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. AW

    it's really a fine example of the sort of feminist clannishness which alienates male voters from female candidates.

    January 29, 2008 02:38 am at 2:38 am |
  2. Aaron Geiger

    As a strong supporter for women's rights, I'm am absolutely amazed by the ignorant press release as reported by CNN in regards to the Ted Kennedy blasting by the National Organization for Women. The New York chapter is quoted saying, "...after centuries of men who 'know what's best for us.'"

    Excuse me, but even though Hillary may be on the ticket, she may actually not be the most qualified individual for the candidacy for president. And equally, although Obama is the only African American on the ticket, he may not be the most qualified.

    Just because there is a woman running for office does not mean that we have to ensure that her gender makes the presidency. The person needs to earn the presidency. And I, as a man, find the blanket statement of the overall oppressive anti-male tone quite rude and not with the times.

    I have lost a lot of respect for the New York chapter of NOW for their child-like commentary. I have heard better diatribe from community college students in the middle of a meaningless protest. And NOW's ignorant comments only serve to hurt Hillary, rather than help her.

    Besides, what upstanding woman wants to back another woman who puts up with infidelity, but expects to not be pushed around by foreign governments? It's like a gay-rights advocate giving the nod to Huckabee, simply because the advocate was born in Arkansas.

    January 29, 2008 02:40 am at 2:40 am |
  3. Bitsy

    WHATEVER!!! Why are these women whining? Really, I have heard of drama. But whining about a minority, when over 50% of the pop. is female??? Come on girls use your heads. Go Obama!!! Just because Hillary shares our plumbing does not justify voting for her simply based on that. Wouldn't that be unfair against male minorities? Keep is real sistas, keep it real.

    January 29, 2008 02:40 am at 2:40 am |
  4. Melissa Neta

    I suppose the NY State Chapter of NOW would not have had a problem with Senator Kennedy's endorsement of another candidate, as long as the other candidate were a woman. It seems that to narrow Senator Kennedy's preference to gender misses the strengths of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. To merely say that the only difference between them is their gender is to do each of them a great disservice. For the NY Chapter of NOW to suggest that we who do not choose to endorse Senator Clinton are somehow lacking in progressiveness seems so incredibly backward-thinking. In choosing a candidate to support, I consider her or his stance on policies, voting record, as well as how each candidate presents herself or himself on the campaign trail. As a woman, I will be honored and proud when we have a president who is a woman. However, I am not convinced at this time that Senator Clinton is the right candidate for the job. Currently, I support Senator Obama in his candidacy for president, and anyone who suggests that to do so means I am biased toward men is simply wrong. I would imagine that Senator Kennedy, with his decades of serving in office and considering these issues, cannot be any less open-minded.

    January 29, 2008 02:40 am at 2:40 am |
  5. erika morgan

    I was beginning to lean toward Clinton but the behavior last week really turned me off.

    I could only vote on the basis of what sort of a job the candidate will do, and what will be her/his agenda. The popularity contest has zero place in choosing a candidate; I am also distressed when folks vote for the "most likely to win" like they are trying to get the right answer on a test. Remember to do your judging by the content of the person, never by some "ideologue loyalty" separate from reality; this latter type of behavior is what has got Congress in such disfavor with the people.

    The first order of business for me in DC has to be to restore the democracy by getting the special interest money completely out of politics, ensuring that each vote is verifiably tabulated as cas, and going to a completely publicly funded electoral process. If we don't do these things democracy in America is dead, it has been a cruel experiment in freedom, as we are all surfs to the megabucks and have completely lost our self determination and our right to pursue our own happiness.

    I must take Ted Kennedy's endorsement seriously as he has worked with both these candidates personally, is well aware of what we face nationally, and thus is in an excellent position to understand who will be best for our nation at this time. I have been wondering who could really break the deadlock in Washington, and I thank Teddy for shedding this light.

    January 29, 2008 02:41 am at 2:41 am |
  6. Writer

    This is so ridiculous. Hillary needs to stop crying, trying to play the gender card, and leaning on her husband. My first female president will stand on her own two feet. Sorry–Hillary is not the one.

    I am a 34 year old woman. Wife. Mother. Sister. Daughter. And I'm voting for Barack.

