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. darrell

    Kellie January 21, 2008 10:51 am ET

    I always wondered, who is running…..Hillary or Bill?

    Obama is right! I watched a clip on Good Morning America about an hour ago. They showed a comment he made and in the next instance how Bill "interpreted" it. He was right. Bill outright lied!! The Clintons want to win at all costs…including the demise of the DEMOCRATIC party!

    Right On Kellie

    Time for Clintons to turn the page or America will do it for them.

    Clyburn needs to join the movement for change

    Obama 08

    Obama speech in 2004 convention talked about the unity of all Americans.

    Old politics conqure by dividing. The old is not relevant today.

    Saturday we have the opportunity to send a message to that old politics.

    Vote Obama 08

    January 21, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  2. anne lloyd

    HI irish anne canuck..from canada this is so exciting to see bill clinton be so
    gung ho to get into the white house again..i believe he will and know that hilary
    will make a great vice-president....i thought she found her own voice???

    usa.usa.usa yea..

    January 21, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  3. Dynasticism!

    There is no doubt that the Clintons speak with one voice, think with one brain and act from one playbook!

    As such they are the virtual incumbents! Tom Brokaw stated on MTP that "I have questions about her character and concern about whether she can win."

    How true. In the Clintons we see a past of divisiveness and couple that for what ever reason seem to really believe that they [the Clintons] are entitled to the Presidency!

    Even the Clintons budget surplus was a bunch of smoke and mirrors due to the accounting methods used.

    January 21, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  4. Tessie Flynn

    ...but both Clintons are MEAN! They will do whatever is necessary to win ~ distort the facts ~ promise everyone the moon ~ they are simply an amoral pair!

    January 21, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  5. Jack ny, ny

    CNN is back on not posting anti-obama post. My comments are always waiting moderation. I am sure they will post this one to show that they post everything.
    shame on you CNN

    January 21, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  6. Doe

    He is revered in many sections of the African-American community, and I think he can afford to tone it down,” he added.

    Is that a threat=?

    January 21, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  7. Chaunda


    I do not know what polls you have been looking at but most put Hillary in the front of Obama nationally.

    January 21, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  8. E. Davis

    You know, I used to really like the Clintons, but I can't even look at them now, because they are acting like a bunch fools! As an African American, I helped to get Clinton into office previously, but the dirty tactics that they're using now, is just ridiculous!! Bill, you need to chill! Besides, they just don't want to see a black man President. Get over it!

    January 21, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  9. Gabe Bahr

    Bills just telling boldfaced lies now. He does need to chill, but I hope he doesn't so the people can see the Clintons for what they really are.

    January 21, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  10. Fude fo tawt

    Clyde is right, and everyone seems to be giving Bill a free pass to say what he wants. Voting for funding does not mean that Obama supported the war; it means HE SUPPORTED the TROOPS! It is like a parent providing housing to his child that uses drugs: the parent does not support the drug use, but neither will just leave his child in the cold. And Bill does not seem to understand the difference.

    He keeps distorting and making false statements simply because the Obama camp has overlooked them- but his words do carry a lot of weight. I am happy the Bill supports his wife- but it is disappointing that they work a tagteam, almost covert scheme, to assasinate Obama's record and character. Chill, Bill; you had your turn already.

    January 21, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  11. v.ananthan

    A lot of afro americans are supporting OBAMA ..
    In the past have Clintons supportet the afro american people and now they are turning thier backs on Clintons..

    January 21, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  12. jorge thompson

    The Clintons are brilliant. And they deliver.
    Her plan is to get money back to the middle class that Bush has taken for his cronies.
    My favorite is how she's going after inflated salaries of fatcat CEOs who are bleeding money from the company workers.

    January 21, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  13. sandy

    Hillary, is this what is going to be going on for the next four years? I thought you had found "your voice". Well he is certainly never lost his and is going to be overshadowing your presidency...I don't think I will ever be watching you again, what a wimp you are..Please tell him to back off....

