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. Dan S

    I just can't believe people are buying the Clinton attack then blame the other guy tact. I just can't believe this it is so sad. I looked back over the last 10-12 days and I can't see where the Obama folks are the ones doing this it's like the Clinton's are taking a scorched earth policy to this primary. I guess I'll wait and see if Hillary gets the nod it's going to be VERY VERY difficult for me to vote for her. I am surely not going to campaign for her even if Barack is on the ticket.

    I agree lets put down all the flame thrower language and get back to the real issues I challenge all three candidates to come straight out and say "if you support me no more of this" Edwards, to his great credit is not in this fray.

    January 15, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  2. George

    Although a few foxes can become relatively quite tame, the average fox is wild and not trustable. It is important that no attempt is made to encourage foxes to become tame, which could lead to problems for foxes and people alike.

    Foxes like Rangel are the best Republican´s allies…
    Please respect people that has different ideias from your´s.

    January 15, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  3. Harry, NY NY

    Two words for Mr Rangel:

    Term Limits.

    You have been in Congress too long. And Obama did not bring this issue up. The media did.

    January 15, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  4. tuna

    Kristy – you under the age of 40? Just wondering.

    Iowa caucus means nothing. Voting for your second choice if yours doesn't have the percentage?

    Also, how many women in white, mid-America Iowa didn't vote for Hillary because their husbands were in the same room?

    If Hillary isn't elected that's when you won't see another women for decades, not if she is.

    January 15, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  5. Dallas

    Reasonable people can witness the same set of events and interpret them differently, but who are we trying to fool here. I happen to be African American and those comments by Hillary Clinton shocked me. And i have deep respect for Bill Clinton, the President. I went on to conclude that they were contrived strictly to inject race into the primaries. This situation only helps Hillary, all in an effort to pull white support from Obama – to divide us again. Obama is smarter than that and he showed me something very Presidential when he stepped up and called a truce. We are one party people. Let's not self destruct. But who do you really want running things in a heated and dangerous situation? Hillary, who fans the flames or Obama who can douse them and unite a nation, a world even? Think about it very deeply, because if we get this one wrong, it might do irreversible damage to this country. IOWA and New Hampshire showed for the very first time in a long time people of all races united and voting together for what they want and not what they were told they want. Let's not go back. A house divided will not stand. So, stand up now for change. I'm definitely voting for Obama after what i've seen from the Clintons lately and i hope reasonable minded people black, white, green whatever will join me for voting for the future and not the past. We can not waste anymore time looking back and that goes for the Clintons, the Civil War, slavery anything standing in the way of uniting this country. We must move forward now.

    January 15, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  6. Tad

    Attn: Moderator –
    You can replace the word "derogatory" in my last sentence with "belittling"...which is a more accurate word to describe my reaction.

    January 15, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  7. Chi-town

    Three things..

    1. African Americans are intelligent enough and do not need Obama to tell them what Hillary meant by the King statement. This was an issue whether Obama's camp picked up on it or not. It was just a dumb statement to make.

    2. This is the first comment I've seen by Rangel about the candidates and it's against Obama with the word "stupid" – talking about being the Clinton's female dog. I'm sure the Clinton's will give him a bone if they win.

    3. I hope Rangel was not speaking for the CBC and expect someone from the CBC to address this. I did not expect the head to come out attacking a serious black candidate. That's just silly and looks really foul.

    January 15, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  8. NolongeranObamasupporter

    I used to think that Senator Obama was a different kind of candidate, but seeing how he has interjected race into this campaign, and how he has tried to use it as a means to prevent anyone from questioning his record has made me rethink my support for him. Victimology is not what this country needs to close the partisan divide, we need real leadership and so far in this affair, Sen. Obama has failed to provide it. I heard senator Clinton's comments and former Pres. Clinton's comments, and being a minority, I can honestly say that I didn't find anything racist, racial or otherwise insulting in them. People are just way too sensitive for their own good. How can candidates note their differences, if every time anyone chooses to criticize Sen. Obama, they are called racists, or any time anyone chooses to criticize Sen. Clinton they are called sexists. Gimme a break. What bothers me most about this is that people interject their own biases and innate racism into comments made by a candidate and then expecting an apology for the same. Geez, people, get a life!

    January 15, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  9. Dominique Louis

    I wish Mrs. Clinton would just zip her mouth shut sometimes and let Bill do all the campaigning for her. Every time she mentions that Barack Obama who is a 47-Year-old senator being inexperience she insults everyone that is under the age of 50 years old that is being proactive living life with passion and zeal.

    I am 30 years old, very successful, go getter working for a corporate 100 company. I can only imagine where I would be today if every time I walked into a meeting or sat down in a boardroom and folks discounted my solid years of education (Obama -Pres of Harvard LAW, Columbia University).

