January 17th, 2008
03:10 PM ET
8 years ago

Bill Clinton gets heated with reporter


Watch Bill Clinton get upset with a reporter.

(CNN) - Bill Clinton became visibly combative with a reporter Wednesday after being questioned about a lawsuit in Nevada that is seeking to ban caucus meetings in nine casinos on the Las Vegas strip.

The lawsuit, filed by the state teacher's union - an organization that has backed Hillary Clinton's White House bid - came Friday, shortly after Barack Obama was officially endorsed by the Culinary Union. Culinary Union members primarily work in casinos, and could constitute the majority of participants at caucuses held at those locations.

The teacher's union is claiming the at-large caucus sites would unfairly have more weight in terms of delegate allotment than caucuses throughout the rest of the state. The lawsuit also takes issue with caucuses being held midday at those sites – which could make it easier for culinary workers to caucus than it will be for other Nevadans.

Critics of the lawsuit say it is a clear attempt to suppress Obama’s support, a notion with which the former president sharply disagreed.

"Do you really believe that all the Democrats understood that they had agreed to give everybody who voted in a casino a vote worth five times as much as people who voted in their own precinct? Did you know that?" the former president said, growing visibly upset. (Watch Clinton's back and forth with the reporter)

"What happened is nobody understood what had happened. Now everybody's saying, 'Oh, they don't want us to vote.' What they really tried to do was to set up a deal where their votes counted five times, maybe even more."

Clinton also maintained that his wife’s campaign had "nothing to do" with the lawsuit," and claimed the reporter was taking an "accusatory tone."

"Get on your television station and say, 'I don't care about the home mortgage crisis, all I care about is making sure that some voters have it easier than others should count five times, and when they do vote, when its already easier for them, their vote should count five times as much as others," Clinton said in a raised voice.

"If you want to take that your position, get on the television and take it," he added, as aides pulled him away. "Don't be accusatory with me, I had nothing to do with this lawsuit."

UPDATE: A federal judge has ruled that the Democratic Party can go ahead with the 9 at-large caucuses on the strip. The ruling could have a decisive effect on the result in the state given that recent polls show a dead heat between Clinton, Obama, and John Edwards.

Related: Clinton, Obama battle for upper hand in Nevada

- CNN's Alexander Mooney and Rebecca Sinderbrand

soundoff (774 Responses)
  1. tennessee

    Bill Clinton, you are a joke. Now you claim democrats are stupid. The democrats understood what they were doing last year when they AGREED to it. But now, since they did not endorse your wife(one of your many women), democrats didn't KNOW what they were doing. Get a life Mr. President! Remember it is democrats you are seeking support to get your wife elected, and I am sure they do not like being call ignorant.

    January 17, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  2. Andy J, NY

    i like the point made by Al in wpg-

    most times elections and things of that nature are held in schools... no problem with that, right?

    but now that they are held in a casino, and that is a problem?

    how ugly and transparent can the Clintons be? i'm really disheartened by pretty much ALL the candidates, democrat and republican.

    shame on you all.

    January 17, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  3. Ben

    Clintons is a househood of shame!

    January 17, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  4. norma

    So this is what the "preacher" does – this most honest and forthright Democratic wanna be president. No, I'm not talking about Bill Clinton, I'm talking about Mr. Obama. This was rather cute, nicely coordinated trick on his part to change the rules to include a particular group of voters, and disenfranchise others who just happen to have a different schedule. And he believes this is a fair and honest move. It would have been a done deal had not the Teacher's Union come forward. What a disgrace, and he espouses being above dirty politics.

    I applaud Bill Clinton and his intelligent response to the reporter. Its high time someone with some credibility and backbone stands up to incidents like this. Of course Obama backers and the media would like to make it a Bill/Obama situation, but its going to backfire on Obama, and if the court doesn't see its intentions, then everyone should start marching on the streets. He who calls himself such a clean politician had better talk to his campaign handlers and start rewrite his tent-camp projections. Does his "change" theme mean that whenever you can find someone crooked enough to find a loophole like this, you "change" the rules? Go Hilary – and thank you Bill.

    January 17, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  5. Lisa Gross

    This to me smells like a republican trick to keep a certain voting block from being able to express the constitutional right. I am so disappointed in the Clintons and it is obvious to me that they see the numbers and are afraid that Obama is going to win another caucus! If Hillary would have gotten the endorsement, Barack Obama would not be doing this he would want to win fair and square because he knows that his message will carry him throught because it is the best and people connect with him. Hil Girl, you are something else!!!!!!!!! I will never vote for the Clintons, I have learned so many things about them that I don't support.!!!!

    January 17, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  6. John

    The real title of this should be "Clintons file lawsuit to try to steal Nevada."

