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. Jessica, Michigan

    Dont forget who financially backs these "media outlets"...you cant convince me there isnt an element of politics involved in HOW the news is reported, not just the facts going out these days. All those who've seen Fox News knows what im talking about, how easily it is to spin a story...are we getting spun so that we BELIEVE our own party is falling apart, when in fact, its not at all?

    Im actually excited that there's so much support for Barack AND Hillary...that means our party has faith in TWO QUALITY candidates...a heck of a lot more than the republicans can say. We are sitting with two strong leaders...and they have what? A tax and spend Huckabee, A flip-flopper (thanks for the term repubs, its coming in handy this year) Mitt Romney, and A War-Loving McCain (lets not even discuss dirty gulliani – there's more in his closet than anyone can imagine!), ...and the media is trying to tell us WE HAVE PROBLEMS?

    Ask yourself, why are ISSUES BEING INVENTED?


    January 15, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  2. southeren democrat

    John Edwards is the only one that I hear talking like a Democrat.Can he be the one to leadthe party?

    January 15, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  3. Beth

    A-M-E-N!!!!!!! Mr. Rangel! There is no doubt about it, Dr. King, Jr. was a great American and that he stood up for the rights of blacks and, thank God for him. Nobody is downplaying his role in the Civil Rights movement! This whole issue of race has been totally blown out of proportion from the initial hints of Mr. Obama running for President. I know I am not the only American who believes that if Mr. Obama is the best candidate for the job -he will become President; I just don't think he will win the presidency based purely on race and his belief in Dr. King, Jr.'s great works.

    I support Hillary Clinton,

    January 15, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  4. Wally

    Hillary Clinton and her supporters are in panic mode. Clinton, like many political observers on the left, considered her winning to nomination to be a foregone conclusion. It was simply a matter of jumping through the hoops and going through the motions of caucuses and primaries on route to the inevitable coronation.

    Then disaster struck. The senator from Illinois, a relative newcomer with the unusual name and an amazing ability to keep an audience riveted, came out of left field (pun intended) and won Iowa. Then he came darn close to winning New Hampshire.

    This wasn’t part of the program. Expect to see much more vitriol and mud coming from the Clinton camp in coming weeks. The ironic thing is that, the nastier Clinton gets and the more protesting we hear from the status quo seeking old guards of the Democratic party (like Rangel), the better Obama looks.

    Hell, I'm a conservative and I'm considering supporting Obama.


    January 15, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  5. Myke of Maryland

    It makes me nauseous when I see an old black man on television standing behind any republican candidate during a speech as if they are totally clueless that REAL change is taking place!!!

    January 15, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  6. Ann

    This is "Slick Willey" and the Clinton Machine at their finest. Doesn't anyone remember how they worked in the 90's? We do not need this.

    January 15, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  7. Dave

    This argument is getting absurd. If Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, my vote for President will go to a Republican for the first time in the the 20 years I've been voting. Go Obama!

    January 15, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  8. Teni

    Why Congressman Rangel would say that is absolutely baffling to me? I just can not believe he would even way in on this. I just am very very disappointed at him. Furthermore that leads me to believe that the Congressional Black Caucus debate will be totaling enabling to Hillary. Just when I thought it was over. Wow.

    January 15, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  9. Liam

    How much support did Charles Rangel get for his military draft bill. None. Looks like Rangel won the "absolutely stupid" medal. He bloviated, and bloviated about it, an then what? Nothing. Lead balloon Rangel is the "absolutely stupid" champion.

    January 15, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  10. timbnyc

    I guess Charlie's worried about Obama's rising popularity in his district. Rangel was the person who first reached out to Hillary to get her to run for Moynihan's seat once Moynihan declared he would not run and has been unequivocally supportive of her ever since, even though he was and is totally against the Iraq War. The NY Daily News did a poll several days ago that showed Obama leading Clinton, 42-40%, among blacks in NY (MOE 4.5%, if I recall correctly).