    Obviously Hillary Clinton is not a racist! However, it is clear that she would not bring this country together. If anyone has ever been denied a job because they are not the right color, or not tall enough or not old enough or not sexy enough, or not enough experience (though you have more experience then the 60 Year old) may know where I am coming from with this.

    If you don't have enough experience at 50 years old like senator Obama and have been nominated to the US Senate, voted no against the WAR, and have revolutionize a grass root movement, when will you ever be experienced enough?

    Let's make Hillary Pay for her divisive language that can never bring our country together.

    If you’re under 50 and you don’t want to be called inexperienced despite how much education or training you have VOTE for OBAMA!!!

    January 15, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  10. Pamela


    While I think that it would be out of bounds for Hillary and Obama to reduce the election to name calling, it worries me that there is an intolerance for the questions about differences in race and gender that get raised as we move along in the campaign process. What is wrong with people having questions about the role of race in the election and what is wrong with people trying to answer such questions. Isn't that just life? People see that Hillary is a female and her gender does interact with her race and a host of other demographics to make up who she is as well our perceptions of her. Can we really do this campaign without responding to visual cues like skin color? Does that automatically make us bad people? Why can't we have a more open attitude and embrace debates amongst the people that will probably only deepen our understanding of the candidates and ourselves?

    January 15, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  11. R. Gonzales

    I am sorry I voted for Charile Rangel the last time and my parents are sorry they supported him against Adam Powell. BIG MISTAKE. THAT TURK SHOULD BE RETIRED.


    January 15, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  12. Paul, Seattle, Washington


    Sounds like politics as usual, Hil.

    January 15, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  13. emi

    Senator's Obama comment about the race issue was not "stupid" and infact he is still trying to stay away from the race issue that has been "grabbed" and inflated by some individuals.

    Senator Obama has kept his campaign clean, he has made it clear that he is running as an American citizens for America, that he wants to unite the country and that together the problem that are facing us can be solved .The country is ready.

    It is unfortunate that his messages are now being set aside and I hope that this new issue will not take away some of the people that are supporting him, it would be a real loss for us all.

    It is quite interesting that all of the candidates are chanting his slogans and it is quite interesting that the media does not "jump" on the race issue to indicated that it was not initiated by the Senator.

    The campaign is turning ugly but the Senator is still concentrating on what is of importance for the citizens of this beautiful country.


    January 15, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  14. RN

    Rep. Rangel why make such an inflamatory statement. You are reported to have suggested that Obama run for the White House. Why not dosed the already inflamed passions. Cool heads down, Rangel. The world is flat, chill out. Am disappointed to hear such words from you. Sorry.

    January 15, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  15. Laura

    At this point I am disgusted with all of the candidates. I knew it would only be a matter of time that someone would bring the race card into play. At this point I don't give a D#*% what color, sex or religion the person is who gets elected. All I care about is that my life gets better! I pay more in taxes (which I thought Republicans were against...oh that's right only the rich don't pay taxes), more to heat my home, more to drive my car, more for my groceries, no longer have health insurance because I can't afford $600.00 a month out of my pay to have medical insurance for my family. The list goes on.

    Hilliary Clinton is not a racist. Originally, I backed Obama but am slowing seeing I don't care for him. Interesting timing...hopefully the American people can see beyond this B.S. and focus on what affects their day to day lives.

    Kellebelle, for you to even suggested that the Clinton Administration left us vulnerable to the 9/11 attacks is absurd. The Bush Administration was WARNED that this could happen and because of their arrogant egotistical cowboy attitudes they didn't feel the need to listen to the outgoing administration and left the American public vulnerable. NOW innocent men and women are dying in Iraq when we should have stayed fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan!!!! As a former military member, don't anyone dare accuse me of not supporting our troops! To not support the war IN IRAQ (Afghanistan -YES) does not mean I don't support the brave men and women fighting today.

    McCain left his first wife after cheating on her, I am sure that many of the other candidates aren't with out fault either. Remember those without sin cast the first stone. Hilliary's decision to remain with Bill was a marital decision and hers alone to make. That is a union between her, Bill and God. She made her decision.

    When Bill Clinton lied about his affair...not one family in America lost a military family member. When Bush and his crooked buddies lied about Iraq, thousands of families have lost a loved one!

    I am sick of Americans being led away from what is important to us on a daily basis. I can honestly say this may be the first time that I don't vote. I look at all of them and realize that they are so out of touch with common folk.

    NAFTA was a horrible decision. However, I grew up in a Union family, and after having to have my numerous American made cars to the repair shop every other month, I became frustrated and decided to buy Honda. Now, after having two Honda Civics which both have over 200,000 miles on them and not one major issue. I will never go back. I have owned Ford, Pontiac and Dodge...Ford was the absolute worse. If American made cars want to compete with Honda or Toyota, start making vehicles that are dependable after 60,000 miles! Then thousands of auto workers would have jobs. Take a look at the Honda plant in Marion, Ohio. None of them have been laid off. Plus Honda pays back to the community.

