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. Todd

    Dee – it is funny you say that you are a conservative Democrat, but you will cast a vote for Obama who is the more liberal of the two (Hillary/Obama). That is strange.. Hillary has a very good change of beating the Republican nominee, heck, they can't even figure out who they like more. Talk about splitting hairs.

    January 21, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  2. Bibian

    Whether Black, White, Muslim, Indian, Yellow Blue, Red, does it really matter? Isn't important to just have someone that stand up for everyone? No race is better, we are all the same in the eyes of god who created us all. I don't think anyone is even reading what others are writing on this board. Everyone is very hormonal on here.

    January 21, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  3. L. Hawkins - Hartsville, SC 29550

    I would like to thank Bill Potter for his statement, that is a very intelligent analogy,
    we need to concentrate on ridding this country of the mafia republican party.
    Whoever the democrat is, they have got to be better than what we've had in the last eight years. George "Chimpy" Bush has been the worst president in the 200 year history of this nation, this has been proven in several instances, such as, treason, wiretapping, torture the list goes on. Do you really want another four years of eight years of this? Forget gender, forget race and lets rally behind the person that's nominated. Or is that too much to ask. Maybe so, I keep forgetting that we're in RACIST AMERICA, I believe the most racist nation in the entire world. Just cannot dismiss gender or color. I do believe this is some of what Mr. Clyburn is trying to say. Chill, is another meaning for settle down, stop with the insults and childlish antics – let's defeat the repugs. I hate STUPIDITY in any form, and some of these replies are absolutely, positively STUPID.

    January 21, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  4. Steve, Lyons, CO

    "Clyburn is correct BILLARY better be watchful, the DEMS cannot win the PRESIDENTIAL without black voters..."

    If you think Obama can win with ONLY black voters, you're nuts. Both sides need ALL voters. Obama and his wife started the race thing; now they get to live with it. Clyburn's an idiot.

    January 21, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  5. concerned citizen, Mesa, Arizona

    He also said today that Obama needs to watch what he is saying about Reagan. He said Reagans policies were against the african americans. So at least he is being fair minded with his comments. He felt Obama could be getting close to crossing the line too.

    January 21, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  6. Susan NH

    Finally the media are doing something besides offering latest poll results!

    Meet the Press (yesterday) and Good Morning America (today) ran comparative videos - of Bill Clinton's allegations about what Obama said and then of what Obama actually said. No question Bill was distorting, even downright lying.

    It's bad enough that Bill is still honesty-challenged - but it speaks volumes that Hillary cannot or will not get him to stop.

    January 21, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  7. Jay Graham, Dallas, TX

    It seems that media has given so much coverage to Obama, that everyone on the african-american and liberal minded people think that he is the saviour to the democratic party. Besides few inspirational speeches, Obama has not proved on a single most important legislation that has successfully passed. Mr. Clyburne thinks that Hillary should just hand over the nomination to Obama without a fight. Why is he not coming forward and endorse publicly rather than passing remarks to Clinton? These are the same african-american leaders who used to use their conscious to endorse and support Clintons because of their dedicated efforts for the community. And now they are turning their backs and supporting Obama who has yet to be tested.

    January 21, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  8. Christian, Tampa FL

    Lighten up slightly!

    January 21, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  9. jenny

    people have to realize. the ONLY reason Billary Clinton is on the ballot , is because of Bill Clinton. NO other reason. She cannot do this on her own.

    January 21, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  10. Steven N.Y

    On a lighter note- Lets all thank God that Chuck Norris is on the Hucks side. Anyone hear his comment on McCain.

    January 21, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  11. rabblerouser

    Ok, let me get this straight – it's ok for everyone to misinterpret what Hillary says about Johnson and MLK, but it's not ok for anyone to misinterpret what Obama says about Reagan; and now it's ok for everyone to tell Bill to shut up, when Hillary smartly is using her connection to a former president to help her campaign, but it's not ok to tell Obama to shut up when he has said some pretty snide things about his opponent.

