January 17th, 2008
03:10 PM ET
9 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. Captain America, Warren, MI

    The reporter doesn't need to sensationalize this article by adding "Clinton became visibly combative," which is just drama. He simply made a point that he feels strongly about.

    January 17, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  2. obama 08

    It's pretty fishy that no one complained about the caucus rules until Obama got the Culinary Union's endorsement , and why is no one except the Clintons complaining? Bill needs to keep his cool...not very presidential!

    January 17, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  3. Johnny Boy

    Protect your daughters Americans. Bill "the mouth" Clintonian is on the loose being himself. He's combative because he's starting to fear defeat. The thought of not being first lady is too much for the guy with the biggest inferiority complex in the northeastern states. Watch closely – he's going to really mess this up for Hillary. I'm glad he's out front here so you can see what a Hillary presidency would have looked like. Anyone but Billary.

    January 17, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  4. Stephen

    Its a caucus Bill!!! 2Million people could show up to one precinct supporting Obama, but if that precinct only has six delegates then six delegates is all that they will receive. Another one where the Teachers hang out, may have 30 people with Six delegates, again its only six delegates.

    Bill needs a chill pill, he does not need to give himself a heart attack.

    January 17, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  5. B Wall

    oh cmon CNN, he's hardly that upset. he looks agitated but he handles himself pretty well. not to mention the fact that he actually has a point. i'm sure people are going to spin this intothe clintons spiraling out of control, but if you watch there's really not that much going on here.

    January 17, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  6. Gobama


    Obviously, Hilary Clinton cannot manage a national campaing without a man leading the way.
    Is that what Americans want AGAIN in a President - elect someone, and have another running the country into the ground, like Chenney is not doing.

    If Bill Clinton keeps up this tantrum with his run for A THIRD TERM White House run, he's surely going to have a heart attack.

    Maybe bill is hoping to get a heart attack and sympathy votes? lol

    I'm sure that even then the American people will not be fooled in allowing a second undermining of the US Presidency by the Clintons.

    January 17, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  7. Amused, Las Vegas

    "Visibly combative"?

    Did he throw a punch?

    Or did he take a strong position in response to a "when did you stop beating your wife" type question.

    The issue of the ad hoc caucuses needs to be adjudicated before the caucus, since if it is challenged after the caucus it could invalidate the caucuses altogether.

    Win or lose, it's better to have it decided.

    January 17, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  8. Nishant

    CNN has to be the most technologically-challenged TV channel ever. On TV you guys have sound difficulties all the time and now the video link does not work. All you have is a picture. Don't you guys do any testing before pushing things out to the public at large?

    January 17, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  9. kevin

    Let the fight begin, Obama supporters vs Clinton supporters Round – 2

    January 17, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  10. Nowhere Man

    The key phrase – "I had nothing to do with this lawsuit". How about your wife's campaign? This lawsuit would not be happening if Hillary had gotten the endorsement. The Clintonistas are lying, despicable people. WHY does anyone want them back in the WH?

    January 17, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  11. AJ; Montpelier, VT

    Well all right Bill!
    Even if it had been the Clinton Campign that started the lawsuit, it's not like if the shoe were on the other foot Oboohoo wouldnt be crying and carrying on. He'd be like a runaway train to the courthouse. Setting up polling places in Casinos to make voting easy on the casino workers makes no sense. If they do that and Obama wins, Hillary would be stupid not to take that to court. The state of Nevada should know better. Lots of people work long shifts, but they somehow manage to vote. This is pure union election staling and everyone knows it.

    January 17, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  12. Beth

    Since Bill Clinton was impeached and left office I have said over and over that he would be the first former president to go to jail. It's always something with this guy, he's the O.J. of the democrats.

    January 17, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  13. skywater

    The Culinary Union does NOT allow Republicans to vote at these casino caucuses. So if you are a Union employee AND a Republican, they will NOT let you vote. What is that about?

