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. jess

    This is utter hogwash. They expect him to endorse someone one the basis of gender? Everyone should be insulted by this.

    January 28, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  2. Please!

    I was wondering when the feminist-fueled groups were going to jump in... I never figured it would've been for this! Hah! Is this Kennedy's punishment or a practical joke?

    January 28, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  3. Steve25

    Now it is clear that the women group in Sen. Clinton's home State is playing a pure gender card.

    January 28, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  4. Mike

    What a horrible thing to do! Like good Democrats they're shooting themselves in the foot before the big game...Good job NOW, get use to saying "President Momney"

    January 28, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  5. Michelle

    OMG! And they have the nerve to be standing up for "equality". I'm a woman and this just makes me sick to my stomach. There is nothing equal about their remarks and there attack on Kennedy for his endorsement of Obama. I would love to vote for a democratic women IF she was the right one to be President. In my opinion, Hilary, isn't that woman.

    OBAMA 2008

    January 28, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  6. Linda

    I agree with Kelly and will go one further...I feel that it is NOW-NY that is disrespecting women's voices, intelligence and integrity by suggesting that, number one, women should vote for a woman regardless of her positions on issues and plans for our country and, two, that we still need a white man (Sen. Kennedy) to endorse a woman if she is to have any hope of winning!

    I have always voted Democrat. I will never vote Republican as long as they have their conservative, theocratic social agenda. If Sen. Clinton had taken the same positions and outlined the same plans for progress as Sen. Edwards, then I would vote for her. She is a wily attorney, I give her all due respect for her achievements. But she is all of Bill Clinton's aggressive ambition and none of his political charisma. I know, I know, that shouldn't matter. But in the real world it does.

    I fully agree that the US needs to catch up to the rest of the first world and elect a female president. Just not this particular female.

    January 28, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  7. Jon

    This is sickening. Just another step in Clinton supporters trying to divide this race between men and women, black and white. My generation is sick of the racial and gender divides that you insist must continue to exist. I would support a candidate with Obama's message if he were a man or woman, black, white, asian, arab, muslim, jewish, catholic or athiest, or any combination of the aboove. And I would not support a candidate with Hillary's background were she a rick man or poor woman. Get over yourselves. Stop perpetuating hate.

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

    Kelly hit the nail right on the head. Teddy and Caroline Kennedy did not endorse Obama because he's black or because he's male - they endorsed him because he's the best candidate. It's exactly this kind of tired, old "identity politics" - played like a fiddle by some groups like NOW-NY - that Obama stands firmly against. I'm Latino and for Obama - I wasn't planning on voting for Richardson just because he's Latino. I'm planning on voting for Obama because he's the best choice for all Americans, Latinos, blacks, whites, women and men.

    January 28, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  9. Arjun

    This is seriously a ridiculous accusation on the part of NOW. The notion that anyone who disagrees with Hillary must be a sexist is another political ploy that seems to me far more reprehensible than any endorsement from Sen. Kennedy, in that it exploits differences in gender. Using empty, absurd rhetoric like "an ultimate betrayal", they try to use Senator Clinton's gender in order to make her invulnerable to legitimate criticism. If you side with Senator Obama, of course you must be a sexist. Thus, rather than engaging in honest discourse, they make foolish ad hominem attacks like this.

    I might be tempted to retort that NOW's statement is an ultimate betrayal against blacks everywhere. How could they be so racist and not support a black man?

    January 28, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  10. AH

    I am a woman, but, donot undersatnd their anger.... I donot want to think myself as so blind that I would be voting someone just beased of gender. The gender and race games that Bill Clinton inflicted in SC, the group is just trying to take it at one level further, shame on you...!!!

    January 28, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  11. SD

    I guess it wouldn't have entered NOW's collective minds that Obama is just a better candidate.

    January 28, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  12. Matt, Berkeley, CA

    Why would NOW-NY blindly support a woman who voted in favor of torture and suspension of Habeas Corpus (Military Commissions Act of 2006)?? The real betrayal is the fact that Hillary Clinton betrayed the constitution (and her principles) by giving the president the power to hold anyone accused of terrorism indefinitely, without trial.

    Really, the fact that NOW-NY turns this (and everything else) into a gender issue is the reason why so few young women these days are willing to call themselves feminists. It shows how short sighted their perspective has become - they clearly don't care about anyone's civil liberties but their own. Frankly, we're tired of people on the right AND the left splitting this country by race and gender... which is why Obama appeals to so many diverse voters... and that's why he has my vote!

    January 28, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  13. James Bach

    Didn't CNN just get in trouble for asking whether naturally-born women (as opposed to men, hermaphrodites and transgenderists) of recent African descent (as opposed to descent from people who emigrated from Africa more than 30,000 years ago) feel torn between voting for a "Hillary" or an "Obama"?

    False alarm, CNN! Turns out the people really *don't* consider the issues. You were right the first time.

    January 28, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  14. Mike

    Good point, Kelly. Seems like Bill is trying to get himself a 3rd term. Ride them coattails Hillary.....yeeeeeeeee-haaaaaaaa!!

    January 28, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  15. aware

    I totally agree with the National Organization for Women. The core of the Christian Faith is Forgiveness and Reconciliation. Both Presidents Kennedy and Clinton were sexually indiscrete while they were in office. Ted Kennedy lost any hope for a presidential bid for more than his sexual indiscretions.

    Jacqueline Kennedy and Hillary Clinton both lived through and demonstrated forgiveness and reconciliation. Ted didn't manage this!

