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. audrey

    Hillary Clinton is the brightest person running for president. She has a mind that sees and understands the big picture. This other stuff is just trying to get people away from listening to what's really important. How they will do things differently when they're elected.

    January 15, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  2. HR

    Shame on any of us who bring the word "stupid" into what should be mature discourse during this process of electing a new president for our country.

    January 15, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  3. Ore

    Can someone please elaborate on the Clinton's record on civil rights? What did they do? Seriously, I'd like to know.

    January 15, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  4. sairefgm




    January 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  5. erica

    Slavery could never have flourished as it did without the help of other slaves. Translation: Just because Bob Johnson and Charlie Rangel came running to her defense doesn't substantiate who she is as a candidate. Bob Johnson?? The man who allowed and supported negative images of black people to be shown daily for 20 years around the world? This is who she aligns herself with? I'll take my chances on someone who experimented with drugs 10 years ago........Oh wait, I think our current president has that same issue and it seems to be a non-issue................Also, what about the people who mysteriously died during the Clinton administration? I guess everyone's forgotten about all of those "suicides and accidents."

    January 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  6. dee in the bronx


    "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.


    If people and media would STOP taking comments and statements out of their proper CONTEXT... this world would be so much better. The media has the ability to bleep out and omit whatever they want to conspire and cause a contraversy... they do it ALL THE TIME.

    I am so glad that Representative Rangel as well as Dan Abrams realizes this – one rep from the African American Race and One from the Caucasion Race... and they are in TOTAL AGREEMENT.

    People should learn how to LISTEN... not hear only what they want!

    January 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  7. Joseph

    Oh, give me a break. In between posts pointing out they can't find any DIRECT quotes of Obama attacking Clinton are posts suggesting that Hillary has a network of apparently sophisticated devices to make normally independent black leaders make statements at (her) will.

    So you're basically saying everyone who criticizes Obama is just some nasty Hillary surrogate robot.

    But everyone who stokes this fire related to Obama – such as his campaign staff peddling the idea that Clinton is racist in South Carolina – are totally unrelated to him. What, his campaign staff is some radical surrogate working against him without his knowledge?

    If that's his case, I think you're diminishing the idea that he can implement any positive change. It implies that as President, he is going to go around giving nice speeches while his underlings, unknown to him apparently, will do whatever they want in the back rooms and sometimes work in direct opposition to what he states on the podium.

    You are truly deluding yourselves if you think Obama has played no role in promoting and prolonging this issue.

    January 15, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  8. Jeff

    As an interested Canadian observer – Fact is Obama wants to change the status quo. Mr. Rangal is in fact the status quo and supports the status quo candidate – race has nothing to do with this. Fact is Clinton and Rangal have more in common with themselves then they respectively do with middle / lower class white and black America.

    Obama deserves full support for inspiring change. He is the candidate of the people. I only hope America has evolved enough to give the man a chance. His opponents claim he is to young and naive to make change – Does this mean America should just give up and accept the mediocrity of the Bush presidency? He could do not worse and I predict he would do much better. A great leader is a great listener – his campaign message derived from the people and consistent from day one. Sure Hillary is listening … to the polls and evolving her message. At least Obama has stood beside what he believes – a man with integrity. What a novel idea for a President.

    January 15, 2008 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  9. Tom, Austin, Tx.

    Several month's ago, Hillary and Bill belived that it was going to be a cake walk back to the White House. Now that it doesn't look so easy, they are pulling every dirty trick out of the book to try and make Obama look bad. There is a large percentage of people, both republican and democrat, who will vote for Obama as the democratic nominee, but will support the republican if Hillary is the nominee. Yes, it is time to move on and the only way that will happen is to nominate and elect Obama.

    January 15, 2008 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  10. Carl L.

    Typical Hilary polarising politics.

    Made even worse by the dumb attack dogs who do the dirty work.

    Americans are not that dumb and can see through this charade.

    Vote ABC!