    This Union needs to stop blaming the Clinton campaign for this. This was never about Hillary Clinton. Just because you have employees that won't support your empty suit of buzzwords you should not be allowed to intimidate them. John Edwards supporters also know the deal here. You passed him over to support Obama. Why? Does he love your lobbyists more? Or maybe because Edwards wants to up the minimum wage and adjust it yearly for inflation? Hmmmm. Not only do you not want to fairly pay your workers and support someone who wants them to receive a fair wage, you intimidate them into voting for your empty suit. What a DISGRACE.

    You do not OWN your workers! Stop the intimidating and strong arming NOW!

    January 17, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  14. Greg, Shaw AFB, South Carolina

    Come on CNN....Why try to cause controversy where none is needed. That was not a heated exchange.

    January 17, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  15. gina

    Ok, and Hillary wants to make Bill the ambassador who will let the world know that American is back again. Hillary doesn't have an ounce of judgment nor a teaspoon of wisdom and Bill doesn't have a grain of dignity.

    January 17, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  16. greg


    January 17, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  17. Mike

    I don't think he was that heated.. I think he was a bit frustrated though. Look, people voted on this thing months ago. Three of the people who are part of this lawsuit literally voted to have voting at work. The casino workers have a special need. It's a busy weekend and if anyone have been to Vegas, you know that it's a non-stop town, more so on the weekend. Because of the city, this special provision was made. It was made before the Culinary Workers Union decided to endorse a candidate. After they did, the lawsuit was filed.
    The Clinton Campaign did not file this suit. I think we should all just wait for the Judge's ruling today. No one is really asking for this provision in other states caucuses, but Vegas is different, and anything we can do to make it easier for people to vote should be done.

    January 17, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  18. Mary E. Grant

    The Clintons only want to play fair when that fairness gives THEM the upper edge!

    January 17, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  19. Blue in Phoenix, Arizona

    WOW – How are we supposed to take Bill and Hill seriously when he's getting so upset that his aides have to pull him away, and she is playing "flight attendant"?

    This lawsuit is CLEARLY a ploy by the Clinton camp (whether they'll admit it or not), to take votes from Obama. How VERY Karl Rove of them.

    January 17, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  20. skywater

    Culinary Union organizers have been working in earnest for the last week to get the word out about the union’s endorsed candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, and to lock down member support in the run-up to Saturday’s caucus.

    But two Culinary members supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton say they watched today as two of those field organizers were overzealous in their efforts as they collected pledge cards for Obama in the break room of a Strip casino. The Clinton campaign quickly tried to paint the incident as part of a broader pattern, though introduced no other evidence.

    After the Sun worked the story for two hours, this much is clear: What exactly happened this afternoon at Paris Las Vegas depends on whom you talk to. To hear Clinton’s campaign and her supporters tell it, the union intimidated a member into caucusing for Obama, demanding that she sign a pledge card — or face exile from the caucus.

    To hear the alleged victim tell it, it was much more of a misunderstanding.

    Marie Angers, a cook at Paris, and her son, Matt DeFalco, a kitchen runner at the resort, told the Sun they saw two Culinary representatives intimidate a coworker, Sylvia Antuna, by telling her that she had to support Obama if she wanted to caucus.

    Both Angers and DeFalco are supporters of Clinton, whose campaign contacted the Sun about this incident separately.

    On top of that, Angers and DeFalco said, the reps handed Antuna an Obama pledge card, telling her she had to sign it to participate in the caucus and that today was the deadline.

    “The lady told all of us: Nobody can go to the caucus unless you’re voting for Obama,” Angers said. “They have no right to do what they did. This is America. You should be able to vote for who you feel like. It doesn’t matter who the union is endorsing. They can try to persuade us but it doesn’t mean people have to vote for them.”