    Big Ted is the quintessential establishment male who would do or say anything to keep a woman out of the Oval Office. This old/new cronyism will not bring about change in Washington. It may well bring back the Republicans.

    Transformational change will only come with a change of heart. Someone who has lived through the process of forgiveness and reconciliation successfully will be better able to achieve it on a broader scale.

    Barack has a way to go and Big Ted won't help! This alliance only strengthens my doubts about Barack. 🙁

    January 28, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  16. Julia, California

    Too early for Kennedy to endorse Obama. It is the right of the NOW chapter to voice its concern. Should give HIllary and Obama more time to be on their own. If NOW is gender-blind, it should be NOW. Good for the chapter.

    January 28, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  17. Helen

    Ladies, Puleez! Get a grip! If you think I'm voting for Mrs. Clinton just because she's a woman you are nuts! I think Hillary Clinton will be a great Senator and a lousy President. Why? Because she is NOT a leader, NOT a uniter, NOT a diplomat and she has Bill as a husband. she is a fighter and a good one. We don't need a fighter, we need a leader, a uniter, a diplomat......and,, with all due respect she would be bringing one of the WORST womanizers and philanders in recent history back into the WH. I don't want to have to worry about who he's chasing around the Oval office after many of us have tried so hard to forget his indiscretions and lies regarding his abuse of women.

    FORGET IT LADIES. Find real reasons to vote for the Mrs. Clinton other than her sex. There are strong powerful women in govt right now....what about Condoleeza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, .these women are extremely powerful and intelligent. we can do better than Hillary and all her 90's baggage.. Smart as she is, Mrs Clinton has shown very poor judgment in the last three weeks turning over her campaign to Bill....she looks weak, and conniving. Not Presidential.

    January 28, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  18. Raul the Magnificent

    I am not a woman but I am a Cuban US Army veteran who had a son return from the Iraq war maimed. My son and I will vote for the person with the courage to vote against the war we are fighting for no good reason which was based on a pack of lies. I applaud Senator Kennedy for also becoming inspired by judgment and character. In his own words it is not about race nor gender nor poor vs rich it is about the past and the future. Our countries future will shine bright if we put in the man who is honest and will unite our country. Barack and Roll in 2008 is the right thing right at the right time. No more Billary and besides she had eight years in the White House and we saw what that looked like.


    January 28, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  19. Sonia

    I am tired of the suggestion that as a woman I am obligated to vote for the woman candidate, and surely, Ted Kennedy is not going to go with the lesser candidate on the basis of gender, nor should he. Is NY/NOW suggesting that they 'kept quiet' about Ted Kennedy and therefore he now owes them/Hillary a debt? That is outrageous. Next time, speak up, don't stay quiet if you have an issue, and do not expect a man or woman to vote for a candidate because she is a woman - that is doing a disservice to ALL candidates.

    January 28, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  20. Michelle

    I am happy that we have viable candidates that represent some of the diversity of the country bu I am saddened that and organization like NOW is are wasting our time on such trivial issues. I thought the goal was to have people judged on thier qualifications and platform.

    Shame on NOW. There are so many issues more important to women in this country than the race and sex of the person we choose to lead us. Sentor Kennedy is an american citizen and he has the right to endorse who he wants. NOW and Gloria Stienham are pissing off more women than they know.

    January 28, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  21. Joe

    People are still using the, "Where would Hillary be without her husband?" card? Why don't you educate yourself on what she did before the white house, while in the white house, and after as a Senator.

    Hillary Clinton hate is beyond irrational.

    January 28, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  22. John Q

    This is asinine. Obviously, NOW doesn't have any respect for African American rights because they don't support Obama!

    I can't believe that they're spewing this utter brain-sewage.

    January 28, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  23. Julia

    Glad to see I'm not the first to respond to this! I, as a woman, am completely turned off by this disrespectful response to Senator Kennedy's endorsement. I, too, would love to see a woman be President of the United States, but the fact is that Hillary does not have what it takes to bring this country together. She, and more recently her husband, have simply burned too many bridges to bring this nation back together. I am tired of politics and usual, and both Hillary and Bill have proven over the last couple of months that they have no desire to change.

    I am a woman. I am a registered Democrat. I am voting for Barack Obama when my turn comes. HE (oh, hear the gasps at NOW-NY) is what our country needs.

    I have to say I'm proud of the national chapter of NOW for attempting to distance themselves from these completely bigoted remarks by their NY chapter.

    January 28, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  24. Dee in Atlanta

    Once again...If Americans can push race and gender to back and focus attention on which candidate is best suited to make the necessary changes in government to help our country recover from the last 8 years, that is the candidate America need to focus on.

    As a woman myself, I believe it would be great to have a woman in office for the first time in history, but unfortunately, if people are voting for Hillary (also known as Billary) "just" because she is a woman, then they are ignoring as well as foolishly downplaying her character as an individual, not to count her inexperience. She may have been in the whitehouse, but there is nothing significantly remarkable about her contributions.

    It's time for a change!!

    January 28, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  25. jko0131

    NOW really has DEEP issues. Are they unable to see beyond gender and search for a candidate based on record, character and ability to lead. If Ted Kennedy thinks Obama is the right person for the job, please give Mr. Kennedy the benefit of the doubt that it's beyond gender. Ironically, for NOW, it WAS gender as the ONLY factor for endorsing Hillary.

    NOW is full of morons. Please go to Iraq and fight for women. Losers.

    January 28, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
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