January 15th, 2008
01:20 PM ET
15 years ago

Major Clinton supporter calls Obama remark 'absolutely stupid'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/14/art.rangel.gi.jpg caption=" Rangel had some tough words for Obama Monday."](CNN) - As both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama tried to lower the tension after days of charged rhetoric over race, a congressional supporter of Clinton's presidential bid called the Illinois senator's remarks attacking her over recent comments about President Lyndon Johnson and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “absolutely stupid.”

"How race got into this thing is because Obama said ‘race,’” New York Rep. Charlie Rangel, one of the highest-ranking African-Americans in Congress, said in an interview on NY1.

“But there is nothing that Hillary Clinton has said that baffles me. I would challenge anybody to belittle the contribution that Dr. King has made to the world, to our country, to civil rights, and the Voting Rights Act,” said Rangel. “But for him to suggest that Dr. King could have signed that act is absolutely stupid. It's absolutely dumb to infer that Doctor King, alone, passed the legislation and signed it into law."

Rangel’s remarks came in response to Sunday comments from Obama, who told an audience at a Nevada campaign event: "I am baffled by that statement by the Senator. She made an ill-advised statement about Dr. King, suggesting that Lyndon Johnson had more to do with the Civil Rights Act. For them to somehow suggest that we're interjecting race as a consequence of a statement she made, that we haven't commented on, is pretty hard to figure out."

The New York senator has since tried to explain the intent of her remarks was not to diminish the contribution of King, but to point out the benefit of experience in enacting positive legislation.

Rangel also implied that Obama’s admission of prior drug use in his autobiography may have had a financial motive: "I assume that the book was not written for political purposes. It was honest….It was a big mistake for him to have done it [used drugs.] For him to be honest enough to write about it, I guess he thought it might sell books."
Video: Watch Rangel on the Clinton-Obama spat

–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
soundoff (1,694 Responses)
  1. Tony in Albany, Ny

    This is the same oversized Charles Rangel, who has to have an oversized self portrait at taxpayer expense. Get right with the world. Hillary mispoke and Obma called her on it. Now can we get back to the back-stabbing as usual politics

    January 15, 2008 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  2. shakti

    OBama is on the path to divide the Democratic party along race lines. We must win the election in Nov. Therefore he should bow out from the race.before more damage is done to the party. The American voters will realize sooner or later that he is all talk and no substance. He has not explained anything about his "CHANGE THEME". IT IS JUST A RHETORIC THAT RESONATES NICELY.

    January 15, 2008 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  3. lawrence scott

    the media pundints needs to leave the so called race statement along and stop meddling and attempting to the devide the the african american electorite .it just want work hillory clinton is ok with africian americians i look forwared to obama and her being sworn in in 2009 .the americian people is well aware what the media is attempting to do like you have been doing for years .the time has arrived where your meddling and playing up the race cards to sell your papers and watch your news casts is really stupid leave this along. and just think god you have the right to a free press its to bad that some of the media abuses that right .

    January 15, 2008 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  4. Ed

    I am disgusted to see Rangel "Swift-Boating" Obama. Hillary made a stupid remark that seemed to indicate that MLK was a dreamer who jousted with windmills who would have accomplished nothing without the efforts of a southern, white, Washington-savvy politician. Obama said that was "unwise." I would say that her statement is unsulting to Dr. King's legacy and represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what was accomplished by the foot soldiers in the struggle (including the now feeble Andrew Young.)

    January 15, 2008 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  5. zatavu

    I suppose Congressman Rangel is now ready to thank the Republicans for being key players in the civil rights act, then. 65% of Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act, but LBJ was only able to get 55% of Democrats on board. I suppose too that Rangel is ready to thank Nixon for Affirmative Action. Yes, Affirmative Action was a Republican idea. It was also a Republican - Eisenhower - who sent the National Guard in to protect the first African-American students to go to an all white school. Since Rangel is setting the record straight, I expect him to be saying these things next, and thanking the Republican Party for its long history of fighting for the rights of African Americans.

    January 15, 2008 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  6. Katy Hill Prescott Az.

    Another blow-hard enters the fray. Rangel, Sharpton< Jesse Jackson...non of these guys know when to keep their mouths shut. They do more harm than good.

    January 15, 2008 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  7. Matt

    Whether you support Hillary or Obama, Rangel's comments are the remarks most fitting of being called "absolutely stupid." And what's with the left field potshot about "financial motives" with "Dreams from My Father"? CNN quit fanning these sensationalist flames and giving out-of-touch dinosaurs like Rangel and Johnson any perceived relevance.