    But Antuna tells a different story. She said she was filling out a voter registration form when the union reps approached her about Obama. When she told them she wasn’t sure about caucusing for him, one rep took her registration form, indeed telling her that she couldn’t participate Saturday if she wasn’t supporting Obama.

    At that point, Antuna said, Angers and DeFalco, who were sitting at a neighboring table, engaged the union rep in a heated discussion. Antuna said she sat silent while both sides swapped words. She doesn’t recall the bit about the pledge cards.

    One key fact: The union reps spoke broken English.

    “It’s possible it was a miscommunication,” Antuna said.

    In fact, Antuna said the Culinary called her later to inform her the union had received her voter registration form, spoken with her supervisor and that she was clear to caucus during her shift on Saturday.

    “I don’t even know what to think,” she said. “This is totally new to me. I’m just glad I can actually go and caucus.”

    Antuna said she’s undecided on a candidate.

    Pilar Weiss, political director of the Culinary, said she would try to find out about the incident.

    “I’m not belittling it,” Weiss said. “I’m taking it seriously, and I’m going to look into It. But we’re conducting training all the time with our staff to be respectful of other opinions. We would never engage in voter intimidation.”

    She said that with just a few days before the caucus, many members have become emotionally attached to Obama and other candidates, which can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunications.

    “We want our members to stick together and support Obama, but our organizers are being trained to know some of our members and their families are participating for other candidates. And we want them to participate,” she said.


    Updated 8:30 p.m.:

    The Culinary Union has investigated and says the source of the drama seemed to be about how one changes one’s party registration three days before the caucus.

    Antuna was a registered independent, and the union reps were talking to her about how she had to be a Democrat to participate on Saturday, Weiss said.

    Hardly scandalous and certainly not intimidation, she added.

    Weiss said she suspects the whole incident was drummed up by the enthusiastic Clinton supporters, who got heated when the union reps started pitching Obama

    January 17, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  21. Osama

    Another example of the Clinton bag of dirty tricks. It's called voter supression. It's what was done against African Americans in the south before the civil rights movement. If the Culinary Union had endorsed Clinton, the teacher union wouldn't be filing this lawsuit. And, once again, slick willie is lying through his teeth.

    January 17, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  22. Amy

    Bill is seriously losing it. He has tried to bully and finger wag his way back into the White House. It is not working. He is upset and it shows. People want change they can believe in Bill. His behaviour is demeaning of his presidency.

    January 17, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  23. Moses Adelante, NYC

    GO BILLY!!!!!!!

    The Obama Camp will stop at nothing to smear Hillary's name. I wish we could stick to the real issues.

    The timing is a little odd I will say that.

    EVEN IF....Hillary's camp has its hands in the lawsuit, the reasons are justified. I do think the timing, well is wrong.

    Hillary would not be so stupid to jeapordize the latino vote......

    I wonder what Obama is doing in the neighborhood, I wont say..... but I can make assumptions.

    January 17, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  24. American independent

    Please put a big piece of duct tape over Bubba's mouth and lock him in the attic with Rove until the elections are over!!

    They are both overdue for their afternoon naps 😉

    All the changing of dates and the jockeying to be the covetted First in the Nation or the first to caucus or the first primary has turned the election process and campaigning into a three ring circus. California is busy trying to figure out how to CHANGE their voting machines! Do something about the crazy system.... it's obviously broken!!

    BUT we still want to know when will Oprah be coming soon to a stadium near us??

    January 17, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  25. CAL Grrl

    Was that it? Geez, I thought Clinton would start yelling or flipping out. The media – you, CNN, are pushing too hard for negative articles. On the other hand, I do wish that Bill C. wasn't out all the time speaking on behalf (supposedly) for his wife.

    I hadn't heard about the site or times of the NV caucuses, but it does seem unfair to hold many of them (?) during the day, making it harder for other citizens to vote. Every person has the same rights to vote, in my opinion. Culinary workers, cops, teachers, white, black, hispanic, etc etc....


    January 17, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 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