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. Carl III

    Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, and George Bush have all worn Muslim clothing to answer your question Liz. It is normal for political leaders to wear the tribal attire of the region they are visiting.

    The release of this photo by the Clinton campaign is an obvious attempt by the Clinton Campaign to use religous fear to detract voters from Obama. I don't believe this will work, but it is shameful for them to do it.

    OBAMA '08

    February 25, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  2. Val

    Obama worries me very much. America is doomed with him in charge.

    February 25, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  3. Ron

    It is a public picture! Hillary's campaign hasn't done anything wrong. The defensive attitude by Obama's campaign and his supporters is a little disturbing. Chill out. It's just a picture. Laura Bush wore a headress when she went to the middle east Big deal

    February 25, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  4. Nate

    HRC put this out there and IT IS not to promote Barack's Obama.
    Rather than dividing by divulging photos that try to seed doubt WHY NOT BE TRANSPARENT ABOUT YOURSELF and RELEASE YOUR TAX RECORDS ?????

    February 25, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  5. vl

    Oh for pete's sake, GET OVER IT! If you bothered to watch the news, read a paper or magazine, you'd see pictures like this all the time. It's not new or conniving. Anyone watch Bush making a fool of himself dancing around? Diplomats from around the world dress in the traditional attire of the country they are visting to show respect. Oh brother, some of these posts are downright stupid.

    February 25, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  6. john

    maggie Williams says the obama campaign shouldn't treat this as devisive. So she is implying that her campaign did spread this around and theres nothing wrong with it.

    Obviously this is a pathetic, desprate attempt by a fading campaign to bring out the worst in people and play to thier fears. America is better than that. We won't take the bait and won't stand for these tactics.

    February 25, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  7. Steve

    The kinder gentler Clinton of the recent debate was obviously a ruse. This is the kind of thing you can expect from a Clinton administration, because this has happened more often than not. It cannot be attributed to a misunderstanding. If you think doing things like accusing Obama of being a muslim (as if there was something wrong with that) when he is actually a Christian, and publishing photos of him in traditional dress of a country he visited as if it was something to be ashamed of shows a complete lack of world view by Clinton, and a too-willing attitude to point fingers. Clinton, I supported you early on. Now I am ashamed of you.

    February 25, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  8. Pat

    Throwing a stone into the dark and hoping it will hit the target, but if it doesn't, nobody will know since it was done in the dark? It seems a rather sad, desperate tactic to deploy. More importantly, it insults the intelligence of the American voter.

    February 25, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  9. Rob

    McCain all the way in 08!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 25, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  10. ll FLORIDA


    February 25, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  11. Dave C - N.J.

    Anyone with a high school education knows that politicians sometimes wear traditional garb on diplomatic missions.

    No one will care except for:

    1. Bigots
    2. People that were not going to vote for Obama anyway

    I don't care if his name is Obama Bin Laden. He's better than Hillarity and McLame.

    February 25, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  12. Robb, New York

    Shame on you, Hillary Clinton! Shame on you, you so-called Democrat. You are a disgrace to this party and to this country. Go back to the trailer park from whence you came.

    February 25, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  13. lulu, east lansing, michigan

    I am a 26 year old black woman who is a third year law student. I do not see, how Hillary is smearing Obama.He was wearing the regalia was he not?, how then can he complain that this is a smear tactic.
    Obama, I fear, whines way too much, the guy needs to get a grip, its annoying to see a whiny black male...for a minute there, I was a fan, but not any more

    February 25, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  14. Karen

    Wait a minute...

    He dressed up for an event he went to in 2006. So what? This photo was out a long time ago. So what?

    The photo is from an event he attended, I don't see the issue.

    What am I missing? He dressed in appreciation for the people he was spending time with. So what?

    What's up CNN? This one is just odd.

    February 25, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  15. mike

    My comments about obama never got posted, CNN, you are so biased, and now I am not surprised at all........ 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 positions people hold 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 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  16. MPG

    HRC's disingenuous campaign tactics are less than "presidential". They are divisive, petty, discriminatory and juvenile. So this is what we can expect on "day one" of her presidency?

    The fact that a woman and an african american both have a viable shot at the White House is indeed historic. However, I hardly think that those who fought hard for equal opportunity under the so-call laws and our constitution in this great country of ours would be proud of what's happening now. Definitely not our greatest moment..........

    Both candidates need to reign it in and get serious about serving this country's needs. This isn't a popularity contest or a power-brokering session.

    You're both making it way too easy for a light weight like McCain to win. He's the best candidate for the Dems.

    February 25, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  17. AlexNYC

    Obama dressing up in Somali attire as a goodwill gesture, this should be no less an issue than if he wore a yarmulke at a jewish gathering or various attires with other faiths. Why are we scared of muslim connections because of a few muslim extremists? Another non-issue that the media is trying to inflate into an "breaking news" story.

    February 25, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  18. amy yance

    Guys-Obama's campaign put this out to frame the Clinton campaign.

    Get a grip.

    February 25, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  19. M Scalane

    Clinton's campaign continues to implode upon itself...

    February 25, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  20. Hamza

    now .. let's think together
    Hillary chances are degrading …
    she is going very negative on Obama … she even calls him names ..
    tayyeb .. she knows this didnt work in Win/ and the general feeling among dems to stop it …
    hmmm …
    then why she is doing this?!
    her so far called "the moment", was cleary a speech of more a debate .. she was trying to look Good!
    tayyyebbb ,,,, hmmmm ,,, leih!

    my own theory:
    Hillary feels she is losing this year nomination to Obama ..
    Bill signaled that …
    the Billary plan:
    – screw Obama … give McCain a great pool of names to call Obama with, it is easier just to play back Hillary attacks on Obama and this will do the job
    – continue of having a wide national outreach, raise funds, and play victim of sexism …
    – I have followed McCain Lately, and the man has an outstanding position on torture for example, americans like the hero', and we saw how NYT was under fire for bringing that story ..
    – McCain vs. Obama, as on Daily show, White vs. Black= White wins, JS says Americans are not voting for a black president, but for the chance of having one …
    – if Obama wins, then there might be an 8-years of Obamas, puts Hillary at 68/69 next windown of opportunity, then do what:
    – undermine Obs chances this term, let a republican wins, then McCain will be already 76 by then, and America might be within the same status

    alright ,,, maybe I better analyze Football ….

    February 25, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  21. AverageRepublican

    Sen. Obama isn't upset about the picture at all. He's upset that the Clinton campaign had a staffer that thought they could use this picture to cause a controversy. The whole point is that the picture shouldn't cause any controversy – and the fact that Team Clinton felt differently is very telling about Team Clinton.

    At least the Democrats are getting a nice display of the moral bankruptcy of this woman that Republicans have been complaining about for the past 16 years.

    I have never seen a campaign spiral out of control like this – it's both breath-taking and disgusting to watch.

    February 25, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |

    The Clinton campaign is getting rather pathetic. Why doesn't Hillary come out and denounce this Photo and say that she doesn't support actions such as this?

    The Clinton camp is in pretty bad shape...

    GO OBAMA08

    February 25, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  23. Jeff

    You won’t be getting any of my money no more. However, I’ll double my contribution to the Obama camp. I’m not neutral anymore!!! You just did to me what you did to Senator Kennedy!

    February 25, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  24. Toby Hill

    Obama is not wearing traditional African garb, it's traditional Muslim garb. Clinton didn't force him to wear it.

    February 25, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  25. MarkH

    Hillary is quickly losing any (already slim) possibility for a veep position. Obama/Edwards or McCain if not them. NEVER, NEVER will Hillary get my support.

    February 25, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
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