    January 15, 2008 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  8. MaryJo Bruce Surprise, Ariz

    I'm certanily not for Obama for President. BUT, at least he probably did inhale. As Ex President Bill Clinton said he didn't. And, what Billy did in the WhiteHouse while president is absolutely a crime. I'm sure he did all that womanizer stuff as a young man, BUT in the Whitehouse. Seems people forget what the people they elected did when they were young. But when in the big house, Honestly!!!!!!!

    January 15, 2008 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  9. Jae, Dallas Texas

    There are no elder spokesman for the black community. Rangel and Bob Johnson are off base and don't speak for me at all. ( I am a black man). People need to stop acting like the Clinton's were some great civil rights leaders who brought blacks out of darkness into the late. That is pure garbage. They try to manipulate blacks more than many of the hucksters in the community to the point where it is offensive. Bill Clinton was not the first black president. I don't care who said it. That is trash and disrespectful to blacks to say that. He's not black. Going on black shows and smoking marijuana (but not inhaling) don't make you black!

    January 15, 2008 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  10. Matt

    and let's get over this, "Oh it's not her fault, she didn't say it, her supoprters did....poor thing." If this is so then it's time for Hillary to tell her supporters to shut up because they aren't doing her any favors.

    January 15, 2008 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  11. Martin King

    Way to go party of "colorless vision".
    What a laugh.
    African Americans, join the true party that will take care of you...the Republican Party.
    Just look at the number of minorities in Bush's cabinet and compare it to Bill Clinton's...ouch on the Democrats.
    Can you say, "Hipocracy!"

    January 15, 2008 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  12. B

    you people are ridiculous. Look at the comments you're posting and realize that the US political machine is bigger than the petty surface fighting. Stop getting caught up in the prop. Look at the issues you care for, who represents them the best (along with your values) and vote, that's it. Stop writing stupid crap on this site and wasting my time.

    January 15, 2008 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  13. TJ

    If you want to see through Rangel's comments, look at where he puts the focus. He deceptively says Obama suggested that MLK had legislative powers. Everyone knows that isn't the case at all, including Mr. Rangel. He's just pretending to misinterpret the statement to further obfuscate and make Obama "say" something he never actually said.

    Obama put MLK on a pedestal as politicians, reporters and civil rights people have done for decades, no more no less.

    Rangel obviously was given marching orders from the Queen and told to get out their and slam the African American candidate at the seediest levels – using race and allegations of prior drug use.

    Obviously, Hillary can be a racist when it works for her, and so can established black leaders. Shameful.

    January 15, 2008 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  14. Steve D, Irving TX

    I think Rangel and those who believe as he does are missing something. How often do we hear about the "McCain-Feingold Bill" or other bills bearing the name of its chief supporter. Of course the president must sign off, but in this case I doubt that LBJ would have passed this without MLK. For all intents and purpose, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be MLK's name. It would not have happened when it did without MLK, you can't say that about LBJ.

    January 15, 2008 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  15. Eric Thompson

    Representative Rangel's comments along with Robert Johnson's leaves a bad taste in the mouth of anyone who is seeks to find the good in our political process. It is the "POLS" of this nature that we must disregard of both parties if we are to save our democracy. Politics of personal destruction must end, if we are to endure. Throughout history individuals of distinction were derided by those supporting the status quo. Socrates, The Gracchi of Rome, Sir Thomas More, Gandhi, to name a few. Today we revere Bobby Kennedy, but we should not forget that during his lifetime he was subject to attack after attack questioning his motives and his actions. Lest we forget Bobby fought these entrenched interests in the name of change.
    Today these interests are threatened by a dynamic and inspiring Barak Obama, and since they cannot match his message they can only respond with the tried and true methods of the past, insults and innuendo. It is a sad commentary that those that once led the insurgency for progress are now more vested in the way things are rather than the possibility of what could be. Rangel, Sheehan and others have been twisted by the actions of Rove and Bush and now they see no other option than to operate by that same brand of politics.

