, not only in seeking out his cause of change but the rights for all, he spoke and acted upon his words and he always set the record straigth against any and all adversity, letting no one do his bidding for him! Obama record shows the complete opposite!

    When we look at the words and actions of Martin Luther King, we see his commitment and his never swaying action upon them!

    When we look at the words and actions of Sen. Obama, we see words without action and swaying, there lays the difference between a great man and a man!

    The time has come for a uniter, a fighter and a person with the visions of MLK and JFK to lead this great country and that person, be white, black, latino, asian male or female part does not matter, what does matter is the conviction within the person to be able to stand alone against all odds and to not only be ready, but to have actually always done these things! Unfortunately, dilusion from the words spoken make us want to believe Sen. Obama is this person, but history has proven that Sen. Obama does not come close to fitting this need the country aspires to placing in the White House!

    January 13, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  6. Marty, Orlando Fl

    Billary, do your job and stop attacking. This is getting rediculous.

    January 13, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  7. Leye

    People should stop being hypocritical and read Hillary's entire comment. She was in no way belittling MLK. And I think Obama should be careful not to introduce race into this election. It will hurt him.

    January 13, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  8. Mac in Nova Scotia

    Clinton is backtracking and twisting things again. She will do anything, say anything, be anything in order to get votes. That is what you do when the country OWES it to you to be president. God help America if she gets her dream.

    January 13, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  9. WLY

    It is obvious that the Clintons where talking reality. A civilian can bring change to the forefront, but only a president can bring about social change. Obama is not vetted and his words are not criticized by the questioning in the debates by the moderators.

    Hillary by far is the best canidate who's experience will not only bring change but far more lasting change than Obama's 'fired up' rhetoric. He may me 'fired up' but lacks the any experience to bring it to life. He and supporters can't even face the Clinton's criticism of his the claims except for playing the race card.

    Obama has flip-flopped on his anti-war canidacy and his poetry will make no lasting impact for anyone or fool anyone any longer.

    Hillary is the only canidate who will bring about lasting change.

    January 13, 2008 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  10. Bill

    Enough of these Dynastic presidencies. Ever since the days of the Kennedys through The Bush family and now the Clintons, family members treat the Office of the Presidency almost as if it were a matter of birth right.

    For example I fail to see how being a General in The US Army would or should offer the spouse of that general any special talent in combat techniques or why the spouse or child of a Senator would or should be granted any special consideration for election to political office.

    Now in this election we have reached the absolute zenith of the sorts of problems
    that can occur as a result of this practice of expecting there to be a handing down a political office from one family member to another

    We now have a former president rushing to the aid of his spouse who is again and again being placed in the position of victim by her opponents..Its like a Circus.....What will the present female contender for the Presidency do if she really comes under heat by a enemy of our Nation while in office? Will she run to her former President Husband for decisions on how to handle matters? We in this country elect individuals who we place our trust in to handle national emergencies and not their spouse or Offspring. I can see clearly how conflicts could occur if the spouse of an elected official publicly disagrees with a cabinet member of his newly elected spouse.

    Come on now, lets end this Spousal intervention on behalf of candidates running for National Office.........When I see this Husbands name on a ballot for Office then I will consider his qualifications for election. Until that time I will be considering whether or not the wife or her opponents are the proper choice for election to the highest elected office in the Country

    January 13, 2008 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  11. Jimmy

    While Obama is kissing the back side of the Republican's, Senator Clinton is working to bring about true change. She has introduced a stimulus package for congressional consideration, while Obama is out promising unity with words, but no Action. He still has alot to learn. One being multi-tasking. Not only is he running for President, but he is still a Senator, does he not have to earn his money. We are still paying him and since running for President he has not introduced nothing. Not even showing up for important votes.

    He will say what you want to hear, but has proven not the ABILITY to deleiver. Clinton still as several more fellow Senator endorsments then Obama. That is the ability to unite. When you do it with in the area you work in. Obama has failed at this too.