    So which is it? Is the playing field fair? I ask again, why is it ok for the Clinton's to be constantly criticized and often misinterpreted but no one dares to criticize Obama? I think the reason is very evident, though no one has the courage to say it.

    January 21, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  12. Theo Nash

    It's interesting that everyone is talking about Bill Clinton needing to "chill" and stop attacking Obama. I've read the quotes of what Bill has said and his comments were legitimate and appears to be true and directly on point. There was nothing offensive about it. Seems the truth does hurt, especially when it is relavant and exposes Obama's record. Like Obama's admitted drug use, apparently no one is allowed to talk about it in public because it's racist??????? How that is racist, I have no idea; but a candidate's drug history is a relevant issue to me as a voter. I'm really sick of the Obama campaign continuing to play the victim and the race card every time someone brings up an issue that can damage Obama's holier than thou standing. I suppose we should all just not ask any questions of, or about, Obama; simply listen to whatever he wants to say without questioning, and just vote on his and skin color.

    January 21, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  13. Tim

    If Jim Clyburn wants Bill Clinton to chill, then he should Obama and his wife and Oprah to chill. Why should Obama have free right to attack Hillary and Bill but Bill is suppose to chill and not attck back. That's really stupid by any measure.

    January 21, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  14. KC, Africa

    I have to respectfully state that Clyburn's comments were unecessary at this time. Any statement that comes out of his mouth against the shrewed Clinton machine will only invoke racial tensions.

    It was pretty miscalculated for him to say that. He could have afforded to hold off this comment.


    January 21, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  15. kalliope

    A vote for Hillary is a vote for the next Republican president. A Hillary candidacy will unite the Republicans in a way that they have been unable to unite on their own. Combine a united Republican party, with independents and Democrats who do not want the Clintons in our face for the next 4 – 8 years and voila... President McCain, President Romney or President Huckabee. The choice is still ours Democrats!

    January 21, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  16. "Yes We Can"

    It is very clear that Senator Obama and John Edward have built a loyal base of supports across racial, gender and age groups. It also seem very clear that one of the motivational factor of this loyal supports is that they want a new vision for this America. They want to get over the era of impeachment, scandals, etc etc. I will have expected that the leadership of the DNC would have sack Bill to commit to not interfer in this process. Let his wife defend herself. Instead, they have let him use the power of Former President, a power that any former president has to get into the heart of this process. One this is clear, Senator Obama`s and John Edward`s supporters should be ready to send a message to the DNC in Novermber. If they continue to seat and alow BIll to continue to run for a third term and this happens until the end of this primary, a message should be sent to them. If the DNC continue to let the former president get on the way of the process and Hillary is on the top of the ticket, do what is right in Novermber. Senator Edward and Obama`s supporters should simply stay home in Novermber and let the Republican get back the White House. That will be a wake up call for the DNC to make sure the the presidential primary in the future will be for candidates only, free of any influence. Supports of Senator Obama and Edward, you have the power to send a message to the statu quo in Novermber, stay home if the primary process is alowed to proceed as it does now. They establishment that is trying to FORCE their candidate throught yout THROAT will wake up.

    January 21, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  17. Mirta

    The lack of respect that he is showing to a former President is appalling. His commentary is no better than what he is accusing PRESIDENT Clinton of doing.

    Now, all of sudden Obama's supporters are going to be apologizing to the Clinton Campaign. Obama is doing a terrific job of dividing the Democratic Party. His candidacy was premature.

    January 21, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  18. Gavin

    Clayburn – JUST ENDORSE BARRY OBAMA ALREADY – and quit trying to act impartial...


    January 21, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  19. Jack ny, ny

    prediction??? are you kidding me? We all know that even my dog. He is getting all those votes because he is BLACK

    KC, Africa January 21, 2008 5:50 pm ET

    I have to respectfully state that Clyburn's comments were unecessary at this time. Any statement that comes out of his mouth against the shrewed Clinton machine will only invoke racial tensions.

    It was pretty miscalculated for him to say that. He could have afforded to hold off this comment.


    January 21, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  20. kalliope

    Mirta surely you jest?