    January 15, 2008 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  16. Mariann Pepitone

    Charlie Rangel is right in everything he said about Obama. He is dumb and stupid and doesn't have any integrity to lead this country. Of course most of this generation of drugs and booze would disagree because he is in their league. If he was decent when going to college he would not be involved with the druggers and boozing it up at the bars. That certainly will stay with him for life and just think if he was in the white house. Would there be drugs and booze there? At least Hillary has a clean slate and so does her daughter. Its just that this generation is so jealous of Bill and Hillary Clinton they are built up with hate. Obama wants to make history as the first black president and if he wants to be JFK you know what happened to him. He had a short presidency. Obama doesn't have the brains of either JFK or MLK and should not compare himself to them. They knew how to speak to an audience he is boring. And Obama did underhanded tricks to the woman that was running against him for the senate. Daley wants him to act as the underdog? He is a dog for what he did to that woman. I don't believe he is going to get the nomination and if that happens maybe we can get him out of the senate. That would get rid of him for good.

    January 15, 2008 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  17. Truthy

    Hillary does not have more support from black people, I can attest to that. i can also attest that if Barack, the most honest politican we have seen in decades, is smeared by the clintons who are the ones who started this entire race debate, i will sit ouf the general election, me and hundred thousand other black voting men, e=to ensure that we send a strong message to the democratic party that racism against black candidates will not be tolerated

    January 15, 2008 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  18. ddash

    this guy is stupid for trying to keep the feud going. a truce has been made-why open your big fat mouth now.

    obama '08.

    January 15, 2008 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  19. Jerry Calendine

    This petty racial friction at a time we face serious, really serious problems, shows neither Hillary nor Obama should be elected.

    January 15, 2008 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  20. Brandon

    First things first,

    Hillary Clinton: Charlie, get out there and defend me to the public and I might let you serve me tea in the morning if Im President!!

    Charlie Rangel: Yessum Boss Lady, Isa go do that ma'am.

    This is a prime example of the old Black guard i.e. Rangel, Jackson, Sharpton ands all the rest that need to be let out to pasture. CNN,Fox,NBC,ABC,CBS please do not go to these people for their opinion on anything. Not the weather, stocks, war, social issues NOTHING!!!!!! Im tired of everyone going to these old people asking there opinion on stuff. These are self serving egomaniacs. Please start asking new fresh people. PLEASE!!!! IM BEGGING YOU!!!!!!!!!!

    January 15, 2008 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  21. Amazed

    Obama is running to be President of the United States, he has never focused on getting the black vote, he has focused on change and getting the American vote.

    January 15, 2008 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  22. Liam

    MLK choose to fight and die for freedom. LBJ did not. He was a some what accidental President, who would never have been elected to the office if JFK had not been murdered. LBJ knew that he had to do something dramatic to have a chance to win a term of his own. Look what he did with his own term. Created the mess in Vietnam. This is the guy that Hillary is elevating to the rank of top civil rights pioneer. The two million or more Vietnamese who died in Johnson's vanity war prove that LBJ did not give a rat's arse about human rights.

    Hillary voted for Bush's Iraq invasion, and recently voted for the Kyl/Lieberman Iran war ploy. No wonder she touts LBJ over the Anti-War MLK.

    January 15, 2008 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  23. Bob

    Rangel's comments are absolutely ridiculous. He's made a fool of himself by continuing this sparring match within the Democratic Party after both sides have called off the fight. Hillary did not belittle MLK's contributions, and all Obama suggested was that Hillary gave too much credit for the Civil Rights legislation to LBJ. Mr. Rangel's comments on this matter are not only politically motivated, but inflammatory...and they're hurting his own party.

    While the Republicans are discussing trade agreements, jobs, and the economy up in Michigan, the Democrats are caught up in this asinine debate...fueled by the congressman.

    His efforts to closely ally himself with Hillary Clinton, and possibly win an appointment, are doing more harm than good.

    January 15, 2008 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  24. d

    So much for a truce!
    That didn't take long at all.
    Heck truces last much longer in the middle east.
    Is Hillary going to say anything about this or is she just gonna let it ride and see how it plays out?

    As long as Hillary is in the race or in the Oval Office, this sort of thing will go on and on and on and on and on and on.

    January 15, 2008 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  25. Tia

    What are all these things the Clintons did for us (Black people)? PLEASE tell me. Was it his welfare reform that failed to change the dynamics of poverty? Or maybe his crime bill that put more Black men in prison and on death row, yet failed to stop said crime? Besides Bill acting cool and Hillary speaking in Negro dialect, I can't figure out how they have "done so much for Blacks" and furthermore, I am looking for candidate who will finally unite us and make us see that "Black issues" are "American issues"....Hillary Clinton is NOT that candidate.

    January 15, 2008 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
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