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. Tom Dedham, Mass

    Excuse me Bella Girl, this is directly from ABC news.com and they also have the undoctored video available on many other sites, sorry, Fox news has nothing to do with this, so put down the Kool-aid and yes, google is your friend, when you go to a reputable major NEWS source.

    "Tensions between Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton hit a boiling point Monday over what critics call racially charged remarks by the Clintons".

    "At a New York event honoring Martin Luther King Monday night, Clinton faced catcalls and boos — backlash from a comment she made suggesting King's success in the civil rights movement was possible thanks to President Johnson."

    Catcalls and boos "Bella girl", catcalls and boos.

    Knowledge is your friend, unless you support Clinton.

    January 15, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  2. Kat

    I am a very, very, VERY liberal Democrat, and have no Republican leanings WHATSOEVER, but I would vote for Guiliani before I would ever vote for Hilary Clinton- she's a bad representation of Democrats and it's ridiculous that she's even in this race.

    January 15, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  3. George

    Its abvious to me that the media has spun yet another "WEB" of excitement to sell papers and boost ratings.

    The statement by Ms. Clinton was unfortunate, it could have been said in a much more diplomatic way given this sensitive time in her political career, I do not believe she was even in the race arena.

    The Media spun the "Race Web" and Mr. Obama's Team got caught in it because they did not think ... the Media is in love with itself and know one else.

    Please do not be fooled, the Media is only concerned with "NEWS", even if it does harm to the countruy as a whole.

    My message to "all americans is 'you have a brain of your own ,... use it" or you are doomed.

    George T. Brown

    January 15, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  4. HuskerWife

    I really am starting to wonder why it is that when anyone attacks Hillary or John Edwards it's perfectly fine, but when anyone, whether associated with the election process or not speaks out about Obama, then it MUST be Hillary being racist. That's just absurd.

    Perfect example is Mr Johnson, the boss at BET(that's Black Entertainment Television for you that only read the taglines). He was supporting Obama, but then changed his mind. So then when he expresses his own personal choice for Hilary because of her proven work history concerning minorities, children, and the working poor, all of a sudden it's Hilary being racist. Huh? That doesn't hold water.

    I know several Democrates, white, black and other races included that were excited about Obama – at first. But now the new car smell is starting to wear off and we want to know what a leader will actually do in office. Obama has admitted that he is not a paper-pusher, beaucracy kind of leader, those were his own words. I'm sorry but after the hope speeches, there doesn't seem to be much to Obama. I want to know why he thinks he's qualified. What has he actually done to deserve this position? I hear the hope message and I like it, but I don't think that he has a clue about what happens after election day.

    Until I hear something from his mouth that tells me he's already thinking past the election and on to the next 4 years, I'm not sure he's the one. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for changing things and mixing it up a bit. But sometimes change just for the sake of change is more damaging than what you had in the first place.

    January 15, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  5. Deborah

    Rangel has much at stake in his support of Hillary. It is interesting to note that her two biggest African American defenders in this matter are part of the very establishment that stands to lose so much if Obama or Edwards is elected. Rangel's logic is circular and fuzzy – trying to cover Hillary's offensive remarks about King's accomplishments by attacking those who were offended by it! Why doesn't Hillary just own up to her own arrogance and stupidity in this regard, instead of hiding behind her minions? Mr. Rangel: Of COURSE King couldn't sign the law – but there would never have been a law to sign if King and others of his movement had not taken the courageous steps they did to secure it! Implying anything else is what is stupid!

    January 15, 2008 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  6. Elisabeth, Burlington, VT

    "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.'"

    How can these remarks by Obama be construed as interjecting the race card? How is it that the Clinton campaign has surrogates that continually say things that the Clintons need to back away from? Give me one more example about what Obama said to inflame this debate.