    January 17, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  7. Joe, Austin, TX

    Why is this headline "Bill goes off" and not "reporter makes false accusation"? Seems like Bill knew the score and the reporter was trying to make himself the story. That is supposed to be poor ethics in the reporting trade.

    January 17, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  8. ZH

    Clintons made the campaign filthy... Anyone else, but Hillary for 2008....

    January 17, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |

    I don't care how angry he is at anybody's "accusatory" tone. The fact remans that culinary and other casino workers cannot caucus unless they can do so at their worksites, and casino workers represent a large segment of the Nevada population. Why should they be disenfranchised?

    Yes, some people who don't work in casinos and can't get to their home precincts won't be able to caucus, but the many fewer such folks (i.e., who would otherwise lose their vote) will be affected if the work site caucuses are permitted. We should not disenfranchise all such workers because we can't help all of them - particularly when the proposed solution would help most of them.

    Also, I would let Bill and Hillary know that many people - including my Democratic relatives in Florida - think that Hillary's campaign went south after the Iowa loss. My cousin has already voted early, by paper ballot. for Obama. She's an independent.

    Beware the game-playing (weeping, stirring up phony race issues, having surrogates file law suits), because it is counter-productive.

    January 17, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  10. Egna

    There is nothing this man won't do. He is immune to shame. Move past all the nice posturing and get really down in there in him, you find absolutely nothing . . . nothing but an appetite."

    January 17, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  11. Jack

    UHHHH? Why do they wait until the day after the union announces its endorsement? What a bunch of unprincipled hacks. Bill Clinton. Whew. I hate that dude.

    January 17, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  12. gary

    That didn't sound very heated to me. It sounded like a knowledgable/experienced person firmly setting the record straight. Something a good leader does. It will be great to have the Clintons back in the White House.

    The votes should not count five times as much!!

    January 17, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  13. Chris/Ca.

    I liked Bill Clinton, I thought he was a pretty good President. Didn't get too exicited about Hillary running but waited to see her platform. Now I think after the last few weeks the Clinton campaign is fractured and becoming transparent and it looks like just another politician saying and doing anything to get elected and getting pretty nasty and whiny doing it. Very disappointing, but I guess it's better to find out now than after the election!

    January 17, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  14. Drama

    Would someone enlighten me please, how can a vote count five times, maybe more?

    January 17, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  15. Surrealist, Fort Myers, FL

    Hey folks. LIfe long Democrat, retired military veteran...and observer of the current quagmire between Obama and Clinton and the lobby groups and special interest groups supporting them........

    Here's another reason to vote for John Edwards!!!

    He doesn't "collect" loyalty money from "any" lobby group or special interest group.

    Wouldn't it be great to run a campaign, a congress, and for sure–a Presidency without having all the key issues greyed out by the special interests.

    Yep, he's a little scruffy...and very committed to his ideals.

    But after all, isn't that what we're looking for?
    My fellow DEM's do we really want change...or do we just want a more "user friendly" version of typical Washington politics?

    Let's really end the stagnation of ideas in Washington–and send them a President whose PRIME INITIATIVE is to represent us.

    January 17, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  16. Ray Zobott, Naples, FL

    I believed in and spoke out in support of Bill Clinton thoughout his eight years as President. I believe he was the right man at the right time for this country. But, now I am concerned that his overzealous remarks in defense of Hillary are more of a payback to her for her standing by him during the worst years. I'd go as far as to say they probably made a special pact between themselves that when she ran for office he would use all his available resources to get her elected. I certainly don't fault him for that; but, please Bill . . . Hillary is no Bill Clinton. And now, there is another man, the right man at the right time to fill the office of President for the United States of America.

    January 17, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  17. marie

    He is campaigning for his wife, just like the other candidates spouses. Simply because he was a former president should not exclude him this right. Say what you want, but he is a smart man and what he said makes sense.

    I know there are many people who are upset at the Clintons for Hillary’s running for president. In my book it only elevates my respect for them. They both knew they would be taking on some very harsh critics. They are pioneers in this new arena and many people don’t believe they should be here. Neither of them came from some political dynasty of a family. They chartered new ground with Bill’s presidency and they are doing the same now with her candidacy. Hate them if you like, but don’t deny what they are doing is both brave and ground breaking.

    January 17, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  18. Graduate Student

    Im sorry, but I dont see it :-/. Im looking at the video and I do not see where Bill is combative or where he raised his voice. Its crazy how the media chooses their words. Is Clinton being combative, defensive, or is he just enlightening the reporter. Bill keeps a consistent tone with the reporter, he is not combative, and he does not frown or raise his voice. As a matter of fact, he raised a very interesting point. The Culinary union new exactly what they were doing by endorsing Obama, giving Obama an unfair advantage. I hope the Teachers Union win their case.