    Sorry, Charlie!

    January 15, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  11. roxanne CA

    I think that people are just missing the big picture. Pay attention to the debates or speeches instead of judging. No where in her statement was she being racist, she was simply stating a fact. I've grown up loving MLK he truly tried to make a difference and he did with a little help so what. All Clinton wants to do is make a positive difference in the U.S. and I truly believe she has enough wits to make that difference. It's also not going to happen right away, she has to clean up all the mess that was left behind that is what a lot of americans fail to realize. People expect a change right away and sorry but it's just not the way it works in the real world.

    My vote is for Clinton all the way!!!!!

    January 15, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  12. docrock,tx

    So far,every comment is a plug for a vote.Please people,dig your head out of the sand,think for yourself,and vote your conscience.God bless America.

    January 15, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  13. Bob, Florida - RFO

    "For him to be honest enough to write about it, I guess he thought it might sell books."

    Yes Charlie Rangel, why would we want our political representatives to be honest!!!

    Rangel's argument and statements make absolutely no logical sense!

    This is a non-race event that the benefactors of racial tension just don't want to admit!

    Please pass the torch to a generation without the deep rooted financial ties into our divisive past!

    The clock is running!

    January 15, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  14. wog

    what Hillary and Bill are now asking the black volks is a pay back and now i want to see how emancipated is the african-american in this contest they should feel free to vote cos what bill cilnton did was just is job as a president,

    January 15, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  15. Teni

    I voted Uncommited by the way in Michigan. I would rather shot myself than vote for Hillary Clinton.

    January 15, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  16. MJ, Tampa, FL

    I love how Rangel and the Clinton camp has managed to twist the words of Obama. I'm an independent voter and although i'm still undecided...i'm not sure if I appreciate the Clinton camp taking the words of Obama and making the meaning something entirely different. Obama never inferred that MLK was soley responsible for the "signing" of the act, but the primary catalyst for change as far as the rights of people of color in this country. MLK was the one who brought about the struggle for change on a widespread national level...not Johnson. The acts of this one mans quest that started with the infamous act of one woman, is what brought the issue to the forefront and into the minds of the Good Ol'Boys club in Washington. Let's not get it twisted Rangel and Clinton. You're not fooling those of us with a brain.

    January 15, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  17. tango

    I was saying to my husband the other day. The minority of America has got to learn to stand above the fray. Why is it that we are never glad and show support if another person from the same race as us did well for himself or herself? The African American putting down their own or an Asian belittling theirs. Jealousy? All of us should be glad for another who can do better than ourselves. Love thy neighbor, get it?! Glass ceiling is not only for women but it is for minority as well, think about it.

    We should look beyond gender and skin color. Choosing a President is serious business. See what Bush has done to us!! We all know what Hillary can or cannot do. But Obama is a breath of fresh air. He may do wonder for this country. Give him a chance.

    January 15, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  18. Ed

    First and foremost, the passion with which supporters from either camp in this forum attack the other is amazing. Where did all the moderate independent thinkers go? Very sad the vast majority of posts cannot see an argument from both sides.

    In terms of this whole controversy. I'll play devil's advocate with a some questions: Do we really think the Clintons would be as dumb as to make a racially charged statement prior to a primary in a State where 50% of the electorate is African American? Given the initial interpretations of what was said and the unlikely intent that many thought it had, couldn't have Barack Obama come out from the beginning and stated that Hillary and Bill were not attacking Dr. King's contributions or his campaign as a "fairy tale". What is the real likelyhood that those are the two things they actually meant? The Clintons are too savvy to come off as racists especially after being so actively involved with African Americans. If anything, Barack Obama has shown his inexperience and lack of seasoning by not nipping this one in the bud. He could have come out from the beginning and rebuked the ill interpretations of the Clinton's statements. He held the key to end controversy early, yet he chose to let it ride. If he is about "change," why does that strategy reek of politics as usual? It was only appropriate and logical given the racial turn this took for the initial call for a truce to come from Senator Obama. Think about it. Could Hillary have effectively called a truce here?

