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. Frank D

    Senator Clinton didn't properly read nor understood the document she signed which authorized military action against Iraq. This is unbelievable! On meet the press, the moderator pointed out that the title of the resolution is:

    “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.”

    Clinton responded saying, “We can have this Jesuitical argument about what exactly was meant. But when Chuck Hagel, who helped to draft the resolution said, 'It was not a vote for war,' What I was told directly by the White House in response to my question, 'If you are given this authority, will you put the inspectors in and permit them to finish their job,' I was told that's exactly what we intended to do. ”

    They were talking about military action and she was sheepishly talking about putting inspectors back to work. This is ridiculous! This is also how she signed another deadly document against Iran without proper understanding of the implication. Is this what America is looking for in a President? Do we need a president that can be led into a trap very easily?

    January 13, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  2. Kyle G. Columbia SC

    Clinton needs to give me a break. I am an educated young African American and took offense to what she said. That is a very sensitive subject to my race. Before we ever had anyone speaking up for us when it wasn't popular it was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. my aunts, uncles and grandparents went through HELL on earth during the Civil Rights era. Yes, it took a LBJ to pass the Civil Rights Law but Dr. King wasn't an elected official and probably would've lost his life much quicker if he set out to run for office. Hillary you crossed the line and if you aren't black I don't think you can DISAGREE with another African American because you have NO CLUE how this affects US. Sorry, you can call me whatever you want but that's REALITY

    January 13, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  3. ifymens

    I guess some of you Obama supporters dont uderstand english to twist what either of the Clinton,s said as slight to Dr King is unconscionable.Who does Obama think that he is? When has he ever taken a controvasal stand , Mr PRESENT will never cast any tough vote because he has no back bone.If Democrats want to loose in the fall, nominate Obama .GO HILLARY.

    January 13, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  4. Craig

    Make no mistake, Dr. King was a civil rights leader who marched, spoke out, was jailed and worked to elect Johnson who he knew would advance the cause of blacks in the country.

    Just because Obama gives a good speech does not make him a Dr. King (or a John Kennedy). There was substance behind each of these great men. There is no substance behind Obama's campaign as he refuses to provide specifics and refuses audience questions. It appears all fluff.

    Hillary Clinton has a proven record. As a black male, I am not going to vote for Obama. The Clinton's have proven where they stand and all I have seen Obama do is grandstand and now he allows his campaign to take comments out of context in order to attack the Clinton's. So much for uniting and changing government Obama.

    I am for Hillary !

    January 13, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  5. Karen McMaken

    Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy both saluted our flag. Obamba does not .He is a muslim and his mother was and athiest. So why does he think he can run our country when he does not believe in it.

    January 13, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  6. Nick, Eden Praire MN

    "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."

    What? First off, that was worded very badly. Secondly, you tried to put gender into this race several times already ('old men's club', '9 men vs one woman' etc).

    January 13, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  7. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    I don't believe those black voters are supporting Hillary because she's a woman. I believe they are supporting Hillary because of Bill Clinton. What did Bill Clinton do for black Americans? We need to focus on real issues, economy, education, environment in which we live, the future of our children, healh care needs and not on Bill Clinton.

    January 13, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  8. Hopeful Patriot

    Hillary, you shame us as Democrats. Your strategy is flawed by divisiveness. It is evident your true character is prevailing in these attacks and if this is your new found "voice" I am truly disappointed. Alienating blacks and Obama supporters is not the way to win the White House.

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

    I do not think it is necessary or expedient for Hillary Clinton to suck up to African Americans. It would be demeaning to Dr King's legacy for her to treat this part of the electorate any different than she would any other. Also for African Americans to display such sensitivity is not reflective of the true nature of their relationship. AA should not fall back to the old dictum of " what have you done for blacks" or "It is our time to have a black president. This is not healthy discourse at this stage of the presidential primary.

    January 13, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  10. gigi


    January 13, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  11. Eric Coffman

    Hillary says "we don't want to see the injection of race or gender into this campaign..." but her actions belie her words. She frequently brings up the gender card to pull additional support from women, while her surrogates work to undermine Obama's credibility in a variety of ways. Watch the ease with which she distorts the truth and then ask yourself if we really need another leader with that skill.
    Hillary likes to say, "I am more experienced". Excuse me but her posturing to become president has been the largest part of her Senatorial career, so her life in the Senate and Obama's are roughly even in that regard. Prior to that she was a two term first lady in the White House, physically divorced from her President husband as was proven by his later sexual missteps. Prior to that she was a two term first lady in Arkansas while Bill was Governor. First ladies are typically involved in a variety of positive social endeavors, but they are far from policy makers. Their roles are not what you'd call experience building for the presidency of the United States. Other than that, she practiced law. Obama also a lawyer in his earlier days, also taught law at the highest level.

