January 29th, 2008
08:54 AM ET
15 years ago

Women's group slams Kennedy for 'betrayal'


Kennedy formally endorsed Obama Monday, after months of remaining neutral. (Photo Credit: AP)

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy is under heavy fire from a state chapter of the National Organization for Women for his decision to back Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton.

In a sharply critical statement, the New York state chapter of NOW took aim at Kennedy Monday for what it called an "ultimate betrayal," and suggested the Massachusetts Democrat "can't or won't" handle the idea of Clinton becoming President of the United States.

"Sen. Kennedy’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic presidential primary campaign has really hit women hard," said the statement. "Women have forgiven Kennedy, stuck up for him, stood by him, hushed the fact that he was late in his support of Title IX, the ERA, the Family Leave and Medical Act to name a few."

"And now the greatest betrayal! We are repaid with his abandonment!" the statement continues. "He’s picked the new guy over us. He’s joined the list of progressive white men who can’t or won’t handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton."

After months on the sidelines, Kennedy formally endorsed Obama Monday during a speech at American University, despite reported pleas from the Clinton campaign that he remain neutral. He hailed the Illinois senator for his potential to be a “president who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American dream."

Kennedy also praised Clinton and John Edwards in his speech, saying that “whoever is our nominee will have my enthusiastic support."

But the NOW state chapter suggested Monday Kennedy's decision was a larger representation of society’s ongoing disrespect for women's rights.

"This latest move by Kennedy is so telling about the status of and respect for women’s rights, women’s voices, women’s equality, women’s authority and our ability – indeed, our obligation - to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a president that is the first woman after centuries of men who ‘know what’s best for us.’”

Meanwhile, the national chapter of NOW sought to distance itself from the state chapter’s comments, issuing a statement Monday evening that praised Kennedy's record with respect to women's rights.

"Though the National Organization for Women Political Action Committee has proudly endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton for president, we respect Sen. Kennedy's endorsement," NOW President Kim Gandy said. "We continue to encourage women everywhere to express their opinions and exercise their right to vote."

Kennedy's office has not returned CNN's request for comment.

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

soundoff (2,092 Responses)
  1. Julian

    NOW should really be quiet. They are only impeding the "progress" they hope to achieve by their group's efforts. Shouldn't people choose to vote for Mrs. Clinton on her merits not her gender. Why is it a betrayal? Should anyone blindly support Mrs. Clinton because she's a woman? Then she'd be a historical ground breaking figure...the United States' first token President.

    January 28, 2008 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  2. Joey

    Wow, how completely ridiculous! I am glad that NOW thinks so little of Kennedy and there by anyone who would choose Obama over Clinton. Certainly we must all be sexists. Never mind the fact that thought went into this or even more that many woman support Obama. Oh no We're all traitors!

    How immature!

    January 28, 2008 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  3. Mervin

    Why is CNN giving Barck Obama all this media blitz leading up to the state of the union address......What is wrong with cnn..Why are you crowning Barack Obama as the incoming president....You guys are so bias this is unbelievable

    January 28, 2008 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  4. Roy, Merrimack, NH

    Wow, it sure sounds like the MA state NOW organization was expecting a quid pro quo for its supposed "support" of Kennedy. How basely political can you get?

    January 28, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  5. NoOneHome, San Jose, CA

    Maybe it's less an issue of being able to handle a woman president than it is of handling Hilary Clinton as president. Even as a mostly Democrat voter I find her too divisive a candidate for the general populace, and a reflection of the same old partisan entrenchment and script-rote policy that has mired Washington in mediocrity. Even if the above wasn't enough, we've already suffered through 7 years of someone elected on the basis of name recognition, are we so dead set on making our decision the same way again? Obama, for all his faults, is the closest thing to a fresh thinking *and* considerate thinking candidate that has been offered.

    And the idea of someone being labeled with the "white male" stereotype for supporting a *black* candidate is laughably absurd. With such statements is NOW hell bent on politically marginalizing themselves with the rational voter block? The solution to the better part of a decade of the destructive rampages by the narrow minded far right is not to trade it in for the narrow minded agenda of the far left.

    January 28, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  6. Piper, Atlantic, IA

    Oh get real, NOW!!!! Just because a woman is running for President does not mean all women should vote for her. Nor does it mean that those who support another candidate are against women............just this woman. I am all for a woman President–when the RIGHT candidate runs. Clinton is not the right candidate!!!!