    January 15, 2008 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  11. T Mitchell

    Rangel is what is wrong with government. He will say and do anything to stay in office. The only person that is stupid is Rangel.

    This campaign is clearly divided with the long-time government establishment cronies that have run neglected black folks for years, and a new group of young educated people that want to see a change in the hook and crook business as usual system.

    January 15, 2008 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  12. carol

    Thank you. Also, Dan Abrams told the truth about the entire situation. He showed how the media put snippets out that were totally out of context. His own station people – Chuck Todd, Joe Scarbourgh, Chris Matthews, Andrea Mitchell started it on NH primary night. "The only way Hillary could have won was because once a person was behind the curtain they still couldn't vote for a black man." That was absurd and racist and the rest of the media have run with it. They should all be fired.

    Go Hillary! Your heart was and always in the right place.

    January 15, 2008 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  13. Wynter, Loudon, NH

    I've heard the statements... and I am left wondering "what was wrong with what she said?"... Nothing.

    The Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. King was hard fought and was inevitably reflected in legislation as it should be. Without Dr. King's efforts this would not have come to pass. But to pass legislation to this effect you need lawmakers and a president to preside over this legislation to make it the law of the land. There was no attempt to insult the civil rights movement or Dr. King. It was simply a statement that Dr. King moved the legislators in Washington, DC with the power of his convictions and the resulted in Lyndon Johnson signing that all important document into law.

    Barack Obama has been putting himself up on pedestals alongside John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King in his speeches. He claims to be one of them. But Hillary is stating that he is taking on airs he should not. These men accomplished great things through trial and pain. They worked hard and lost much to attain their stature. And compared to them, Sen. Obama is nothing but fancy words of hope. He needs to put those words into action and experience before he can even come close to those two great men!

    Explaining it as I see it,

    January 15, 2008 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  14. John

    First Clinton, then Bob Johnson, now Rangel

    The Clinton camp never stops...

    Now we see who tries to put race and divide the democratic party, and who calls for peace

    Obama = a unifier

    clinton = a divider

    Clinton lost my vote

    OBAMA 08

    January 15, 2008 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  15. net0man

    rangel been in washington too long. washington is officially the fairy tale land.

    January 15, 2008 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  16. Trod

    The PRESS is the biggest guilty party in this back and forth tit for tat crap. It is the PRESS that continues to focus on the LITTLE things instead of the important things. Why doesn't the press ever delve into the policy differences between the candidates? Why doesn't the press examine the positions of each of the candidates as spelled out on their respective websites and elsewhere, and then ask questions about THOSE things of each of the candidates when it has the chance? That is, support and promote an expanded dialogue about the MAJOR issues, instead of the petty political gamesmanship involved in "The Race"?????!!!!!!!!!! I am sick of hearing about who is ahead by how many % points based on one poll or another. PLEASE CNN, AND ALL OTHER NETWORKS, MAKE THE CANDIDATES TALK ABOUT THEIR POSITIONS ON ISSUES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 15, 2008 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  17. L Mitchell

    I think Rangel better be very very careful with his statements. How soon these black leaders forget who put them in office. Mr. Rangel would not be in office if it wasn't for his black voters in Harlem, period. He would not have won his district if it wasn't for african americans voting for him. Now he thinks he is untouchable because he is a black man in a black district. We as african americans don't like our own not helping accomplish another dream. I am very disturb with our my african american brothers and sisters who are supporting Clinton. And if don't think it will not come back to bite them they are dead wrong...especially Charlie Rangel...