    January 13, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  12. modoodoo76

    I am sick to death of her hypocrisy. How many damaging leaks came from her campaign? Is she seriously acting like she's above politics? For God's sake...it's all the Clintons DO. The problem for them is that we need a leader, not a politician.

    Frankly, she lost any hope of getting my vote with everything running up to the NH primary. In the Democratic debate (I think it was the Facebook one, just shortly after Iowa), she went after Obama and then Obama and Edwards went after her...she went off. THAT was the real Hillary Clinton, which is fine. There's nothing wrong with having a President who fights back when cornered. However, when she realized it wasn't playing well with women, suddenly we see the softer side of Hillary, with her crying (just the right amount at the perfect time) and some plant holding up a sign saying "Iron my shirts!" at one of her rallies. Suddenly, she's the victim of a boys' club that doesn't want her there. She "found her own voice"...my ass. She can talk in hushed tones all she wants, but there's a cobra lurking within. I just wished she'd be honest about it; I wish she'd be honest about anything, actually.

    In case that doesn't sway you: watch the footage from her post-results speeches in Iowa and New Hampshire. In Iowa, I could have sworn that I had been transported back to 1996: it looked like a reunion for Bill's administration. The message: everything's going to be the same, which would be fine, but Bill was followed by W and nobody wants to get stuck in that cycle again. Fast forward to NH where someone in her campaign comes up with the idea to steal a cue from Obama and go for the votes of people who are not members of the AARP, and so she's then surrounded by relatively young people.

    When she and Bill started jumping all over Obama for his message of "hope" I remembered how many times we had to hear that word in 1992. Bill Clinton had zero foreign policy experience (except for studying in England), yet he was electable against an incumbent president. And now those same rules don't apply to anyone who runs against Hillary. I just want a president who doesn't think we owe the presidency to them; it's not you turn, Hillary. You actually have to earn people's votes.

    January 13, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  13. Real Change

    It is time for real change. I supported Bill Clinton strongly. I do not support Senator Clinton for president. I am a woman, and I have admired Sr. Clinton's courage and her intelligence over the years. I am deeply dissappointed with her campaign. Her tactics do not resonate with me.

    What experience is she constantly talking about? I feel she is very dishonest when she invokes the "experience" card. She was married to the President...she was not President. Yes, she was involved in many significant ways in parts of the administration, but no, she was not the elected official. She is a recently elected Senator in New York, certainly not a Senior one at this point in time.

    I do not like the comments she made regarding Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. I'm not sure of her intent going down this road, but she certainly moved into an area boardering on condescension if not outright disrespect. Without Rev. King's extraordinary struggle and sacrifice no President would have moved to make changes.

    Senator Obama brings hope for significant change in a time when we need it so badly. He is uniting across many traditional barriers and his message resonates with me strongly.

    January 13, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  14. Jimenez

    We all know its the obama camp. We are not concerned. Obama doesnt have alot of african americans supporting him. So they have to resort to this to alienate the african americans.

    January 13, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  15. Eyzwidopn

    Obama's work on the streets of Chicago as a community organizer, civil rights attorney and his efforts in the Illinois Senate championed some of the very causes MLK and others fought for, seeking equality and justice for the disenfranchised, voiceless and the poor.

    January 13, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  16. Joe

    Yeah, everyone, face it. Obama is the savior incarnate and Hillary is pure evil.

    Drivel like that is getting really old, really fast.

    Two weeks ago I felt I could support any Democratic candidate. As of this morning, there is no way in hell I would vote for Obama.

    When did inspriational speeches morph into trashing everyone who came before you? What exactly has he actually done to gain sainthood in the past few weeks?

    Was it the drugs he was doing while some of us were serving in the military?

    January 13, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  17. NextPresident

    She opened her hole on national tv now she want to blame Obama's campaign for the controversy. Typical of these lying crooks. HillBillary has been race baiting and Obama has not taken the bait, now she has resorted to comparing him with Dr. King, that is slimy to say the least.

    Why are people even considering voting for HillBillary, is 20 years of Bush/Clinton not enough? Its time to get someone new and not only in the White House but in Congress and the House of Rep. These people are out of touch with the American people.