    January 28, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  7. Kimmy


    I do belive that Bill Clinton needs to withdraw in favor of his wife – the only presidential candidate in the Clinton family. I beleive he has done harm to her campaign in SC. As of now, it could become counter productive to campaign for Hillary instead of simply supporting her.

    But on the other hand, I thought that political endorsement stems from deep belief in one candidate's ability to lead the country and the world... It seems to me, however, that Ted kenedy is endorsing Obama for all the wrong reasons: anger over Clinton's comments and the fierce debates in South Carolina and, in his calculation (according to one of your analysts) Hilary would not be able to face the Republican winner in the run for the presidency??? Well, one thing is for sure: Ted Kenedy's motives will not get me to vote for Obama!

    January 28, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  8. watching and waiting

    It is ridiculous that certain elements in NOW have adopted the stance that if one does not support a woman candidate (no matter how unqualified or qualified) then one is a traitor. One should choose a candidate based on many factors – and, for some, gender could be a factor as could religion or race. If gender is the only factor (which is the stance that those elements critical of Kennedy are maintaining) then they are just as bigoted as those who claim they will not vote for a candidate unless he/she possesses the same skin color as they.

    People need to get a grip and move beyond gender, face, and creed. The question, who has the best qualifications to be president of the most powerful country in the world. One should not be voted into office based solely on gender, race, or creed. Are they suggesting that we should just crown Mrs. Clinton and forego the expense and time of primaries, conventions, and general elections?

    I will not be voting for Mrs. Clinton – it has nothing to do with her race, her religion, or her gender. It has to do with her inability to look critically at her shortcomings and to be open to differing views without adopting a bunker mentality that has been one of the current administration's biggest problems. Additionally, she has a problem with the truth. This nation is in desparate need of a fresh approach – it does not need a return to the rabid partisanship that a Clinton presidency will bring.

    January 28, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  9. Lynn

    "Abandonment??" What happened to supporting the candidate you believe in whether it is a he, she Latino, AfroAmerican....???To support Hillary Clinton merely because she is a woman seems sexist to me. I am surprised they didn't go after Caroline Kennedy as well.

    The National Chapter got it right when it recognized Kennedy's support for women's rights.

    This is more silly, divisive politics which is destroying the democratic process in this country.

    January 28, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  10. Jean

    Bill has the same 1st Amendment rights as the rest of us – the media has picked and picked at his comments to up their ratings.

    Bill represents BAGGAGE ????????? what happened to the sanctity of marriage ? I've got an old suitcase I have hung onto for 32 years, we raised 8 children……and yes we supported each other, spoke out for each other…..as they keep telling us, marriage is a 50/50 = EQUAL

    You are being too harsh on Bill…..his opinion counts !! You are supposed to be fair and unbiased. After all, he was President of the UNITED STATES at one time…and they is where we get all fuzzy – never before have we had a candidate (Past President's spouse) running for President – so we do not really know where to set the mark so it's the spin masters who are making the big deal of his opinion……..so I return to the same position: Bill has the same 1st Amendment rights as the rest of us !


    January 28, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  11. Jim in Orlando, FL

    Yeah Teddy ! What were you thinking ! YoTo show your commitment to women, yu needed to support the woman who covered for her husband's philandering and abuse of other women by politicizing it as a "vast right wing conspiracy" instead of the shameful disrespect it really was. Can I get a NOW volunteer to "iron my shirt" since they feel women are to be demeaned ? Extra starch please.

    January 28, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  12. Grace, Overland Park, Kansas

    well said, kelly, dave, rafi, info and jerry. NOW has given us a prime example of how ignorant it is to not vote on the issues or record of the candidate. kelly said it well when she said that hillary is not a "woman who could truly run on her own merit". in fact, hillary's candidacy is a hindrance for any young female who has political dreams. what it tells us is that we should get married to a successful politician, stand by him when he commits adultery (a form of ultimate disrespect to not only hillary but to the people he had affairs with, in my opinion), and then use his accomplishments to our own credit.

    sen. kennedy is wise to not reply to such a bigoted statement. i hope that NOW realizes that they are acting just as close-minded as chauvinistic males. if all genders are equal, then it shouldn't even be a factor in our decision. claiming we have to blindly support our own gender sets us back several decades.

    January 28, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  13. Lisa, St. Louis MO

    As a woman, I totally agree with Kelly. I would love to see a woman president in my lifetime, but president because of her experience AND character, not just because she is a woman or who her husband is and frankly, I am angry that Senator Clinton has put her husband forward so much to fight her battles. If she cannot stand up for herself now, how can I expect her to if she is president?

