February 25th, 2008
02:15 PM ET
15 years ago

Obama camp slams Clinton team on controversial photo

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/25/art.obamasom.ap.jpg caption=" Obama's campaign accused the Clinton campaign of circulating this 2006 photo of Obama Monday. "](CNN) - Barack Obama’s campaign accused Hillary Clinton’s team Monday of circulating a photo of the Illinois senator donning traditional attire – clothing worn by area Muslims – as a goodwill gesture during an overseas trip.

In a statement, the Clinton campaign called the charge “an obvious and transparent attempt to distract” voters from serious issues – but did not issue a denial.

The picture, which appeared on the Drudge Report this morning, was attributed to sources within the Clinton campaign – although the Web site did not reveal how many, or who, might have received the photo.

In a statement, Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, said Clinton’s campaign was engaged in “shameful, offensive fear-mongering,” though he did not point to any proof beyond the original item that appeared on Matt Drudge’s blog.

“This is part of a disturbing pattern that led her county chairs to resign in Iowa, her campaign chairman to resign in New Hampshire,” said Plouffe. “and it’s exactly the kind of divisive politics that turns away Americans of all parties and diminishes respect for America in the world."

Earlier this year, some Clinton volunteers left her campaign in those states after circulating e-mails that falsely claimed Barack Obama was a Muslim – an inaccurate rumor his campaign has worked hard to dispel - and suggesting that his drug use as a young man might make him vulnerable to Republican attacks were he to become the nominee.

Clinton’s campaign manager Maggie Williams responded to the photo controversy with a Monday morning statement that insisted the New York senator’s team “will not be distracted,” but did not directly address the substance of the allegation.

“Enough. If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed. Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely,” said Williams.

“This is nothing more than an obvious and transparent attempt to distract from the serious issues confronting our country today and to attempt to create the very divisions they claim to decry. We will not be distracted.”

On a campaign conference call with reporters, Ret. Major Gen. Scott Gration, who traveled to Africa with Obama, said the photo showed that “he did what any great leader should do - he accepted the gift, accepted the hospitality, accepted that token of friendship."

UPDATE: On a conference call with reporters Monday, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson told reports that he had not seen the photo, that "I’m not aware that anyone in this campaign circulated it -- I don’t imagine that you have any independent reporting to suggest that we did."

Late Monday, the campaign sent out a memo in which Wolfson said he had not been aware of the release of the photo, and that it had not been sanctioned by the campaign -- but added that "We have over 700 people on this campaign and I’m not in a position to know what each one of them may or may not have done."

–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
soundoff (575 Responses)
  1. darrellj

    To Maggie Williams:

    Barack Obama's campaign DIDN'T say that wearing Somali clothing was divisive, but YOUR campaign IS divisive. It has been reported that YOUR campaign has been sending out this photo. In my opinion, you and your lackluster campaign are stopping at nothing, do anything to win, playing on people's fears to win this election at all costs. What are you trying to do? Drive the FEAR into people that Barack Obama is a radical muslim?

    I hope you know what you are supporting, is an insult to the muslim community and as a black woman whom has most likely been discriminated against in her lifetime should be ashamed of yourself.

    February 25, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  2. rw in ct

    Wow, Obama seems quite all home in that outfit, as if comfortable and familiar. Somali? Like Black Hawk down Somali?

    February 25, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  3. Michael

    Obama isn't bothered by the pic, so why should we be?

    February 25, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  4. terry

    Enough of Hillary already. Plus CNN is quite gullable to help promote mess under the guise of news. Can you say "National Enquirer"

    February 25, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  5. Vic

    It's about time the gloves came off on her part. If this reaction confirms anything it's that Obama is a whiner, is arrogant in that he thinks he can say anything about Hillary. Like a small child, he retaliates with off-the-wall accusations about her openly supporting NAFTA during the years in the White House. In the next breath, he's saying she can't count her 8 years as first lady as experience. He mumbles under his breath, and gives dirty looks when she slams him during a debate.

    Can't wait to see how he responds to Louis Farakhan's endorsement. One thing's for certain: Barack Obama is not perfect and he and his supporters should think about that the next time Hillary zaps him one. And he's perfectly capable of messing up without it being blamed on her.

    February 25, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  6. Ben, MA

    Disgraceful. I really hope that the voters of the upcoming primaries see this for what it is - a desperate ploy by a campaign that is on the ropes and cannot go down with dignity. Americans are smarter than to be influenced by cheap tricks such as this. Don't let us down Texas and Ohio.

    February 25, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  7. hms

    don't see the reason why Obama camp is so upset? Is he ashamed that he wore the attire?? Every politician does this.

    CNN moderation: Pls rise above petty politics and print some pro hillary comments..

    February 25, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  8. s.b.

    This photo has been published several times, most recently on Feb 4th by the National Examiner. I'm sure they found it themselves, as there was also a film crew with Mr. Obama on his trip.

    The Clinton campaign has no need to circulate this photo, unlike the Obama campagin circulating the unpublished photo of the Clinton's in a standard photo op with the president among tens of thousands with Rezco ten years ago, this photo has been widely published.

    February 25, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  9. VM

    Talk about shameful. Shame on your Hillary. Seriously. This is so vile and they are so proud of it.