    January 21, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  21. "Yes We Can"

    Senator Obama and Senator John Edward, do the right thing in Novermber. Stay home if the establishment of the Democratic party continues to force a candidate on your THROAT. Stay home and let the Republicant have the day. That will teach the DNC a lesson. Enough of the statu quo. Why did they not get Bill to commit in writing not to run for a third term. Instead they seat and watch as he uses the influence of Former President, an Influence that every former president has to attack other candidates. Bill is runing for a third term. That is it. If Hillary (The real candidate being Bill Clinton) is on the top of the ticket as the establisment wants, place supporters of Senator Obama and Edward, get organised in Novermber, talk to your neighbors, friends, etc about the importants of staying home in Novermber. Don`t go to the polls. Let the media and the establisment go and vote for their candidate, Bill Clinton represented by Hillary. This is the same Democrate who were elected to end the war in Iraq and have not done so. Send them a messeage in Novermber. Stay home

    January 21, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  22. Tom Davie

    I dont think we could have ever seen such a RACE WAR coming. The tension is becoming ridiculous.

    The polls in South Carolina are going to be LOPSIDED on the black and white vote. This is going to COST Senator Obama for the rest of his career. We can no longer look at him outside of being a black man.

    He should have NEVER polarized himself just to win this state.

    Now what does he do AFTER South Carolina ?

    ...no no no. Its not about race now. Nope. We dont care about race, no sir blah blah blah........

    January 21, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  23. Jeffrey, Salt Lake City, Utah

    It is you, Rep. Clyburn, who need to chill if you really are "remaining neutral." By making these comments in a public forum, you are not being neutral. If you really meant them and if you really were remaining neutral, you would have told this to Pres. Clinton directly. But no, you are intending to influence this race and keep race an issue in this campaign. It's blatantly obvious and is frankly, affecting my opinion of you and your lifetime's work.

    I'm not happy with the flap between Clinton and Obama. I wish they'd stop. But it is unfair to say that Bill Clinton has to sit this one out or have limited exposure on this stage. Every person has the right to support the candidate of their choosing, including using their name to endorse. Bill is simply using that right. How can people think that's wrong? He clearly knows Hillary and I believe he loves and wants the best for this country, so he is spending a lot of time and political capital in his support of her. That's his right. I personally think it's short-sighted and shallow to have you opinion of Bill changed based on this, but certainly that is also your right.

    Both the Clinton and the Obama campaigns can run the kind of campaigns that they choose, but to say that it's unfair to run against both Clintons or that the other campaign isn't being fair is just plain pathetic. If Obama is the nominee, is his campaign going to tell the Republican nominee "to chill" or cry a similar fake foul? This is real; this is the major leagues. If you can't take the pressure at this stage, how will you handle it when it's the Republicans challenging you? I'm sure if that happens, you won't want Bill Clinton to "chill."

    January 21, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  24. Bo

    personally, i lean more toward hillary than obama, but bill has got to shut up already. he looks like an idiot and obama shouldn't have to defend himself against mr. clinton; hillary should be doing her own attacking.

    on the flip side, this whole "racial" thing is nonsense; they can't use bill's words for their own agenda and then turn around and say that he shouldn't express his opinion. and since the media is obviously so obama-friendly, he probably feels like someone has to speak out against obama's flaws, but that should be left up to the candidate – hillary.

    i am afraid though that if obama wins the nomination, we may end up with another republican in the white house.

    p.s. – if you want to vote for the best candidate, just picture both obama and hillary as being old, white men, look at the issues and their positions, then decide. it seems were so used to that that people get excited (ooooo...would it be nice to have a black man/woman in the white house..) and their personal biases get in the way. this isn't about what might seem nice to have, but who will be the best commander in chief.

    January 21, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  25. Luther Campbell

    There goes Jim Clyburn again. He's been the main stoker of the racial fires and all he is doing is hurting Obama. If Obama was smart he'd tell Clyburn to shut up.

    Obama has been in a slow but steady decline since Iowa and people like Clyburn have been part of the problem.

    January 21, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
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