    January 13, 2008 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  12. Gary

    Sen Clinton and former Pres Clinton conduct has been palpably unedifying. They have made reckless remarks about Rev MLK and Sen Obama and then have cheekily claimed the Obama campaign has "distorted" their words or that they have been misunderstood by the media. This kind of cynical and patronising attitude must not pass. For Sen Clinton and her husband, their failure to categorically say sorry is not a sign of strength but a sign of weakness. America is tired of this kind of cynical politics. As a formidable politician and a candidate Sen Clinton appears, after all, to be NOT READY FOR CHANGE!

    January 13, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  13. John

    Once again, we have people defending and tearing someone part over one sentence in probably a 30+ min. interview. She tried to make a point, yes. Did it come out like she hoped, doubt it. Did she mean anything by the comment, yes. She was trying to blow the whisle on the fact that a Freshman Sentor from Illinois may not have the same expirence as her. No matter how many friends that Obama has, he will continue have to answer for his inexpirance. Hillary may not have sat in the chair during a cabinet meeting, but she was on the front lines of trying to make a difference on families and American. Now, maybe she can do something about from the Oval Office come Jan. 20th 2009.

    We need a President that will bring closure to the doubt and confusion of our economy, safety, and world views. Right now, all we have is someone trying to grease another palm with the middle-class buck. Thanks for the last 7 years, and welcome November 2008. I have never looked forward to a lame duck some much.

    I am not asking you to vote for someone. Just vote your own truth!

    January 13, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  14. S.K.M. Boston Mass

    I hope everyone who became outraged by her comments sees her claim that their outrage was sewn by the Barack Obama campaign. It's either another "vast right-wing conspiracy" or a "vast left-wing conspiracy!" The claim that everytime they criticize Obama it's taken as a personal attack is ridiculous. They don't take much as personal attacks, just lies and ridiculous mistakes. Mostly lies considering the rewriting of history that the Clinton campaign has begun.

    January 13, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  15. boomerang34

    Here is a recent chunk of a Reuters article from the next caucus state of Nevada where Obama got the endorsement of the Culinary Wokers Union- I guess this means the cooks and waiters(?)

    "Obama won and his supporters now are trying to turn it into actual votes to balance Clinton's support from most of the rest of the state's Democratic establishment.

    "We have to convince these people; it is tough," Moreland said, standing among chefs in white hats and cocktail waitresses in skimpy dresses. "If it is 20 percent (support) now, next Saturday it will be 80 percent."

    Much of the politicking is in Spanish - nearly half the union membership is Hispanic - and name tags at the Mirage show birthplaces like Mexico, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic."

    This must be the "change" Obama has told us was coming. The Republicans are going to slice and dice Obama like a tomatoe.

    Nice to know the people choosing the next president are the people that goofed around in the back of the class as the teacher was teaching and apparent illegal immigrants that don't speak any English(?)

    Trotsky would be proud

    January 13, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  16. lance

    The overreaction of the black community will bring spark a racial divide in this campaign. An activist Obama supporter thinks this will harm Obama as it highlights anyone who is white better not say anything that could possibly be misinterpreted as having racial overtone. Imagine being critical of a black president....discrimination lawsuits on and on and on. There woul be an even greater division than already exists.

    January 13, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  17. Bill in Montgomery, AL

    Gosh, Hillary, did you check the polls before you made that comment?? Lord knows the only time you have an opinion is after you've checked the latest poll. Hillary reminds me of the mayor on the old Andy Griffith Show that had the mayor that changed his opinion everytime someone else brought up another point. The last thing we need is another Clinton in the White House chasing the interns around the place with cigars.

    January 13, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  18. em

    This is going to be a very long year.

    January 13, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  19. Ohio Voter

    Clinton's comment rather shockingly overlooks what it really took to get the civil rights legislation "done." King and his supporters put in blood, sweat, tears, and sometimes their lives–not to mention years of enduring raw discrimination. This was hardly a case of "rhetoric" versus "experience."