    January 29, 2008 02:41 am at 2:41 am |
  7. wesley


    January 29, 2008 02:42 am at 2:42 am |
  8. JA Cook

    Hillary Clinton is hardly a model woman for feminists. After losing Iowa, she turned to her husband for help. If she gets to the White House it will be a tainted victory for women because she failed to do it on her own.

    I'm a man who raised my daughter with very high expectations of what she could accomplish and taught her to shoot for the moon. She never learned from me that there were any limitations due to her gender. I'm proud to be gender blind as well as color blind.

    I'll vote for the person who I perceive to be the best for the job.

    I have no problem voting for a woman, but it has to be the right person.

    January 29, 2008 02:44 am at 2:44 am |
  9. Nana

    NOW, what is the problem?

    January 29, 2008 02:45 am at 2:45 am |
  10. Another Steve

    Sorry, but aren't we are supposed to pick candidates we believe can do a better job. Hillary is just not up to the challenge. She is so polarized she probably causes issues with navigational equipment on airplanes. Why isn't the Senator not given the same respect you wish. His right to choose. He chose, get over it.

    January 29, 2008 02:49 am at 2:49 am |
  11. GJH

    Is only supporting a woman candidate the same as only supporting a white candidate? If that is the case, then NOW is guilty of the equivalent of racism.
    NOW should-as all organizations should-support who they believe is the best in embodying the core beliefs of the organization, and not because of some reason that the candidate had no choice over (sex or race).

    The best is not always the one with the most experience. The best uses their talents, and trusted advisors to choose the best course. I would be afraid of anyone who claimed to be the best at all things needed to be president simply because they had some ill defined "most experience". With respect to Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama, both have experiential shortcomings. Neither has led a government before and I am hard pressed to see how being in the senate prepares one for the demands of being president. As such, neither has much in the way of practical experiences needed to be president. We need to look at other attributes that these two offer.

    I would hope those that give credit to themselves as thinkers would look beyond these divisive issues of sex, color, and religion. Are we not a country of tolerance? If NOW can't tolerate a different opinion, they are not endorsing a critical American trait-tolerance. I am pleased that national NOW has clarified its position in this regard, and I find it more American than the New York local.

    January 29, 2008 02:53 am at 2:53 am |
  12. David

    Just because somebody agrees with you on issue A, B, and C, does not mean they are obligated to agree with you on issues D through Z. And any one who thinks otherwise is someone bent of fealty, not liberty. I have nothing wrong with a woman being president, but I beg to differ that Hillary Clinton represents all women.

    Change every use of "woman" the NOW said in their letter to either "white man" or just plain "man", and people will call you sexist. How about we move past double standards here and call something like it really is? Oh, no...that's not politically correct. I'm sorry.

    January 29, 2008 02:55 am at 2:55 am |
  13. JIY

    Typical Clintonite! The only way this machine can be pleased is to agree with it no matter what. When it is convenient it claims that its campaign is not about gender but the accusation of betrayal is tantamount to saying any other competition in so far as it is male should step down otherwise it proves the chauvinism of American men, how disappointing. NOW should know better. Such loud and shrill accusations only proves that change is needed. No one should be subjected to such a blackmailing accusation aimed at making anyone who does not support NOW's anointed candidate to feel guilty.

    January 29, 2008 02:56 am at 2:56 am |
  14. Dusacre

    "NOW took aim at Kennedy Monday "

    Ridiculous and shameful statement! Anyone who is basing her/his vote on gender, race or religion is missing the point! America of the future is bigger than gender, race, or religion! Those are divisive politics and will only bring the ugliest in us.

    January 29, 2008 02:59 am at 2:59 am |
  15. Jake, California

    These women are rediculous and sexist!

    How can they who complain about equality be so sexist! Please to take care of your husbands and leave politics to those who know how to do it...none sense, stupidity, lame!

    January 29, 2008 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  16. Nick

    Someone should ask Obama if he supports Kennedy's decision to put all of his money offshore so it can't be taxed! That's what Kennedy did.
    HA! Uniting America. What a joke! Only if someone else pays, but then wait...Obama believes in that too. Anyone remember Rezco?

