January 21st, 2008
12:45 PM ET
14 years ago

Congressman to Bill Clinton: 'Chill a little bit'


Watch Clyburn on CNN's American Morning.

(CNN) - House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, whose criticism of Hillary Clinton’s recent remarks on Martin Luther King Jr. helped fuel a heated back and forth between the New York senator and Barack Obama, said Monday it was time another Clinton watched his words.

Bill Clinton’s attacks on Barack Obama, Clyburn said in a CNN interview, were unfair because a former president’s viewpoint “carries with it extra weight.”

“I think they would say in Gullah-Geechee country, he needs to chill a little bit. I hope he understands what that means,” Clyburn told John Roberts on CNN’s American Morning. “I can understand him wanting to defend his wife’s honor and his own record, and that is to be expected. But you can’t do that in a way that won’t engender the kind of feelings that seem to be bubbling up as a result of this.”

“I think he is a former president of these United States. He is revered in many sections of the African-American community, and I think he can afford to tone it down,” he added.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, the South Carolina congressman had said he was disappointed with comments from Hillary Clinton that some took to suggest President Lyndon Johnson had more to do with passing the Civil Rights Act than Martin Luther King, Jr. He also expressed frustration over Bill Clinton's recent remark that the characterization of Obama's record on Iraq as consistently anti-war is a "fairy tale."

“We have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics," he told the New York Times. "It is one thing to run a campaign and be respectful of everyone’s motives and actions, and it is something else to denigrate those. That bothered me a great deal.”

Last week, Clyburn said it was time for both Hillary Clinton and Obama to move on. He said Bill Clinton had called twice to explain what he meant by his comments — most recently, an hour after the congressman returned to the United States from a trip abroad. He also said he'd spoken to Hillary Clinton about the issue, and has accepted both Clintons’ explanations of their comments.

"I don't think we ought to be so politically correct about everything that we say every time someone makes a mistake, 'throw the person off the campaign,' or something of that sort," he said. "I think what we do is accept their explanation as to what they meant by what they said and go on. A lot of people who work in campaigns get very excited sometimes."

Clyburn, one of the most powerful African-Americans in Congress, has continued to insist he will not endorse any presidential candidate, upholding a pledge to the candidates and to the Democratic Party that he would stay out of the race ahead of his state's key January vote.

Related: Watch Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina on American Morning.

–CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand and Alexander Mooney

soundoff (343 Responses)
  1. Please just stop!

    My Husband entered our son into a tennis tournament despite my objections. I didn’t think he was up to it. Did I root for his opponents to win so that I could use it against my Husband in a future disagreement?

    Of course not, we BOTH love our son. We are a family and we stand together, supporting each other even when we disagree.

    I’ve used that analogy to explain why I am very disappointed with the Democrats who publicly trashed our military’s chances in the war when the going got tough. They did it only for shallow partisan reasons.

    Now that our brave soldiers seem to be winning the war, these same Democrats are talking down the economy for the very same reason.

    Yes the economy is slowing, but it is NOT in a recession. These comments frighten people into holding back on spending money and increase the chance we will enter a recession. It’s called “consumer confidence”. It’s an economic indicator that directly effects the direction our economy goes in. This will hurt all of our families.

    We are ALL Americans. Stop trying to bring the country down just for your own personal gain.

    You should be ashamed of yourselves. Please talk about why your ideas are better, instead of trying to create misery.

    If you really care about America, please show us that your not just power hungry politicians that do and say anything to get elected!!

    January 21, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  2. bob

    it looks that the skin color play an important role in this election

    January 21, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  3. Jim

    The one that needs to chill is Clyburn. He instigated all the racial tensions with his prior comments. What is he trying to do now? Did not see him telling Michele or Oprah to chill!

    January 21, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  4. Bill Hutcheson

    Senator Obama,
    You have the stuff to take on Both Clintons!!!!

    January 21, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  5. Sharon in FL

    Perhaps, Clyburn should chill a bit too and remember that the United States of America enjoys freedom of speech. Why is he running interference for Obama the whiner? Bravo, Bill Clinton! Keep talking!

    January 21, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  6. Concern Voter

    I think Bill Clinton needs to get over not being the president. He had his turn. God forbid if his wife wins, he'd walk all over her. We don't need Bill Clinton back in the White House.