    January 15, 2008 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  18. steve o

    This has turned so nasty, the poor children that lost their lives, the churches torched and bombed, the inability to drink from the same water fountains, the volunteers hanged to support the black civil rights.People what are you doing?
    I'm a white male in my family we are blessed to be multi cultural, multi racial, some of my daughters best friends are African Americans when she comes home from her second grade class and talks about Martin Luther King Jr. I see nothing but respect and love.
    We have a supreme court that if it goes in another direction, what are our rights as humans going to amount to?
    Many of us admired the Clinton's even with all their flaws, this plays badly, the former President had his chance to change and he was crippled by his own human nature.Why cripple our nation, haven't we had enough of wars, the maiming of our children and the weeping of parents.
    My former pastor Juan Shedrick played collegiate football an injury changed the course of his life, he applied his degree to better himself, with that and the support of his wife he started a church. He used his blessings to bus in children, to allow them oppurtunties they might never have. He sent them to horse riding camps, lakes to swim in and paddle around in boats, trips to wonderful places their parents could never afford.Not once was it ever about race! Juan and his family are multi racial and the most wonderful people you could find in my former community. It was his families actions that I was able to see great changes in the lives of children. We do not need to go backwards in this nation.
    We do not need hostility anymore, not in the white house, not in our soldier warriors lifes, not in our next generation, we need to change, I thought running for President no one would incorpirate the hostility of hate.

    January 15, 2008 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  19. joan

    everybody keeps commenting on how Rangel was for a reinstatement of the draft. well I for one would like the draft to come back also. The American public would be far more interested in and vocal about jumping into an armed conflict if there was a draft. I feel we should have a 2 year mandatory service, with the option being either, the reserves, active service, the Peace Corps or the Job Corps.

    January 15, 2008 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  20. Susan Texas

    Did it ever occur to some of you that Charlie Rangel was stating his own opinion, and it had nothing to do with who is black and who is white. I lived through the days of Martin Luther King, and this is not what he wanted. These useless arguments that only serve to divide. If you are being honest, and letting hate or zeal guide your judgement, you know that the Clinton has been on the right side of civil rights for decades. I for one am glad to see these black leaders stand up and say this is not what we fought this movement for.

    January 15, 2008 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  21. dee in the bronx

    Jessica... Unfortunately, I am pretty much 100% sure our next "president" is going to be Gulianai – whether or not the entire US gets out and votes for a democrat. It doesn't matter. He is the next one... mark my words. We, the American people, DO NOT have a choice. It's already planned.

    I wish it would be Hillary, but she's not part of the plan.

    January 15, 2008 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  22. Edna

    It is a shame that every four year the American Politicians have to be on the map for stupidity among other thing. We are becoming worse than the third world nations. Here, Politicians lie, cheat and deceive and without fear degrading one another just for the sake of a position. Why should I trust anyone of them, They all act the same way. I can't even pick the lesser of two evil this time because they're all equally evil and deceptive. Have we forgotten that the whole world is watching us? You wonder why we're losing ground and respect around the world. Can an election be done with integrity and dignity? Is that a fairy tale question or what? Have we become so self-consume that value and respect don't matter anymore? What kind of examples are we setting for the next generation? Shame on all of you!

    On my way outta here

    January 15, 2008 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  23. OJC, Phoenix, AZ

    Wow, my respect for Rangel just hit zero.

    Go Obama '08.

    We thought the toughest part would be gaining acceptance by white America....Turns out the toughest part is handling all the ego driven black men in high places.

    Go Obama '08.

    January 15, 2008 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  24. Seaman

    Tsk, tsk, tsk.

    The biggest thing Obama has got going for him is the fact he was black. If he were Latino, White, etc, people like Oprah wouldn't be supporting him. Why not focus on the real issues instead of the color of your skin?

    Yeah Obama, we know you're black

    January 15, 2008 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  25. JMS

    I new it was only a matter of time before race was brought up in this election. I feel very strongly that the "race" issue was mentioned so Obama could gain momentum with the black American voters. Hillary Clinton's comments were absolutely correct. Yes, Dr. King was a great man who had a major influence in the world, but his dreams could not have been realized without the support of Johnson signing Dr. Kings dreams into LAW. It really bothers me that in today's society a country as great as America can't get past skin color. For the love of God there are more important issues pressing the world! Stop worrying about "race". The Democrats need to pull themselves together and win this election. We really DO NOT need anymore years with a Republican President! America needs to get with the program and stop worrying about playground antics and look at the big picture. May the best man or woman win!

    January 15, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
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