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. dem08

    Former President Clinton criticizing Senator Obama as inconsisitent in his voting on the Iraq war is misguided. There are many Americans who strongly opposed our invasion of Iraq, but consequently supported funding for the troops that wound up there. I personally feel that Senator Obama showed his ability to lead by handling this controversial situation with a conscience, something that appears to be lacking in others.

    January 13, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  2. Ann

    One of the most important things we can teach our children is that they must take responsibility for their own actions. Hillary needs to take responsibility for the comments that she made and apologize to this entire nation. To somehow blame anyone other than herself for the reactions that we all felt at that moment only shows how little she really care about this country, and that it is only about winning.

    Martin Luther King Jr. moved this nation–Lyndon Johnson signed the bill only because he had to, because the nation moved.

    January 13, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  3. Yusuf

    This is really so sad that the Clintons are going down this route. I had hoped that the would be a positive election but I was wrong. Hillary stop attacking Sen Obama. He is not a republican and therefore should be carefull with your words. If she continues to do this, she will lose the black vote now and in the general election. Thanks

    January 13, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  4. jaylee

    Let us not forget that small insignificant white man that started the first war for FREEDOM & EQUALITY.

    Nor should we forget the thousands and thousands of men and women that joined and died for this cause because they also believed in FREEDOM & DREAMS. With each step they marched towards the enemy, putting their own lives in line of the enemies guns, bullets, and knives. They died for you and they died for me.
    To give another human being the chance for FREEDOM & EQUALITY FOR ALL.

    Because of their beliefs and their willingness to put their lives on the line for another human being, we were changed forever.

    Although he may not have been there in person with Rosa Parks on that bus, or leading the parade and walking side by side with MLK, he was there. He was there.
    His name was Abraham Lincoln.

    January 13, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  5. Jose

    they just can't help themselves. Make a stupid comment and then blame others for what THEY said. I understand though, Americans are idiots, they'll believe anything.

    January 13, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  6. DJ

    I agree this has been made into something big. Of course Obama would make it into something racial so that he could win some crucial votes. If you look at the statements it is apparent that Senator Clinton was trying to make a point. And instead of looking at the facts obama clearly wanted to make it into some racist. That's unfortunate. Hopefully people are smarter than that!

    January 13, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  7. Jane

    I think that the Obama campaign wants it to be about race, they do not want it to be about experience! I just watched Hillary explain on "Meet the Press"...sorry, other network...and I do believe that Obama's campaign is trying to distort what has been said.

    January 13, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  8. Voter

    It's Looking like the Black people are sticking togeather, And when the Clintons stuck by them. Ha Ha The Clintons should have known better.

    January 13, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  9. Rob

    It seems apparent to me that Obama is using MLKJ, mirroring his style & approach, as a "tool" to harness the support of the African-American people. He's NO Martin Luther King, Jr.! How abour offering the American people some details on his supposed plans for "change". I, for one, haven't heard anything more then his hot air blowing kisses in the wind. Talk is cheap and won't change anything in a country that is at a crutial crossroads in it's history.

    January 13, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  10. Brad

    How can Senator Clinton say "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?"

    If Senator Clinton didn't want race or gender brought into the campaign then why, at the New Hampshire debates, did Senator Clinton state "I think that having a first woman president is a huge change." Doesn't that statement bring the issue of gender into the campaign?

    Also, if one looks at who brought race into this campaign they would find that Senator Clinton discussed the comparisons between Martin Luther King Jr. and President Kennedy. So she was the first to inject race into the campaign as well.

    January 13, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  11. Sean McM

    Can anyone tell me why Obama tells only half truths?????? Or why he exaggerates his claims?

    And WHY did he initiate and put the "race" card into play????? Yes, Barack Obama self proclaimed African American (incorrect language of course...it should be American, of African descent, etc)

    Having read his geneology on the net, which goes back 9 or so generations, Irish, English, etc. is there on his mother's side....why is he not acknowledging his whole, meaning multiple descent lines? His mother's side nurtered, educated, raised him, did they not?

    The best guess is that he is a clever fellow rather than being an accomplished fellow. Apart from skin tone, he in NO WAY can identify with Americans who are descendents of slavery and oppression in the U.S. He counts on, no doubt, that voters WILL vote on skin tone/color..pretty unfortunate if that be the case.

    January 13, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  12. Lukyoh

    Sweet! Obama pwns hillary on this:

    What we saw this morning is why the American people are tired of Washington politicians and the games they play. But Senator Clinton made an unfortunate remark, an ill advised remark, about King and Lyndon Johnson. I didn’t make the statement. I haven’t remarked on it and she I think offended some folks who felt that somehow diminished King’s role in bringing about the Civil Rights Act. She is free to explain that, but the notion that somehow this is our doing is ludicrous.

    I have to point out that instead of telling the American people about her positive vision for America, Senator Clinton spent an hour talking about me and my record in a way that was flat out wrong. She suggested that I didn’t clearly and unambiguously oppose the war in Iraq when it is absolutely clear and anyone who has followed this knows that I did. I stood up against the war when she was voting for it, at a time when she didn’t read the intelligence reports or give diplomacy a chance. She belittled the most sweeping ethics reform since Watergate despite the fact that she stood on the sidelines during that negotiations on that bill.

