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. Abdi

    Mr. Rangel, with that disgusting voice, when you say something Mr. Obama did not say, it is shame. I never expected from such an elderly man like you. I thought as a matured person and experienced Congressman, you find a peaceful solution by advising the two sides to focus only on issues. It is shame when the elderly man looses his mind.

    January 15, 2008 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  2. waibi alex


    this is what the Clintons and Bushes always do to get elected, they divide people by setting them against each other. If an opponent is perceived as having a sold base they try to divide that base Now because they are desperate to win the democratic nomination they are dividing its most sold base. Come November Clintons will be 'damaged Goods' because Karl Rove and the Republicans are going to Use the very LBJ VS Dr King comment to divide the democratic Black Vote. That comment also raise serious doubts about her judgement and raises the questions as why despite having a political savour in a husband they cauld'nt see it coming

    January 15, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  3. Daniel

    I will tell you how Barack Obama will handle this one...like a true leader he will stay above the old man's comment. I like the comment by Dana –"Rangel is like a child's diaper full of urine that needed to be change long ago". NY, it is your time to change it.

    January 15, 2008 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  4. Charles H. Jackson

    Rangel is misunderstanding what Obama was "baffeled" by...Obama was responding to the statement that he was injecting race to the issue not the original statement Clinton made. If CNN had played his entire rsponse in context that would have been clear...instead they played his response out of context which made it appear he was "baffled" at her original remarks not her later false accustations which are baffeling! Rangel should check his facts before opening his mouth...Obama did not comment on Clinton's orignal remarks! CNN should be more careful in its editing so not to leave a false impression on viewers!

    January 15, 2008 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  5. Marcus

    Bimmer, DUDE!
    Obama taught constitutional Law at Harvard. Do you honestly think that he didn't know that only a President could...never mind you road that short yellow bus didn't you.
    Oh, BTW Hilary didn't support LBJ and if she had her way during her college years LBJ would have never been in the White house. she only became a Civil Rights Advocate after King was assassinated. DUDE, do a little research before you post! Or just read the web sight of the person you're supporting. There's a computer right in front of you.

    January 15, 2008 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  6. Larry Moskowitz

    Charlie Rangel is nothing more than a political opportunist. He is siding with Clinton because he expects her to win and that he will be rewarded with an important appointment by her plain and simple. Sen. Obama was NOT the person who made the imbecilic comment, Sen. Clinton was. If it were not for Dr. King there would have been no legislation to sign, that much should be obvious to the most obtuse observer. I remember well Dr. King and what he stood for and in my humble opinion what he accomplished in his all too short life was far more than president Johnson ever could have hoped to. Race has no part in this election and it is corrupt politicians like Rangel who wants to inject it for his own ends. He is very astute politically and knows exactly what he is doing. The more I hear from "supporters" of Clinton from his ilk the more I am inclined to vote for Sen. Obama. I for one do not want more of the same and that is what Sen. Clinton and Charles Rangel are offering us. Goodbye Charlie.

    January 15, 2008 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  7. Wilhemina

    Pass the torch to the next generation Charlie, has anyone noticed that the older politician is out of touch with the next ruling generation. Must of the next generation is bi-, tri-, quad-, racial. How many multiracial Americans have been over looked, it seems as though Bob Johnson and suprisingly Charlie Rangel think there are only two races in America, black and white, yet they are talking against a quad-racial American who is running for President (Obama). Now who looks stupid Charlie? Charlie Rangel has lived in Harlem most or all of his life, and he has been over that area for decades, what has he done for Harlem? He has spent enough time in Washington to have turned Harlem into an upscale metropolis. Does not Clinton have an office in Harlem as well? I do not hear anyone talking about how Clinton has made a profound difference in Harlem, since his exodus from Washington. There has been plenty of work needed in African-American communities (i.e., Infrastruture decay, drug dens, high homicide rates, horrific fall-out). Since the Clinton's have stated their undying love, what have they done for the African-American communities since 1998?, and what will they do for us multi-racials?

    January 15, 2008 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  8. Baffled by Continuing ignorance

    So we all agree it took LBJ to put ink to paper probably one of the most important issues of our time. So yes, it took a president.

    My question is this, what makes Hillary more capable of signing such important bills into law more so than Barack? After all, they are both running for the presidential position.