    January 29, 2008 03:02 am at 3:02 am |
  17. Jaclyn

    It is true, just because Senator Kennedy endorses Obama does not mean the average voter will cast their vote for Obama. However ,I think the Kennedys announcing their support to him may help Obama gain super delegates. Having key members of the Democratic Party lend their support may be a tripple effect to other super delegates who have been on the fence as to who they want to endorse. And this is a primary which, depending on what happens on Super Tuesday, could come down to super delegates.

    January 29, 2008 03:03 am at 3:03 am |
  18. Happy Conservative

    This is what makes it hard to be a Dem. Sometimes the party fractures when identity politics trumps common sense decisions and focusing on commonality takes a back seat to whose rights/cause is most important. NOW using the word "betrayed" makes it sound like all women are victims. Not the women I know and love. The only betrayal was Bill to Hill in the '90s and now Billary to the entire Democrat party.

    Go Obama. It won't be easy but trying to get people to work together as a whole instead of as separate sects fighting over who comes first is a noble goal that will make life in the U.S. better for all.

    January 29, 2008 03:03 am at 3:03 am |
  19. Nick

    Kennedy doesn't like Hillary because the Clinton legacy will overtake the Kennedy legacy.

    January 29, 2008 03:05 am at 3:05 am |
  20. Jennifer

    Are you for real? NOW needs to recognize that Mr. Kennedy's endorsement of Mr. Obama has absolutely nothing to do with women as a whole. Any person, especially women, should be able to disseminate the difference between a viable candidate to bring unity to the White House vs. a person with their own agenda that would further divide the White House. To even suggest that Mr. Kennedy's support is based on gender is ludicrous and absurd to say the least. What would NOW have said if it was Bill Clinton looking for an endorsement and Mr. Obama still got it? I guess it would have been the race card in that case. Just like the Clintons were the first to throw the race card out, I guess NOW is trying to make the gender card an issue. It would behoove ALL Americans, with at least half a brain to think before they speak on a person's values. Not every American can be manipulated, lied to, or brow-beat into not thinking for themselves. NOW go get a real life!!!

    January 29, 2008 03:05 am at 3:05 am |
  21. potcake

    Seems like NOW wants Hillary to be President just because she's a woman. I think all women could stand up and be prouder of themselves if they made important political decisions based on more than gender. Hillary is a political machine, akin to being a robot. Haven't you noticed that this country is sick of robots? Isn't it more important that we elect someone who has the potential for ending the very kind of devisiveness demonstrated in the NOW diatribe against Kennedy? Isn't it more important that we elect someone who has the potential to negotiate peace? Isn't it more important during these critical times that we choose a President who can be an inspiration to us all by the very fact that he does stand above the fray, does stand for everyone, and who has the maturity to view himself as simply a person, without the need to lean against a group to understand his own identity? When you choose to vote for a person who is cut out of the same cloth as you, the quilt you design is bland and without character. A woman President would be cool - but integrity is so much cooler!

    January 29, 2008 03:11 am at 3:11 am |
  22. Ryan W

    So if he would have endorsed Hillary, would the NAACP have called him a racist?

    Somehow I doubt it.

    This pointless attack by NOW is shamefully immature and should be condemned.

    January 29, 2008 03:15 am at 3:15 am |
  23. Lee

    This tells you everything you need to know about NOW.

    January 29, 2008 03:20 am at 3:20 am |
  24. jacko

    Its obvious that the democratic party A> Does not care what the older voters think B> Does not care what certain states think C>CERTAINLY DOES NOT CARE WHAT WOMEN THINK The dems are a bunch of womanizing scum Why would they respect anyone thats a woman Hilary in no way has done the evil things that the Kennedys have done for generations OBAMMMA IS as bad you just watch Romney for pres ladies Romney has intregrity and he has never cheated on his wife of many years

    January 29, 2008 03:24 am at 3:24 am |
  25. Mick

    HUH?!!! Ted Kennedy is only NOW upsetting to women? Where have these ladies been burying their heads for the last several decades? Also, are they suggesting that they are willing to vote for Hillary merely because she is a woman? I thought NOW was against such things as gender bias... guess that doesn't always apply.

    January 29, 2008 03:26 am at 3:26 am |
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