    I have always admired and respected the Clintons, however, my opinion has changed over the past month. I was always on the fence as to who I supported but their actions left me no choice but to seriously consider Obama or Edwards.

    Voting for a woman just because she is a woman and not her character or substance sets women back, not forward.

    January 28, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  14. pjonathan

    Kennedy's endorsement was about a man-Bill Clinton, and about his no-holds barred campaign for a third term.

    January 28, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  15. mona

    Absolutely, utterly ridiculous. As a woman who supports Obama, I see that statement as completely foolish! No wonder my two daugheters (in their 20's) find NOW so out of touch!
    It's time Clinton supporters start realizing our support for Mr. Obama is 100% based on who he is and what he stands for. Senator Kennedy did not "abandon" women. Had he supported Hillary only because she is a woman, would feel more like a cheap shot toward all women and a slap in the face.
    NOW, it's time to move on!

    January 28, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  16. Rob

    Do they mean this a "betrayal" because he's not supporting the favored white candidate that just happens to be female?? Because Obama's and Hillary's platforms for NOW's interests are nearly the same. >>>Actually according to some NOW reps that back Obama, he is better, Hillary is faking it.

    Obama has challenged America to be bigger than our pettiness. I think he REALLY overestimates American's intelligence and character.

    And looking at some of these racists bloggers screaming that they would rather vote Republican before voting for Obama; although the platforms for all the Dems are nearly identical in goals; I'm really starting to think America is just too racist to vote for Obama. Nevermind he IS half-white. And nevermind some American "whites" have black ancestors.

    So much for "content of their character, and not the color of their skin". At least Republicans are honest about their bigotry. Way to go Dems! Showing the world the ugly that is America!

    January 28, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  17. Penny

    O my goodness. The NOW-NY movement is showing its true color?

    January 28, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  18. FL

    Kelly took the words straight from my mouth - couldn't agree more

    Rafi, in all fairness (even though NOW-NY is demonstrating that they don't quite understand the concept themselves), the statement issued by NOW-NY says that Kennedy "can't or won't handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton" - craftily composed, but they're not saying he can't handle a woman president: just that he can't handle Hillary Clinton as a woman president

    and, frankly, good for him.

    January 28, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  19. ndolomar

    thanks, now, for solidifying the hypocrisy of the current hrc campaign. 1) she's running primarily on her husband's experience; 2) she's sending out her husband to do the "dirty work" of attacking her competition/fighting her battles when the going gets tough; 3) she's not countering now's blatant advocacy of sexism in politics (only this time anti-male) because all women should vote for a woman and not based on political platforms.

    yeah...hillary clinton sure sounds like a strong, tough woman. imagine who'll be fighting her battles when she's at the helm of the u.s...

    January 28, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  20. Kathy Bright

    The NOW organization should get it's priorities straightened out! Ted Kennedy has our country at heart – who is the best to lead us. NOW has reduced it to a man vs. woman issue – how stupid and "woman-like" is that! Check the "big picture".

    January 28, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  21. Andrew

    I sincerely hope that NOW's comments garner national attention so people can realize just how ridiculous it sounds to support someone solely on the basis of gender.

    January 28, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  22. LB

    Hillary and Bill Clinton are now politicaly joined at the hip forever as they go through the rest of their career. Their performance is hardly a role model for anyone!!!

    January 28, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  23. Steve, Sacramento, CA

    So, NOW-NY feels Senator Kennedy betrayed them. After years of ongoing support to NOW programs, Senator Kennedy is a no-good man!!!! One trip and you're out of the NOW-NY graces. Isn't that just like a woman???!!!

    January 28, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  24. Jesse

    Why is this such a big deal? So what Ted Kennedy stands by Obama. It's awfully shameful for these womens group to bash Kennedy for backing someone he thinks is the best choice for running the country. Maybe just maybe the American people should be ashamed of these womens groups supporting Clinton just because she is a women and no other reason. People should support a canidate not because of their sex, race, or creed but for their character.

    January 28, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  25. Leo

    This article makes it sound as if NOW is extremely sexist. They say "WE" and "Hillary" in the same breath. They also say "them" and "Obama" in the same breath. I really don't think it was intended that way (at least I sure hope not). I hope that members of NOW and everyone else in this country have enough sense to vote for the best president regardless of race or sex. To vote a woman in to office just for the sake of having a female president is preposterous.

    January 28, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
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