    But even if we take Clinton at her word, it poses an interesting question: In today's world, with a wrong-headed war to end, a declining national image abroad, and growing inequality at home, do we want an LBJ-like or an MLK-like figure to lead us? LBJ achieved some great things, but his civil rights work rested on the shoulders of King. And as the Washington insider with connections to a previous administration, he mired us deeply in Vietnam. Why is Clinton claiming that heritage?

    I'll go for the candidate with an outsider's perspective, vision, inspiration, a desire to bring the whole country together, and the kind of diverse experience that I think is just right for the country now.

    January 13, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  20. Frank

    The Clintons would have us go from "Slick Willie" to "Slick Hillie" – that becomes evident when you listen to her double-speak in explaining her position on her Iraq war votes and explaining "what she really meant" on some of her supposedly "taken out of contect" remarks. It makes me ill to think of four more years of high drama in the White House. We've had enough already.

    January 13, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  21. Charles in Salt Lake City, UT

    I don't understand what qualifies this as a "news" story.

    Everyone with an I.Q. higher than a blade of grass has always known that the Clintons ALWAYS blame someone else every time they get caught doing something underhanded or illegal. (Remember the "Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy folks? Or the long list of women whose reputations were savaged and shredded when it would come out that Bill had dallied with them? Oh yeah, Hillary is a "woman's candidate" all right!)

    So if undermining the first viable Black Presidential candidate in America's history is necessary to serve their own power-hungry ends, so be it. This isn't news.

    January 13, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  22. Micahel Guinn, Ventura, CA

    The way the TRUTH gets twisted from the HRC campaign is amazing to me. I have always been a Clinton fan – and decided Obama was the right person at this critical time. After watching months of this name-calling and low-road politics, I am more resolved than ever that it's time for CHANGE! Obama 08!

    January 13, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  23. s.positive

    If AMERICA is not tired of the CLINTONS by now, GOD help us...

    January 13, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  24. Hope

    Rep. Whipper, mother support Hillary Clinton
    Staff reports
    Sunday, December 16, 2007

    Former state Rep. Lucille Whipper and her son, Rep. Seth Whipper — both North Charleston Democrats — have thrown their support behind presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton.

    "We need someone with experience and the longtime commitment to make things right again. Hillary spent most of her life fighting for families, for children and for equal opportunity for all people," Lucille Whipper said. "As someone who's had the opportunity to break some barriers myself, I know Hillary has got the right stuff."

    Seth Whipper, D-North Charleston, also emphasized Clinton's experience.

    The endorsements from the two black lawmakers come as Clinton and her main rival, Sen. Barack Obama, battle for South Carolina's black vote, which is expected to make up half of the turnout in the Jan. 26 Democratic primary.


    January 13, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  25. Sue

    This can not be made about race or gender.
    This nation has a history of holding people back, for things over which they have no control.
    Hilary was born a woman. She has had to "play" with the big boys for a long time, and has had to figure out how to beat them at the game.
    I would like to see a woman break the glass ceiling when it comes to entering the White House. I will not vote for her simply because she is a woman, nor will I discount her for the same reason. Obama's camp seems to imply that gender alone is a disqualifying factor. (How hypocritical can you get.)
    Obama has a very thin resume, but maybe still waters run deep. I am not sure yet, but am willing to try to find out. He is not a Martin Luther King, my personal Hero. Martin Luther King would never have avoided tough situaltions, or just answered "present" when faced with a tough vote. Obama does not want to put his "vote" where his mouth is, and that bothers me. He votes "Present" or just does not vote when the issue is controversial. That is worrisome.
    Is he waiting to see where the wind is blowing, or is he really not capable of making an independant decision. That bothers me.
    Again, I wouuld not vote for or against Obama because of his race. He was born black. Again, not something over which he had any control.
    I would like to see the myth that all our Presidents must be middle aged, white, rich men broken as well. But a candidates race will not win or lose my vote. Give me more.

    January 13, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
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