    I have to say that she started this campaign saying that she wanted to make history and lately she has been spending a lot of time rewriting it. I know that in Washington it is acceptable to say or do anything it takes to get elected but I really don’t think that is the kind of politics that is good for our party and I don’t think it is good for our country and I think that the American people will reject it in this election.
    What I want to do is spend talking about how we are going to make sure that people who are losing their jobs get work. How are we going to make sure that our young people are going to afford college? How are we going to make sure that the sub-prime lending crisis does not lead to an all out recession? How are we going to create the kind of foreign policy that allows us to bring our troops home and makes us safer and goes after a genuine terrorist threat? Those are the issues that we are going to spend time talking about in this campaign and if Senator Clinton wants to be distracted by the sorts of political point scoring that was evident today then that is going to be her prerogative.

    January 13, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  13. Work for Justice

    Senator Obama compares himself to Dr. King and alludes in his ads to Kennedy as well. He is invoking an era and hoping it will help get him votes. Understandable, but he also needs to say what he's done that puts him at their level. Personnally, I resent the tactic and blame his handlers. But he needs to stand up.
    Senator Clinton responded to a specific, inflammatory attack by the Obama campaign. She responded directly, he does not.
    The voters can figure this out. The work of the Clintons in the south and later in the White House is the reason Mr. Clybourn has been very astute and clear in these past few days – he knows the danger of the inflammatory attacks Obama's campaign is making, and he also knows the Clintons have credibility. His interest is, wisely, that these candidates need to not beat each other up and let the Republicans take the White House.
    Hillary Clinton is entitled to fight back and make sure the public sees the entirety of the point she was making. Dr. King worked for Lyndon Johnson, and understood the person in the White House has to deliver. The voters will decide who would be the best person to do that - and that's what this is all about.

    January 13, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  14. Legal Immigrant

    Could someone please explain me about what kind of the experience is she talking about? My husband is high ranked in a company, he talks sometimes about his work issues, we make and go to parties. I socialize with other wives but should I put in my CV that I worked as a vice president of a company? Confusing, isn't it?

    I always taught that once Bill took an oath to tell the truth and then he lied and then he got caught and then he cried and it was all forgiven? Then the other day he said something about the fairy tales and then he said that he didn't mean that way. Then Hilary said something and now she meant something else? What is all up with these people?

    While he was the president I lived in a country whose dictator he supported for years and then changed his mind, bombed a country and called one terrorist organization freedom fighters. Changing of mind is not anything foreign for these people?

    At the end, I still can not vote but I still can give my opinion.

    January 13, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  15. Mal

    The Clinton campaign is racializing this and it is a shame because Obama has been running a very clean campaign all along. They are trying to deminish Sen. Obama's abilities. It is so ironic because they are also stealing his campaign theme of change and bi-partisan inclusiveness in government.

    Somebody needs to remind the country how polarizing and scandle ridden the Clintons last presidency was and also emphasize how the clinton campaign only changes to suit the moment "will the real Hillary Clinton please stand up). America doesnot need another eight years Clinton and most likely Jeb Bush to come.

    January 13, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  16. Bill in Montgomery, AL

    New flash: It's just been revealed that there was no Rosa Parks; that it was actually Hillary Clinton that started the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. That was because Hillary had found out she was actaully a decendent of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings and was thus considered Black. She just wanted the African American community to know that fact about her. She also participated in the Selma to Montgomery March and was beaten severley by the police.

    January 13, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  17. John G

    Don't want to see an injection of race or gender into the campaign? What have they been running on? Both of them go to great lengths to point out their own race and or gender whenever they can.

    Most of Obama's early "key" endorsements were black

    In a recent debate Hillary said that electing a woman would be a big change in and of itself.

    If you don't want something "injected" into the campaign then don't bring it up every chance you get

    January 13, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  18. Bill in Montgomery, AL

    News flash: It's just been revealed that there was no Rosa Parks; that it was actually Hillary Clinton that started the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. That was because Hillary had found out she was actually a decendent of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings and was thus considered Black. She just wanted the African American community to know that fact about her. She also participated in the Selma to Montgomery March and was beaten severely by the police.

    January 13, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  19. Ginny Ca

    Obama's campaign is desperate after his loss in New Hampshire and has no problem distorting and twisting Clinton's words to suit their purposes. Most people understand that both Clintons have been actively involved in the civil rights movement for decades and that MLK is her hero. Both Clintons have earned the respect of a majority of Black Americans who remember their tireless work for equality. Any "disrespect" the Obama people take from her comments are an act of desperation.

    January 13, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  20. Braddock

    How can Senator Clinton say "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?"

    If Senator Clinton didn't want race or gender injected into the campaigns then why during the New Hampshire debate did she state "I think that having a first woman president is a huge change." Doesn't that inject the issue of gender into the race?

    If one looks at the who first brought race into the campaign, they would find that it was Senator Clinton who made the comparison between Martin Luther King Jr. and President Kennedy. So again she is the one who is injecting race into the campaign as well.