    HillBillary keeps touting 35 years experience, WHERE? Pleeezzee, oh must be in crime and corruption along with Bill and the cronies in Arkansas.

    Enough already!!!

    January 13, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  18. MG

    I am SICK AND TIRED of seeing benign comments being twisted and distorted into a race card issue. I have seen both interviews, I am sensitive to race issues, and those comments didn't even raise an eyebrow with me. They were completely taken out of context, mainly by the Obama camp. This is clearly a sign of desperation on Obama's part.

    Why, why, why, does race always have to be an issue????? It is important to discuss openly, yet there was none to that involved here, and it has turned into one by Obama. And you call him a "Uniter"??? This will tear our country apart!! This is yet another sign that Obama is so incredibly polarizing, it is ridiculous.

    Hillary has the right experience, she will bring about needed change, she is the one who will UNITE. This little situation has been blown out of proportion by Obama, who is trying to draw attention to the facts, the truth, that he has done absolutely nothing of merit or significance in his political career. America will discover the truth. MLK was one of the greatest Americans ever, and to compare a nobody like Obama, who has accomplished NOTHING, to MLK is not just absurb, but sacreligious. Please America, discover the truth about Obama, before it's too late.

    January 13, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  19. MR, Baltimore, MD

    The Clinton campaign is putting out a consistent line that Obama is nothing more than a "shuking and jiving" coke-dealing basketball player who is too "lazy" to do anything more that just "talk." Oh yeah, that and he's somehow an "Islamic manchurian candidate." That the Clintons, no less, would be involved in such naked race-baiting is categorically disgusting. The Clintons just aren't offering the kind of "change" that I'm looking for . . .

    January 13, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  20. Dissapointed in TX

    I used to love the Clintons, but lately, they are really starting to irritate me . . . always blaming interpretation of their misunderstood speeches on the Obama camp.

    I think intelligent people can read her words and be very concerned that she was insinuating that Dr. King's inspiration wasn't really responsible for changes. Whether or not that is what she meant is debatable, but she needs to stop blaming this on Obama. She said this statement and several others during the New Hampshire debate that raised my eyebrow as well.

    Secondly, Obama has never run his campaign on race. Hillary on the other hand during the nationally televised debate in New Hampshire raised the issue – without provocation – that a female President would be true change. So it is amazing how she can say that she isn't injecting gender into this campaign.

    Also, I don't know why the media hasn't nailed Hillary on the fact that she can't claim the accomplishments of her husband during which she was not an elected official. If she continues to do this, I think the question of whether Bill would be getting a 3rd term if she were elected is a question that needs to be seriously considered.

    January 13, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  21. Wendy

    I am absolutely appalled that Hillary would suggest this controversy emanated from the Obama campaign? Is she serious? It came from her mouth and is subject to personal interpretation. Most blacks in America can think for themselves and don't need anyone to tell them how remarks should be perceived. Classic Clinton tactics. Can't wait till their saga in American politics is OVER! OBAMA08

    January 13, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  22. nani

    what's in a name? a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.

    i wish the candidates would focus on the issues rather than trashing others.

    i must remind everyone that this is one of the more crucial campaigns that we've had in a long time, and change is needed. It's not in the name of the individual, but rather the plans that she or he has to put America back on track.

    January 13, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  23. Hillary is trippin'

    How can Hillary claim " . . ."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 . . ." when she said that having a female President would be true change during the televised debate in New Hampshire?

    January 13, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  24. Tom Masters

    Quick! Someone run and get the Reverend Al Sharpton or ol' Jessie, hahaha!

    Oh, my GoodNESS!

    What Queen Billary said was true, I'm sure the evening news will be smattered with a plethora of african american commentators, say...where are all of the african american commentators when we are discussing the economy or energy?

    Oh...that's right, the african american community opinion only matters when MLK or an african american is the root subject, rediculous.

    It is not wrong to discuss this issue, it is totally wrong to make it a 'black' issue.

    Did you know? The Civil Rights Act of 1964 DOES NOT only address african american people, it addresses all races of minority being equal to the majority guaranteeing certain human and civil rights for all, it even applies to caucasions when eventually caucasions are no longer the majority.

    January 13, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  25. Steven Stevens, Lincoln Park, michigan

    folks should listen to the whole of what clinton says...not jst what they think that she said...the listen quickly edit out the paragraph and pull out a bit here and there so that they can twist what she says in to something dergogatory...obama forks are a joke...they remind me of g.mcgovern....big splash and then when ith stuff hits the fan they were a no show at the poles..they love to protest but not back it up with a vote

    January 13, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
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