    Hillary is ultimately trying to say that we need a doer and not a dreamer, and that she's a doer. But why can't we have someone who's a visionary and at the same time has the power of the highest seat in this nation to bring his visions and the visions of the majority of the nation, and dare I say globe, to fruition?

    January 15, 2008 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  9. Marisol

    Al Sharpton (civil rights leader) today on FOX also acknowledged that Obama is guilty of playing the race card. This makes it three African American leaders who speak out AGAINST Obama's shameful tactics. Obama has NO EXPERIENCE AND THIS IS A WAY TO DIVERT ATTENTION ELSEWHERE OTHER THAN THE ISSUES. That is why he waited a week to denounce racist accusations against Hillary. Why did he wait 2 days to release his economic stimulus plan? To wait and see how people responded to Hillary's first. Then he comes out with the exact same plan; only difference +$5 Billion dollars and injected the word "immediately".


    January 15, 2008 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  10. Steve, Chappaqua, N.Y.

    It has become blatantly apparent that the Clinton campaign has sent the attack dogs out to get at Obama any way they can. It's a desperation move that hopefully won't pay off, but you can never underestimate their political expertise.
    If you take a step back and look at who has said what and when, it's not hard to connect the dots and see this is all part of a plan to discredit Obama.
    I think the move to block the caucus sites in Nevada, thereby disenfranchising thousands of democratic voters, is the most reprehensible act they have orchestrated so far. It's a knife in the back of all fair minded people of this country. Tom Delay would be proud. Way to go Hillary!

    January 15, 2008 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  11. RG

    Representative Rangel is entitled to his opinion, just like Rep. Clayburn. Interesting how the Obama supporters think it's okay for Clayburn to speak up but when Rangel does, it's Hillary's fault.

    January 15, 2008 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  12. Katie

    Wow. This is pathetic. Does anyone else see the irony in so many Obama supporters placing blame left and right and spouting off all these nasty comments? Keep claiming to want the country to be united through a new brand of positive politics, though...don't worry about seeming like hypocrits. It reminds me of Bush supporters.

    January 15, 2008 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  13. Work for Justice

    Please look hard at the shape of Obama's phrases and the insinuations between the lines, and the tone of his voice all through this. He's trying to win by card tricks and its not going to work. I wish he were the great black candidate, but he's just not.
    Notice how Hillary goes front and center with Tim Russert and lets everyone know she is going to fight and not let this drop. Good for her! If you listen to the whole of her original remarks, it was no diss to Dr. King. It was respect - that he understood how all the work he did needed a political component, and he built the alliances he needed to make with Johnson and others who could enact the laws. For those who lived through those times, it was pretty clear what she meant. Maybe that's the big difference here.
    Hillary Clinton is the real deal, whether or not you like it all. She's tough as nails, thank goodness.
    I will gladly support her. Then wait for someone like Harold Ford of Tennessee -
    if he can get his personal life shaped up, he'll be the first black president. Barack Obama is a pretender, and if he gets the nomination, the Republicans will have him for lunch.

    January 15, 2008 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  14. jersen paulsen

    i`m for obama and it`s time to move on . i respect rangel but that time he went to far .

    January 15, 2008 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  15. Mara

    This is getting out of hand. I think that Obama supporters started it, trying to smear the Clintons, and then it escalated to a small war between supporters. You have Obama, the first African American candidate with a shot at the presidency, and the Clintons, who have a history with African Americans that is quite arguably longer and deeper than Obama's rapport. That's got to really be a tough one, for some people.

    The smartest thing for both campaigns to do would be to hold a joint press conference and list the topics they urge their supporters not to mention. (MLK, LBJ, "fairytale," and any other comment that was not racist but was hyped as such.) I'm not sure if the cocaine thing should be part of the truce, though... because it would be a serious issue for any candidate. (Come on – if we found out tomorrow that Hillary did cocaine once, it'd be all over the news and not be off the air until she was at 5% in the polls!) Mentioning someone's admitted drug use is not racist – it is merely negative campaigning!

    January 15, 2008 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  16. BSR

    The Clintons are exposing these crabs in the bucket. Bob Johnson and Charlie Rangel-SHAME ON YOU! SNAP!

    January 15, 2008 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  17. Ito

    Why does HRC like it ugly? Why do HRC surrogates like stirring the pot? And why do HRC supporters love her and them for doing it?