    January 13, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  21. Brian

    I have lost a lot of respect for Clintons on how they have run this campaign has been same crap that we expect from Karl Rove.
    1. Bill Clinton's Fairy Tale remarks on Obama being steadfast against war on Iraq. 2004 Convention and Obama does not want to slam the democratic nominees who were for the war so purposely left it vague. Yet Obama ends by saying that from where he is standing the case had not been made to go to war. Bill and Hillary purposely leave out the last part of the quote nor do they discuss the context in which it was given. This has not only happened once but even as recently as when Bill was on Sharpton's radio show (Sharpton himself did not point out the innacuracies looking once again someone more for himself than for the people).
    2. Al Qaeda comments by Hillary stating that when Blair stepped down bombs came in to play since Al Qaeda watches these elections closer than we ourselves do. Right out of the politics of fear by Bush. She also called Putin KGB agent so in one primary state ticked off leaders of Britain and Russia to show her aplomb with foreign affairs.
    3. Reporters have documented receiving hundreds of emails from Clinton supporters throughout the campaign and during debates. Most have been characterized as negative positions on Edwards and Obama.
    4. Push Poll Calling in Iowa. A phone call was recorded by a voter in Iowa showing a case of push polling that consisted of negative statements on candidates purported as facts followed by "How does this affect you voting for this person?". All the questions were concerning Edwards and Obama. Noticeably absent was any mention of Hillary.
    5. There are now several false reports on Obama that he is either muslim where he was sworn in on the Koran and went to a radical Islamic school in Indonesia. All false of course. Or that the current Christian church Obama is in is radical black supremacy outfit. Amazing that same people do not see the irony in promoting these two view points.
    4. and 5. have not been identified from Hillary campaign. It seems to me that Push Poll could be hers. I hope that false emails and web sites on Obama have nothing to do with Clintons and tarnish completely the many things that were done right in Bill's two terms.

    January 13, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  22. Gracious & Logical

    I am always offended by those who try to restrict Dr King’s civil right’s struggle to black folks. The fact of the matter is that he was a great advocate of equality for all men, but particularly the disenfranchised and the victimized irrespective of their background, creed or ethnicity. However, considering history and the backdrop in Dr King’s time, this particular group of people in fact comprised a large portion of “colored people”. Consequently, Dr King through his brilliance, eloquence, patience, resolve, inclusiveness and vision inspired a vast majority of a people… he inspired folks to demand change... he inspire them to demand equality… he inspired a nation. Subsequently, local officials and national legislators were obliged by the works and words of Dr King to implement legislation to advance the “dream”.

    Hilary’s careless comments speak for themselves. In a reckless attempt to diminish the effects of Sen Obama’s ability to reach out to people and arouse them, Clinton essentially spat on a noble American legacy.

    January 13, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  23. Calvincito

    Why can't Hilary take responsibility for what she said. She was clearly comparing herself to Johnson and Obama to MLK. Sometimes the Clintons are too cunning for their own good. Now it's Obama's campaign that played ventriliquist and put those words in her mouth. Incredible.

    January 13, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  24. Truethis

    I advise people to please watch MEET THE PRESS (5 or 1 ET) and compare what CNN is saying because CNN is trying to twist this thing around. I have been bias on both side. I have been watching the campaign very carefully. Obama and his people haven't said anything pertaining to race or gender. Hillary can't have it both ways.

    If you go back and hear one of CNN stragtist, Donna Britzel who a supporte Gore and Clinton was the person who basicaly brought this issue of race to the surfaces not Obama.

    CNN this old politics that you guys are playing are going to be thrown back in your faces. God hates ugly. We rely on you to tell us the truth. People are watching and they have alot of common senses when they you're trying to divide this country.

    I respect the Clintons, JFK, Bobby Kennedy and Marting Luther King, they played a major role in our country but to stretch something that's not truth bothers me. We really watching this time CNN.

    January 13, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  25. Kim, Sacramento, CA

    Hillary we know for a fact that you made the comment – there is video of it! Also, how dare you critize Obama for divisive tactics and how dare you speculate that the Obama campaign is causing a controversy – there isn't one because you did make these remarks and you are the one being divisive if you are making claims that you can't prove.

    Mrs. Clinton you are the candidate that will say or do anything to get elected. You have said that Barack's health care plan leaves 15 million people uncovered when in fact it does not. It allows for ALL people to participate in a health care plan at rates they can afford. You have said that Barack flip-flopped on the war when he never has – he has always opposed. You are the one that had a main advisor of your campaign bring up Barack's long admitted teenage drug use in an effort to bring negativity to Senator Obama. Hillary Clinton you are the candidate who continues to engage in mudslinging, half truths and straight out lies.

    Almost two years ago I was in Ireland and they asked me who the next President would be and I said Hillary Clinton – I am now ashamed that I ever supported Mrs. Clinton. We are a critical time in our country's history and we do not need a President who is divisive, we do not need a President who is about politics as usual, we do not need a President with their own agenda. What we need is a President who really cares about everyone, who can pull the country together and who is not beholden to anyone but the American public and that person is Senator Barack Obama.

    January 13, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
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