    The one thing that I can't get passed is Obama not covering his heart while the National Anthem was played. His reason is ridiculous. To me, that was no different than spitting on the graves of all those brave men and women who have kept this nation free. He is a great speaker, and has some great ideas, but he is no Martin Luther King Jr.!!! If MLK were here today, and running for president, he would have my vote!!!!! Too bad Colin Powell won't run!

    January 15, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  16. Joel

    This is incorrect:
    "who told an audience at a Nevada campaign event"
    He made that comment in an interview with the media (one person with a microphone, not in front of a crowd).
    Get your facts straight before you report the news.

    January 15, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  17. Julia Medin

    I sure hope Obama cleans up his act. This was really a stretch to suggest that MLK could have enacted the Civil Rights Law by himself. It took a strong president because the nation was not ready for such a law. The two worked together. MLK promised to back Johnson in his 1964 campaign if Johnson would push through the law. Johnson sign the law, not MLK.
    Not only was Obama not in the Senate to vote in 2003, he has been waffling ever since his speech. So, his being consistently against the war is indeed a fairy tale or whatever you want to call it.

    January 15, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  18. Natalie

    I kinda feel bad for Hillary. She has all of these stupid supporters making stupid comments. I guess Rangel doesn't care that Hill called a truce, but then again, hes just going to be himself. It's ridiculous really. I know it would come to this once things got more close and heated, but i think its enough already. I still support Obama!

    January 15, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  19. Pat, Iowa

    There was no controversy until the Clintons and the media made it into one – just like the tears. Why any woman would vote for Hillary is beyond me – it's not saying much if either a woman or a black votes for one or the other just because of their race or gender. I'm a Republican but if I were to vote for a Democrat, it would be Obama – at least with his words he lifts us up – he doesn't divide – it's the Clintons that divide us and will continue to if we continue with the legacy of Bush-Clinton-Bush and then another Clinton. Nothing will ever change.

    January 15, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  20. Van Buren

    Are we (the American's who can legally vote) so ignorant, as to think either candidate intends to win the nomination on personal achievement and issue theory alone? Hillary Clinton is a devisive figure and will bring nothing but continued stagnation to the White House, congress and senate. Obama is trying to find his nitch and thus will at times flip-flop. If he doesn't get stable soon, he will loose. The only winner amogst all this washington finger pointing is John Edwards. He should step up, call for peace and go with the momentum it will bring him.

    January 15, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  21. alberta

    Rangel: Be smart. Clinton was saying in an underhanded way, that the Rev Martin Luther King's effort was not important. That Johnson is the crucial factor in the Civil Rights legislation. This is absolutely ludicrous. We all know that a citizen (who is not in the legislative process), does not activate laws, acts, etc.

    Clinton knew what she was doing. Her purpose is to spark discussion around race. She is more insightful than Rangel...she knew what the comment would motivate. She does not have to say the word "race" to get the response from people. She was successful in creating "race" discussions, that causes caucasians to position and/or reposition themselves as a retaliatory act...that is –to vote for her out of spite and degrade Obama.

    Still using low, underhanded, malicious tactics...the Clintons that is.


    January 15, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  22. Oh

    stupid Obama. always stupid on important things.

    January 15, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  23. Erin D.

    Honestly people. Obama is not fueling these statements, so when you say it is a back and forth argument, actually it is all coming from the Clinton camp. Obama wants to run because he feels that he is the best candidate. Clinton is just scared because she knows that Obama is the best candidate so she is trying to make him look bad, but the joke is on her!!!

    January 15, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  24. hot, GA

    This is what’s wrong with the black community, the Clintons have work hard for civil rights, Bill Clinton was named the first Black president by Blacks. But that was them. So now we have (one of us) a black man running. So soon we forget who looked out for us in the pass
    Ms. Clinton made a TRUE statement that Dr. King could not have done it by himself and president Johnson help. Now the Clintons are accused of belittling Dr. King.
    Mr. Obama is a great speaker for change but who many of know where he stands on the issues facing this country. Republican are just loving every minute of this.

    January 15, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  25. Jon, Pittsburgh, PA

    Very hard to read stupid statement after stupid statement made from totally misinformed Americans. When did Americans begin to hold a person responsible for the statements of another? To make acusations about Hillary or Barack's character by assuming they condoned what another person said is ridiculous. But, these comments go much deeper. They suggest that all has been planned by these candidates. Do you really think they have time to plan what others will say on their behalf?

    Politics can be curious for sure, but most of these comments are so far over the top, it begs the question – how much dumber can Americans become? They believe whatever it is they want to believe with no understanding of what is true and what isn't.

    It's truly shameful. But, shame will not come to these people's minds – they know it all – based on what they hear and then choose to believe. Shameful is not nearly a strong enough adjective.

    January 15, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68