    January 21, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  7. TINA ny, ny

    Everyone comes in defence of a baby Obama. I don't think Bill is using foul language or racial tones to it. Clyburn needs to take a chill pill. All this shows Obama is too sensitive to be even running as a president. go home obama

    January 21, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  8. Raman, Plano TX

    “I think they would say in Gullah-Geechee country, he needs to chill a little bit. I hope he understands what that means,” Clyburn told John Roberts on CNN’s American Morning.

    Well Rep. Clyburn, this is what it means in Gullah-Geechee country: Sen. Obama has South Carolina and Illinois realistically. After that what. Enough heat left for Sen. Clinton to keep rolling victories.

    On the other hand by your utterings and Sen. Obama's false pretense stance on MLK, Democrats as a whole may stand to loose a bit going into the final presidential contest after the primaries.

    So unless of course you are a spoiler of sorts, as they say in Gullah-Geechee country, why not you chill a bit from now on.

    January 21, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  9. Tom Davie

    Cyburn cannot put a TEFLON suit around Obama. Obama has to take his lumps like every other politician. You cant CODDLE the guy .

    Is he going to DEMAND the Republicans CHILL on poor Obama ?

    What about the Taliban ? Is he going to tell them to MELLOW OUT on poor President Obama ?

    Clyburn thinks Obama should be able to walk around on his high and mighty UNITER platform without ever facing challenge to it ? Adversity?

    No? Just a free ride?

    January 21, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  10. Nyibe

    He is exactly right. Its unfair that I hear comments from President Clinton just as much as i hear them from any other presidential candidate. He is not running! I understand him being visible but not to the point that he is a part of the everday discussion and media stories.

    January 21, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  11. Harry N

    Leave it to Bill and Hill to play old dirty Washington politics. That is why they will lose this election. I'm tired of this political bashing. Hillary can't compete with Obama without resorting to dirty politics. She distorts every statement that comes out of Obama's mouth, eg, the comment regarding Reagan or the comment about Obama's biggest weakness. I can actually believe what comes out Obama's mouth and I can't say the same for the Clintons. That is their biggest problem. It just goes to show you how disingenuous they are and gives you more ammunition on why we shouldn't vote for them. Hillary is so good at changing the subject when she doesn't want to respond to a questions. What does that show you about her character? Its tells me that she can't be trusted to speak the truth when it matters and that is a fatal flaw which has been exposed throughout her campaign. Maybe it's a genetic flaw.

    January 21, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  12. Giovanni

    Bill Clinton's behaviour has been completely tactless, and despite what claims the media makes about the Obama camp toting a race card, I sure didn't get that impression at all.

    Despite who you plan to vote for, anyone who's watching this circus can see that the Obama camp has been playing in a more fair way than I've ever seen any politicical campaign in the past. People used to respect Bill Clinton, especially after eight years of the Bush administration, but now he's become this spiteful and tactless attack dog.

    Even if Clinton wins the nomination, there's no way she's going to unite Americans... The fight for the nomination alone has been incredibly divisive. Obama has a deep vision for America, if people just hear him explain himself they'll respect where he's coming from. The more I listen to Hillary and Bill Clinton, the more I feel disgusted and the more I question why I respected them in the first place.

    January 21, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  13. Workin Hard

    I know you don't want REAL issues to get in the way of the "girl power" crap that is propelling Hillary's campaign, but;

    The Clinton's take credit for the Internet boom that started in 1995 and went bust in 2000. That boom increased income tax money paid to the Government. We had a short-term balanced budget. That was a fluke the Clintons had nothing to do with.

    And now Hillary has Terry McAuliffe running her campaign. Court documents show this sleazy guy walked away with millions of I.B.E.W. Union pension money. McAuliffe also ended up with several million dollars from the Global Crossing fiasco that left thousands of honest peoples life savings gone.

    You don’t believe me? Please don't take my word for it. Google it.Our duty as voters is to educate the uninformed and the naive, also known as the Hillary supporter.

    I hope every Obama and Edwards supporter will copy my post and e-mail it to all their contacts. Lets shine some light on Hillary.
    Hillary is bought and paid for by the big business insiders.
    A vote for Hillary is NOT a vote for change!!!

    January 21, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  14. Lynn

    Mr. Clyburn is absolutely correct. I am a female African-American registered voter and if HIllary Clinton is the democrate nominee for President, I will vote for anyone but Hillary. I belong to a very large organization and 70% of that group feels the same way and a very large % of my family does to. It is time to get off the Clinton Plantation. Who in their right mind would want scandal prone Bill Clinton to occupy the White House again. And what woman in her right mind would stay with a man who fooled around in HER HOUSE right under her NOSE. They deserve each other.