    I don't think the Clintons are racist. I do think they, and people around them, are running the type of campaign they said they wouldn't. That to me is the problem. If you want to run a no-holds-barred campaign then do so. But do it out in the open and stand by what you say. Bob Johnson' half-baked attempt to excuse his remarks Sunday night as well as Bill Clinton's vague attempt to distance the campaign from them without angering a huge financial supporter are not working. I can't figure out Rangel's need to comment when he did. It was a bit late to say anything at all. You don't hear Obama supporters making such ill-advised statements.

    January 15, 2008 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  7. Winfield G. James

    With Charles Rangel what we are seeing is an old black politician showing his envy and dislike of a young skillful, decent and intelligent politician who happens to be "black". Charles Rangel should go to bed feeling ashamed of himself tonight.

    I hope a more capable politician replaces him soon in New York. Somone that will show more respect for his fellowman.

    January 15, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  8. Paul Casali

    Charlie Rangel for President. He could not be more right. And the draft SHOULD be reinstated. That is the ONLY way Obama could ever win, becaust that is the only issue that would ever motivate his real "base," 18 year old clueless college kids, to actually VOTE. The only people who inject race into any situation are the ones who could benefit from it, and that is certainly not Hillary Clinton. GO HILLARY!

    January 15, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Robert M. Scott from Atlanta,

    Thanks for a thoughtful intelligent post. With more of you around, this dialogue would be elevated to a much more meaningful level.

    January 15, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  10. Naomi

    It is time for Rangel RETIRE.

    January 15, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  11. Vince

    Marc in CT: Apparently you`re having the same problem understanding what Clinton said about MLK as Obama did. I don`t recall her saying, or even insinuating, that MLK`s role in the civil rights movement was diminished when LBJ signed the bill into law. The Obama camp just wants to fan the flames of racism and you fell for it. Don`t feel bad though, there are a lot of people out there who didn`t know any better either.

    January 15, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  12. Gabe Polson, The Woodlands,TX

    I am surprised that CNN is actually reporting this. Charlie Rangel is not my favorite person in congress but I am glad he has finally said what most of us have been thinking. The candidates have called a "truce," but will the media allow a truce? Looks as of today the media is not accepting that truce. Apparently the real story of Americans losing their jobs and homes is not as much fun as a made up story about race.

    I see no where on this site the announcement that the President of the California NAACP has endorsed Hillary Clinton. Of course, I understand...that would not bode well for the stupid race story.

    January 15, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  13. COJ

    Hillary, Bill and the other Clintonites, including Rangel and Johnson need to simply stop. At this point when the candidates have put this to rest, by continuing they run risk, at least for me–and Black male– of cause me not to support Hillary is she becomes the candidates. This entire conversation has become embarrassing and unacceptable. Let it rest folks. It would be easy for me to vote for McCain.

    January 15, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  14. Dono Jones

    Obama's noble act to reduce the level of racial tension was because he saw it was boomeranging on him. The California NAACP, the day after Obama's "answer" to Clinton, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.

    January 15, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  15. haydenlh

    Rangel is an idiot. Hilary's campaign built up this whole thing. Obama never made a commit until directly asked to respond to her charge on Meet The Press. And the commit to that was above the fray.

    January 15, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  16. George Lillard

    Hillary has given us the impression that hearing Dr. King in person inspired her to a life long commitment to his ideals. She champions LBJ for making these ideals happen.

    The fact is that she went on from Dr. Kings speech to support Goldwater in 1964 and did everything she could to defeat Lyndon Johnson (and Dr. King's ideals with him).

    A youthful mistake – yes. But without any apology, to try now to claim what she once worked to bring down is unforgivable.

    Senator Rangel betrays Dr. King commitment to truth by shielding someone who once worked against him and tries now to take credit.


    January 15, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  17. David, Gilbert Arizona

    The Civil Rights Act was introduced to Congress by President Kennedy in 1963, not Lyndon Johnson. Kennedy was assassinated before the Act could become law.