    January 21, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  14. Donald Crocker

    Senator Barack Obama believes in the American people. He believes we can make a difference. And we will make a difference, if enough voters in the Democratic primaries do not believe the misleading, dishonest smears and distortions being directed against Senator Obama by the Hillary Clinton campaign. At this defining moment in our nation’s history, this election should not be about gender, or race, or religion. This election is about who we can trust to honestly represent the American people, and not be beholden to special interests. It is about who, experience has shown, has the judgement, the values, the character, the leadership to be President of the United States. Experience shows Senator Obama made wise, clear, unwavering decisions on Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and the bankruptcy law, to name a few. Hillary Clinton never admits to being wrong or having made a mistake. Obama tried to create a tough, independent Office of Public Integrity to monitor Congress. Hillary Clinton was one of 20 Democrats who rejected the idea. Obama is genuine, candid and direct. Obama listens to people and actually tries to come up with the best solution for our country. Clinton focuses on what gives her the most political benefit and power, and the result is partisan bickering, divisiveness, and a paralyzed government that does not work for the American people. There are a lot of Independents and Republicans ready to line up behind Obama in November. But first, the Democrats need to nominate Senator Barack Obama and give the American people the chance to elect a great president.

    January 21, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  15. jorge thompson

    Why is CNN always going negative on Clinton?
    I am really curious about this.

    January 21, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  16. Arthur, VA

    Hillary and Bill have a track record of wielding all the weapons at their disposal- they are 'excellent' politicians, fluent with the disingenuous slash and burn while presenting a noble front. As a tag team they are masterfully, through the press, creating a perception of Obama as being 'only' a black candidate, even though Obama has studiously avoided campaigning and discussing issues in this vein. In 'bending' his positions and forcing a response from the Obama campaign, they can then claim that Obama is on the attack and not the nice guy folks say he is- just a politician (like us!). Bill can leverage his past presidency for both attention from the press and expectations of veracity from the democratic faithful, and be that ‘bad’ guy to Hilary’s nice (gosh, is she actually doing ‘demure’ and ‘silly’ lately?). This approach may well beat Obama (seems to be working), and many of the faithful democrats see this as the answer to the future battle with the Republican Party (and their anticipated Swift Boat tactics) for the presidency. All is fair in war (at least with Bush) and politics, no? Though it is not the qualities in the president that I will vote for, it will unfortunately probably be good enough for the average voter’s sophistication and attention span.

    January 21, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  17. Dee

    I would not vote for "Slick Whilly " Bill again if he where running… why vote for Hillary….
    no more..Please! He probably misses that hide away office he had!

    We need a change"BADLY". Its call improvement "OBAMA finally!

    January 21, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  18. James springfield mo

    It is just like boxing one guy is getting beat so they cry into to the ring stop moving around so much so i can hit you but that is the name of the game.

    January 21, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  19. Marko, Chicago IL

    As a proud Democrat I am appalled at former President Clinton's role in this election cycle. If he were half as vicious towards George Bush in 2004 we would be talking about President Kerry's 2nd term right now. It's disheartening to see President Clinton attack a fellow Democratic in this manner.

    January 21, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  20. Illinois Indie Democrat

    Rep. Clyburn is a good man, and is pointing out the obvious. Hey both Sen. Kennedy and Rep. Emmanuel are saying the same thing to him BILL CHILL OUT!!! I do have to say tho that the actions that are being done that are benefiting one person in the short term, will hurt them in the long run. So if Bill thinks he is helping his wife by any means necessary, then he will hurt her in the GE because the Republicans are watching everything he is doing and it will come back and bite him and his wife (if she becomes the nominee) in the butt come November. So I am with Rep. Clyburn this contest is suppose to be fun, and should not be divisive (but it looks like one side seems to want to benefit from divisive politics – beware what put out cause it will come back and get you). I think he has a guilty conscience on his part about cheating on her with all those women both in Little Rock and in DC, and is trying to do right by her by getting her into the White House.

    January 21, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  21. Tamika Jackson

    For years Hillary Clinton stood by and kept silent as her husband had affairs with numerous different women. If this woman cannot manage her own house how is she going to manage the White House? She is not owed the White House for keeping silent. Her husband may owe her something but the American people do not.

    January 21, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  22. Objective Voter

    Obama is a refreshing, honest and capable candidate. We don't need 8 more years of Clintons. Yes, it is time for a change, for the better with Obama.

    January 21, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  23. kris

    bill clinton is a cheater and a liar..why should we believe anything he has to say??

    January 21, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  24. Barbara

    Having disgraced the Presidency once wasn't enough for Bill? Way to go, guy....let's trivialize the office to the point where no one decent will want to run for the office.

    What a legacy.


    January 21, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  25. Waiting for Clinton version 8.0

    Cue a "new" Bill Clinton...NOW:

    You watch how he plays the next week in South Carolina. He'll be all smiles and grace; a week from now everyone will be talking about how "dignified and Presdiential" he's been.

    As you like to say Mr. Clinton: give me a break.

    We know who the real person is.

    January 21, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
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