    January 17, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  19. Paul Cooper, University Park, MD

    Hey CNN, how about mentioning that the Democrats also require ID for these caucuses, something they are opposed to for general elections. Is the Democratic primary in Nevada more important to secure than the election of the next President?

    January 17, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  20. Todd

    Notice in this picture how Clinton is draping himself with blacks in an attempt to unring the bell Hillary rang and try to convince the black voter that they should vote for them. I hope every African-American voter jumps off the good ship Hillary and gives their vote to Obama.

    January 17, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  21. David, Gilbert Arizona

    I'll bet real money that if it were the other way around, teachers' union backing Obama and the culinary union backing Hillary, Bill would be singing a very different tune.

    January 17, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  22. Caucus = Fraud

    The vast majority of the people heading to the Strip caucuses will be the underlings of the Culinary - dishwashers, hotel room maids, cooks, etc. - who are the least paid, and most vulnerable to intimidation. And the Culinary leadership has always used them to organize other hotels and vote for their choices.

    The Culinary has full time paid organizers bringing in its masses of members working the low-paying jobs, who will HAVE to raise their hands at the caucus sites for Obama, under the watchful (and threatening) eyes of the Culinary organizers.

    I hope those Strip caucus sites receive a lot of media attention because the Culinary's tactics there will resemble something out of the old Soviet Union, when people casting ballots in boxes under the eyes of Communist Party operatives had to use a special-colored ballot for the Communist Party leader, and another type of ballot to vote against him, making it obvious whom that voter was for.

    It seems obvious that intimidation will be a factor in the voting process at these precincts. Voters who wish to support a candidate will have to do so in front of the watchful eyes of their union reps. These people can then either dismiss or help them with, an harassment claim, a grievance, forced overtime, unpaid labor, or dangerous working conditions etc. etc.

    Democratic leaders insist workers need only show an employee badge. If they don't have one, a party spokeswoman lamely says "we'll somehow accommodate them, hence many illegal immigrants will be voting.

    Many of these immigrant workers are also new citizens and have come from countries where voter intimidation is the norm. So, for them, it would also be expected. If they want to support Clinton or Edwards they will just not go, if they even feel they are able to do that and not place their jobs at risk.

    People should not be caucusing where they work, unless they have secret ballots, again a central tenet of democracy. It is too open to intimidation. There is too much pressure to vote the way the boss or the union wants you to vote.

    I don't think anyone can pretend these polling places would be neutral or unintimidating for those who want to support Clinton or Edwards. Plus many other groups/unions don't get this preferential treatment of setting up special caucus' for a special group, thus others are disenfranchised.

    They should be shut down.

    January 17, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  23. Jay Graham, Dallas, TX

    Why are these reporters pose a accusatory questions to Clintons only? He has merely explained his position which is magnified by CNN story. First of all these endorsements by the unions either to Hillary and Obama should stop. Who are these union leaders to decide to endorse a particular candidate. Let the members decide which one to vote. Secondly, there is something wrong in the caucus system. Why not everyone from the state go to the polling booth and vote any time of the day? These caucuses all in the strip naturally is an undue advantage to Hillary and Edwards as most of the voters belong to Culinary union and under pressure from their bosses they are bound to vote to Obama when everyone is together. Whereas, if the same people vote in their neighborhood they are under no pressure. This is absolutely wrong to have the caucus centers near their work places.

    January 17, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  24. ericka

    How Bill Clinton Helped Boost CEO Pay
    A law he championed to curb compensation has backfired - and pay packages have exploded

    Clinton's brainstorm: Use the tax code to curb excessive pay. Companies at the time were allowed to deduct all compensation to top executives. Clinton wanted to permit companies to write off amounts over $1 million only if executives hit specified performance goals. He called Crystal for his thoughts. "Utterly stupid," the consultant says he told the future President.

    Now, 13 years after Clinton's plan became law, the results are clear: It didn't work. Over the law's first decade, average compensation for chief executives at companies in Standard & Poor's 500-stock index soared from $3.7 million to $9.1 million, according to a 2005 Harvard Law School study. The law contains so many obvious loopholes, says Crystal, that "in 10 minutes even Forrest Gump could think up five ways around it."

    From the Internal Revenue Service to corporate boardrooms, Clinton's remedy has become the biggest inside joke in the long history of efforts to rein in executive pay. It has allowed companies to take deductions for executive pay tied to goals as vague as "individual achievement of personal commitments" (BellSouth Corp.(BLS ) or improving "customer satisfaction" (Dell Inc. (DELL )). Energy giant AES Corp. (AES ) for a time demanded that its top people maintain a workplace that was "fun."

    Get well informed people!

    January 17, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  25. Derek, IA

    Keep going Bill! Tomorrow you should get in a fist fight about it!

    Exaggerating the differential treatment of at-large precincts is a good start, but you can do much better.

    January 17, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 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