    In terms of Charles Rangel, can we really suggest to candidates to continually police the statements made by their supporters? They would spend half their time cleaning up after others as opposed to talking about the issues, which is what we really should be focusing on before we elect candidates and the next President of the United States.

    January 15, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  19. Julie, Phila, PA

    On Martin Luther King's birthday I want to say: Martin Luther King died for this dream, no one else. And, it belittles what he did to suggest that LBJ sacrificed as much as Martin Luther King did. To wake up every day with the possibility of being beat, hosed, jailed or killed for a cause that seemed like a herculean task to achieve. What LBJ did does not compare in anyway to the sacrifice of Martin Luther King and it is an insult to think it is so.

    However, MLK would call all to unity: I believe Obama is the best candidate for this task, that's his mission, that's his calling and he too risks his life for the fulfillment of this dream.

    January 15, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  20. Scott

    All hillary is using are her chums in washington who are african american to help her out. I would say that anyone was stupid if they tried to say that the civil rights act had more to do with Johnson than Dr. Martin Luther King. I didnt see Johnson walking the street of selma and conducting the million man march, all he did was bow to pressure from the citizens of the United States of America. This is Clinton just saying that it is washington with the power and not the people of this Country. Do we really almost a 30 year political aristocracy of two families in the white house, I didnt know we were a monarchy.

    January 15, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  21. tim

    Vote Democrat, vote Obama, cause everyone and everything else is just Republican at heart

    January 15, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  22. IK

    Obama proves to America that he is not ready to be president.

    January 15, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  23. JJ ATL

    Again Cong Rangel is a disgraced leader. When I observe what is happening right now, I understand why he is taking us such a long time to get where we want to go.
    Indeed God will send to us once in a blue moon a Arican American leader who has the class to lead America to equal opportunity not only in rights but also in our minds and our hearts. The respect from others. that is I beleive the real message of MLK
    GOd sent MLK... now he is sending OBAMA.....

    Cong. you could never call any white candidate "stupid " why do you feel you should use this word in reference of obama for ill-advised comment made by Hillary?.... Do you just want to show your masters that you are the one who can bring Obama down?....I think you are just jealous of Obama rise as Leader... a reel one... and unifier not a divider.... you are a the shame of the Black Community.
    Please, set the good example. You can desagree with Obama, but refrain to denigrate him im public. What will other people say about black people lack of statemanship...
    It is because of you that no one want to respect us as a people
    But you loose, Obama wins you can't stop us now

    January 15, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  24. Richard Sandberg

    For those of you who said Obama has not raised the racew issue. Look back at his speeches. He brings race into every single speech he makes. Whether it be about Katrina to to the Jena six. He always plays the race the card. He even tries to sound like Doctor Martin Luther KIng in his speeches. Mrs. Clinton did not belittle Doctor Martin Luther King, but basically said it took cooperation from the Civil Rights Movement and the president to get the voting rights act passed. Lets not forget it took some wheeling and dealing from LBJ to get the Voting Rights Act to pass the House and the Senate. When all said and done this election will be based on which candidate addresses the issues the best. I find all candidates in this election as divisive, and I truely do not see a uniter in the bunch. All I can say is I hope the American voter will not vote for the person, who they feel they can sit down and have a beer with. If this is the case then we will have another four to eight years of the same old same old under President Bush.

    January 15, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  25. Richard, West Palm Beach, FL

    Wake up, Democrats!!!! Half of you who are battling between Hillary and Barack are going to lose. Then what? Do you really want another Republican administration filled with people who supported Bush? Bush will be gone, but nothing says we won't get Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Libby, Harriet Miers, Alberto Gonzales, Paul Wolfowitz, Michael Brown, or Karl Rove back again.

    Cut out the petty bickering and think about your country!!!

    January 15, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
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