    HRC is the mother of the hate, shame, and divide party. All welcome to the new Democratic party. Does anybody really think this woman will unify the country and bring Republicans together (whom she continually trashes)?

    If you believe anything HRC says, you are living in a fairy tale.

    Obama admitted to using drugs and he is rolled over the coals for it. Bill lies about not using drugs and he is worshiped. HRC procecuted the women her husband had adulterous affairs with and her children (HRC supporters) think she is the one true champion of women's rights?


    January 15, 2008 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  18. Abdi

    Mr. Rangel sounds confused from. Also, Ms. Clinton can not claim that she was part of the 1960s civil right movement because at the time she was a teenage Republican from Illinois. Republicans at the time were pro-segregation in the US and pro Aparthaid in South Africa. Check VP Cheney's voting records throughout the 1980s.

    January 15, 2008 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  19. roblo

    people should remember who's with who. rangel coming out to support hillary and hillary not separating herself from rangel's and bob johnson's comments shows exactly why hillary is the status quo/establishment candidate. i do not want to go back to the 90's when blacks were taken for granted and trivialized by the clintons. let's make something clear, bill did not do anything for black people, black people has done for themselves, for better or for worse, which is how it is suppose to be......

    January 15, 2008 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  20. John

    This past week, the Clintons have managed to have a debate with themselves– They're making comments, retracting them, countering them, spinning them, and blindly assuming that somewhere in the fracas, the Obama campaign MUST have been involved. The idea that the African-American community could be independently outraged apparently hasn't occurred to the Clintons.

    The best thing for Obama is what he did– He didn't get defensive, he didn't sink to their level, and finally called for a truce so that they could get back to discussing the real issues.

    Anyone (Including Mr. Rangel) who would like to back up their assertions with verifiable quotes is welcome to do so, but mostly, it's been a lot of empty rhetoric from the Clinton camp and their supporters. Mr. Rangel very likely means well, but his timing, and his phrasing, is horrible.

    Finally, don't believe what someone else told you Hillary or Obama said. Look it up. Research it. Find out the truth, then decide. The internet may be the single greatest tool available to voters. You want to know what Obama stands for? Read about it on his site. You want to know HIllary's plans? Read her site.

    The information is freely available, and there's no excuse for ignorance.

    January 15, 2008 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  21. blindman

    lets say that martin luther king was never born and that he never started or helped
    the civil right movement. then the clintons would not have had a movement to stand up for. or do all u people believe that the clintons themselfs would have started one and that lbj and the congress of that day would have passed the civil
    rights act without someone like martin luther king to bring it up to the light of day.
    so without mlk i dont care who would have been president at the time u have no
    civil right act and with mlk it wouldnt have mattered who was president u would
    still have a civil rights act today. so yes what she said does not make to much
    sense to me sorry u can try to justify it any way u want but this is the truth.

    January 15, 2008 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  22. angel

    Obama, should not be playing the race card ,this will turn me away from him and look at Edwards.

    January 15, 2008 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  23. Pedro

    Rangel served this country with honor and that needs to be acknowledged.
    Unfortunately, he was also instrumental in getting Hillary her senate seat.
    He's gotten blinded by the light, and now serves as a prime example of someone who's been in politics much, much too long.

    January 15, 2008 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  24. McCormick, New Haven

    Looks like some members of the human species have LIES enmeshed in their DNA, and cannot help but lie through their teeth to the entire country ON A CONSISTENT BASIS.

    Rangel's blatant lies, along with Johnson's cowardly denials, can only be matched by the Clinton's well-documented love affair with the politics of untruth, spin and subterfuge.


    January 15, 2008 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  25. Polticien

    You Hillary supporters baffle me. She is using her husband to become president. Of course it took LBJ to sign it into law but it wasn't like he did it voluntarily. He and others were under immense pressure to sign that because of the grassroots movement epitomized by Dr. King but fueled by thousands if not millions of people risking their lives everyday.

    The truth is, the Hillary camp was in full panic mode because they really thought they were going to lose big in New Hampshire.

    They needed a way to counter the comparisons of Obama with Kennedy and King and they thought they could take a cheap shot at him by comparing him to just a talker. Imagine if Dr. King was president and had political power? The promise of Obama is that he has elements of JFK and MLK combined with great political skills.

    January 15, 2008 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
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