    January 21, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  15. Robin

    I have one question. Is Bill Clinton a Vice Presidential candidate? He sure acts like one. Will he overshadow Hillary. Should Bill Clinton take part in the Democratic Debates?

    January 21, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  16. Harry N

    Maybe Bill should join Hillary for the debate tonight so they can take on Obama as a tag team.

    January 21, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  17. Maggie, FT Lauderdale

    Another Cry Baby. If Obama cant stand the heat then get out of the kitchen. Go HILLARY !!!!!

    January 21, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  18. flash367

    do not forget BAYARD RUSTIN today

    January 21, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  19. dmw, roeland park,ks

    I do not understand why when it comes to the black candidate, we all have to cool it. I am black myself and I find the double standard to be insulting. The Clinton's have not said anything that was incorrect or insulting against blacks.

    MLK forced us, as well as other civil rights leaders to look at ourselves as equals. LBJ did sign the civil rights laws. And if it were not for LBJ twisting arms in Congress, the civil rights laws would not have been written and signed. So, give credit where credit is due and STOP being so 'blacks did all of the civil rights work'. There were many groups, including lots of Jewish people and whites who gave the ultimate for equality of all people.

    Some blacks are only voting for Obama because he is black; he and his wife only uses his being black to his benefit when it suits them, as in South Carolina. Every other time, the Obama's point out that 95% White Iowa voted for him. So, why are we suppose to be kind and gentle to Obama?? This is politics and blacks would benefit more by NOT always crying foul when something is mentioned about blackness. Obama first played the race card. He admitted this in the Nevada debates. So, get over it!

    January 21, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  20. Jimmy, Oklahoma Feb. 5th

    I disagree. Obama entered this race knowing what he was going up against and no one should step aside for Obama. NO ONE is stepping aside for Senator Clinton.
    It is very clear that Clyuborn who I have never even heard of until now supports Barack Obama. He has done nothing but scold the Clintons and I for one am tired of it. South Caralina if you let race decide your votes that is ok, you are just one state of fifty. The rest of America will vote Issues, and Senator Clinton is beating you all over the place in that area. Barack Obama sounds like a southern minister rather than a politican. He spreads hope in Barack Obama, but not in issues. He has no substance. My faith in the lord with all my hopes are for Senator Clinton even if Barack Obama gets his feelings hurt. I am not saying Senator Clinton is ahead, I am saying after IOWA John Edwards and Barack Obama were dancing on their graves counting her out of the race. Edwards even got CNN headlines quoting him on it. Then the N.H. debate showed the rest of the world with Obama Edwards tag team of her. NOW OBAMA IS CRYING BECAUSE PRESIDENT CLINTON IS PICKING ON HIM. As for CLYBURN WHO CARES!

    January 21, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  21. Annie

    All this race stuff does is rally the white vote. If the Obama camp were smart they would just drop the issue. Hillary 08

    January 21, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  22. Jack ny, ny

    Clyburn- you can stand up and make these kind of statement now. Who is going to listen to you on the world stage? No body cares about you outside of US. How is Obama going to do when trying times are on international level. I think Crybaby Obama called up Clyburn and complained. That is why Clyburn is coming out right a day after Obama's whining. Very interesting timing.

    January 21, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  23. Paul_Chgo

    So what Clyburn is saying is please give Obama a free ride and let him win the nomination without any challenging to his empty promises and slogans?...yeah right, that must be nice. How come they don't call on Obama and his campaign surrogates to stop creating the hatred animosity and personal attacks against Hillary and even Edwards? This years campaign is unique because we have an African American and a woman running for President and all is fair game with both of them as it should be, and they both should not use the race or gender card as a weapon to avoid criticism.
    Now the Obama campaign and followers can't accept criticism at all, why instead of getting to fight with personal attacks to Hillary and Edwards, Obama and his surrogates start answer question about his record, vision and what is he going to change; because to me I don;t know if his message is for a man running for the Prisidency or the message of a preacher. Which one is Obama?

    January 21, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  24. balto nancy

    Clyburn, hmmm sounds like he already has endorsed a candidate by
    telling Bill Clinton to chill. Whats the flap about now? the only thing Bill
    Clinton was doing was defending Hillary , and he's entitled to , as her
    husband, just as I heard Michelle do too. Do we have a double standard
    for him, since he was the former prez? pathetic.

    January 21, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  25. kris

    JIM you are so stupid...when was the last time Oprah and Michele was whining like bill clinton??

    January 21, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
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