    February 25, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  10. Marie

    The point isn't whether he's proud of it or not, Craig, although I doubt very much he sees anything bad about it at alll–it's that someone circulated it with the obvious intention of making it look like something he SHOULD be ashamed of it. And regardless of who that is, it seems totally indefensible to me.

    February 25, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  11. jmarie

    This is a terrible smear tactic, but I think the most American voters are smart enough to not let this influence their decisions and see it for what it is.

    February 25, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  12. Ron

    HCR's campaign in not stupid. They know that sending this out reinforces a blatently false smear/fear campaign. This is low down disgraceful bigotry by the Hillary Clinton. If they think that the American people are stupid enough to not recognize a slime-ball tactic, they've got another thing coming!

    February 25, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  13. dave

    Obama's dad was from Kenya folks. Get a grip. Besides, he looks handsome in the garb.

    February 25, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  14. timothy

    It compares favorably with Bush in Chinese garb when he visited the PRC. Run the photo of Clinton again in her red coat made of carpeting – that's the best laugh ever.

    February 25, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  15. Jenny

    I really can't stand Hillary Clinton anymore. I used to think that I'd be okay with whichever Democrat got the nomination. But this campaign has only shown the true colors of Hillary Clinton. If she keeps this up she'll be done in the world of politics. No respect.

    February 25, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  16. so over the Hill

    Hillary Clinton is obviously desperate.
    I have had enough!
    I can't believe she actually believes that we the people are too dumb to see what she is up to.

    I've got a dream ticket for you: Clinton/Rove – they are two disgusting peas in a filthy pod.

    Get ready folks, the longer this goes on the uglier she's going to get.

    Shameful, sad, pathetic and so very Hillary. This kind of experience, we DON'T need.

    February 25, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  17. carol

    Great job Hillary. It's about time people start seeing the truth regarding this fraudulent candidate. This man makes me sick to my stomach. I'm sorry you're going to lose to this anti american, cocky, brainwasing, pro obama racist. But don't worry, Mr Mccain will squash him and put him back it his place. You're the Best Candidate Hillary,
    He's a thief and a blatant liar who hides behind the media for protection. We know you could've taken him out had the media played fair.

    My latino brethren: stand up and vote for Hillary. Don't let him brainwash you into believing he is for us. I feel insulted when he attempts to speak spanish and so should you.

    February 25, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  18. JC

    Oh my! The Boogie man!
    Don't get so upset! The photo is real. He needs to say why it's not what it looks like and move on.
    I won't vote for Barack, but this is placing fear in peoples mind who can't separate the facts from fiction.

    February 25, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  19. catharine

    Obama campaign is not cleaner than others. When other people send out negative mailers, Ted Kennedy blashed it and Barack called it silly politics. When his campaign sent out obvious negative mailers, he said it was true, because he could attack other people's position ten years ago, when he was not even in this political field. His lack of experience makes his no mistake to accuse of ??? What's wrong with this photo, it's at least better than those negative mailers! People think whatever they want to about this stupid photos but the negative mailers have inaccurate statements!!!!!!!!!!

    February 25, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  20. jeff

    look like a new low water mark has been set by the clinton camp. is this what they have been saying "going nuclear". i talk to people daily who believe that obama is a secret muslim with a secret agenda to undermine the united states. this will only add fuel to their mistaken belief. lets see if the republicans will join in the outrage that is sure to follow. a lot of democrats were outspoken when the new york times published a critical piece on john mccain. so when an outrageous accusation is directed at barak obama, is their going to be a cry of foul coming from democrats and republicans? if this photo can be attributed to the clinton campaign directly, then it will surely be over for the campaign.

    February 25, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  21. Keven

    To: aPR. Vote republican and kill a few more soldiers in a mired 100years of Iraq. that should show clinton. You are pathetic. Way to go with the Hope and Light comment craig. I like it. He speaks like MLK and JFK but is nowhere close to being either one.

    February 25, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  22. Nathan

    HRClinton will do anything to win the nomination. I really wish the HRC supports understand that she is a manipulative, she would not mind going any route to achieve her mission. This is my opinion about her. She is talking about helathcare since 1993. She has not accomplish anything so far. She is talking words/action. What has she done in action? I do not understand. It is sad that Bush, Clinton kingdom keeps on going like a duracell battery, Just like U.K (british empire system is in U.S).

    February 25, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  23. Scott

    If it wasn't an attempt to smear then why did the Clinton campaign circulate it??

    It's not about whether or not Obama is proud of it, it's about the Clinton campaign fear-mongering tactics.

    February 25, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  24. Dave D

    I love it! The true Hillary is emerging and playing right into Obama's hands! Her attempt at being polite, cannot overcome her true character.

    February 25, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  25. Phil

    OMG, I cannot believe HRC would stoop this low. I am totally SHOCKED that she would circulate this photo. I would be outragged if I were Obama and I feel like the democrats need to come together and disban her from the party. This is unreal. First the rant, and now this. Please tell me I'm dreaming. Why was this circulated. Does she think we as Americans are dumb to fall for this? How many other politians have went abroad and wore traditional clothing of that particular country. It's all about respect and the HRC needs to learn that. Obama should be outragged. This is pathetic.

    February 25, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
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