    Lyndon Johnson did take up the cause, however, and was very instrumental in keeping the legislation from becoming lost in committee. Because of Lyndon Johnson's nationwide advocacy of the Act Congress was forced to pass the legislation on to the Senate because of an overwhelming public outcry. Lyndon Johnson in a very real sense shamed Congress into doing the right thing.

    In this light Hillary is correct about the role Johnson played in getting the Civil Rights Act passed. Her wording is a bit inaccurate but the sentiment still holds true. It took a president to get that Act passed.

    Our society has become so overly politically correct to the extent that when a candidate makes an honest truthful statement it is still used against them as "ill advised." Since when has the truth ever been ill advised?

    Obama has shown once again how inexperienced he is when it comes to politics. He is playing the race card by invoking Dr. King's name. Most people would agree Obama has made himself out to be the fool on this one.

    Gads, I'm sticking up for Hillary. I'll forever hold that against Obama.

    January 15, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  18. Aaron California voter

    Susan how did Obama bring race into this campaign Hillary was the one that brought it in. So what if Obama quotes MLK he was one of the great black heroes, if anyone else quoted him then it wouldn't be a big deal. If we want a Democrat to win and I'm sure most of us do then we have to stop this, we have to come together as one party and stop attacking each other.
    Obama 08

    January 15, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  19. Larry

    Rangel is dumb. Obama didn't even make a commit until asked to respond to Meet the Press. Hilary's team dreamed this up!

    January 15, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  20. Les

    Whoever said Clinton has more black people on her side than Obama haven't seen the latest polls suggesting that Obama has 67% to Clinton's 20%. Hmm, I know polls often have error, but not that much. Finally, this bickering is a little tiresome, but it is only continuing because Clinton can't say she is sorry and should have worded herself better and move on. Instead, she has to call in all her favors belittle Obama's character. What a leader!

    January 15, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  21. Alana


    You are letting the Media put words into peoples mouths. Pay attention to quotes, not hype.


    January 15, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  22. pops

    You are so right Rangel and Johnson are real sellouts. Obama might be our only angel. After all are'nt those the same old faces running against him and we are all in a deeper hole. Come on people wake up and stop all the racist comments.
    Obama 08'

    January 15, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  23. CDR

    My educated view is that Hillary Clinton was playing to the similarities that have been drawn between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama and trying to dilute the potency of such a connection. Therefore, she attempted to discern between the ability to make a movement and to make a change. Hillary basically said that though MLK lead a great movement and had a great dream but he was not a 'President' and could not make change. Hillary then emphasized that it takes a "President' to make change!" such as Lyndon B. Johnson ensinuating that she is, like LBJ, is the true change agent.

    Hillary attempted to pose the question: "Who was the true change agent MLK or LBJ?" She attempted to make her case that though Obama has a great vision and can spark a great movement it takes a President to make change and more than a movement. Hillary was attempting to present her case that she had the resolve to be a better change agent.

    Though this was not an attempt at racism and perhaps a calculated statement, the statements did belittle the image of MLK and his role in making prompting change. This was indeed a very ill-advised statement and risky contrast to try an distinguish. One could insinuate that Hillary was saying that Obama would need her to realize his vision as she implied that MLK needed LBJ to realize his dream.

    I feel that any person can see that Obama has the vision and resolve of both MLK and LBJ and Hilary is no MLK but perhaps an LBJ. In spite of all, I cast my vote for Obama not because of the comments that are spun in the media but because I believe in Obama's vision, I believe in Obama's character, and I believe in Obama's leadership and resolve to make this country a better place than that which we inherrited. I believe in Obama's ability moreso than any other candidate.


    January 15, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  24. MR. TRUTH


    January 15, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  25. Peter

    Mr. Rangel is not a war-monger; he is just the opposite. He wants to reintroduce the draft so that the rich daddies' kids are just as likely as the poor daddies' kids to head to war. If Mr. Congressman knows his son may be drafted in the event of a war, he is less likely to vote for the war. To say he is a war-wonger is ridiculous and it just goes to show a lot of Americans are minsinformed about politics.

    January 15, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
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