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. Gary

    Well there goes the last vestiges of respect for HRC I had been holding onto. She's now gone beyond losing the campaign to actively undermining her legacy and reputation.

    February 25, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  2. Mark Cross Junction VA

    Get ready people for that afternoon wailing session at your office wall when this man is elected president. Also if you thought Bush loved War wait until this idiot attacks every nation in the west.

    February 25, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  3. sarim

    Go Barak Hussein Obama!!!!
    P.S. CNN post my comment. I am an Obama supporter.

    February 25, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  4. Ellen

    I don't understand the outrage. Why should Obama be ashamed of this picture? Most national leaders are photographed in traditional, native attire if they have EVER travelled the world...which we know W didn't before he became President. Obama's campaign is overreacting...what is there to be ashamed of?

    February 25, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  5. Mker

    Poor Poor lil Obamaboy, Its Ok for his camp to spread lies he CANNTO STAND THE HEAT AND NEEDS TO GET OUT NOW!

    February 25, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  6. Rico

    Petty stuff from both campaigns almost as petty as the piece on the other network that states Farrakhan praises Obama.
    Stick to the issues please.

    February 25, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  7. Ohio For Obama

    Shame On You Hillayr!! & Shame on you CNN for that poll last night. You both owe Obama an apology.

    February 25, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  8. Nick

    Oh, and this isn't from the Karl Rove playbook?

    February 25, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  9. Keith

    Farrakhan supports OBama – Enough Said! My vote goes to Clinton or McCain.

    February 25, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  10. Obamacan

    Shame On You Hillary!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 25, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  11. Amy in Iowa

    Maggie Williams and Hillary Clinton make me ashamed to be a woman. They have done a great injustice to women in politics and have set us back years.

    February 25, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  12. Butch Dillon

    It's pretty clear that the Senator from NY is incapable of directing or managing a clean campaign effort. The picture is a clear statement on her desperate need to capitalize on lies. The mounting question about Clinton is not that she will lose this nomination, it's more about her survival in national politics as a democrat. She's even below republican standards at this point.

    February 25, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  13. Joyce Mosier

    Obama certainly is protesting way too much for something that is innocent behavior! Why is he ashamed of this and his background? If he didn't want people to see it, he shouldn't have donned the apparel in the first place. He didn't seem to mind showing how his father's family lived, but then he had a whole caravan of photographers showing him off. Why hadn't he visited his family before he wanted to run for office? He certainly could have afforded the trip! It seems that he wants to use his background only when it suits him. I'm sorry, but the man is a sham!!!

    February 25, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  14. Kevin

    Obama is doing charity work in this photo. Bringing food to the poor in Somalia, a country where there is hardly any electricity, clean water, etc... Those of you who talk about how the "truth hurts, doesn't it Obama" [I had to grammatically correct that sentiment since it was written unintelligibly] or who talk about how Barack is playing dirty politics should consider the deep implications of using a photo showing a man being culturally sensitive and doing charity work in order to produce a feeling of incensed bigotry. I feel that America will do poorly in the next century if we cannot use our great wealth in a manner that produces understanding, instead of breeding contempt. Even the Rand Corporation has stated that building schools in the middle east is a less costly alternative to ending radical Islam than is dropping bombs.

    February 25, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  15. CG


    Frankly, I don't care what Obama wears–just as long as he wears something! Come to think of it, he looks better than that Star Trek collared gettup that HRC worn to the last debate. Beam her up Scotty!


    February 25, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  16. Kathryn Irby

    Clinton is really desperate to implement such a mockery of Obama! So childish!

    Kathryn Irby
    Metairie, LA

    February 25, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  17. Ash

    The Obama campaign really needs to step back and say, "So what?" It is perfectly common for visiing dignitaries to wear t local outfits as a token of respect and friendship – we all saw Bush in one of those ridiculous furry gowns in Middle East just a few days ago. Did that make Bush Muslim or Arab? Instead of complaining about such "smears", just diffuse it – who cares?

    February 25, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  18. Margaret, Silver Spring, MD

    This simply shows me how respectful Sen Obama is of other people's culture and hospitality.
    I travelled to Ghana once and wore their traditional attire.

    Truly, Hillary has finally gone nuts!!!

    February 25, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  19. JP-New York

    This is further proof that Hillary will do or say anything to get elected. She is ruthless, selfish, and vicious. I just don't see how her supporters can think otherwise. It's actually laughable that Maggie Williams believes that anyone with half a brain would believe her spin on the Clinton campaign's release of this photo. They are desperate and pathetic. I only hope that the voters of Texas and Ohio can see Hillary for what she is: a power hungry person who is only out for herself.

    February 25, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  20. Barack in 08

    What everyone fails to understand is this picture is playing on peoples fear.

    Sure, Bush, Clinton wore some funny clothes too but are they being accused of being a muslim? No, they arent. When you circulate a picture of Barack in traditional somali clothing it plays on the fear that he is a muslim. It's a slimy tactic and everyone who supports Hillary should be ashamed of her.

    February 25, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  21. Chris

    Who honestly gives a care if Obama was dressed in traditional Muslim attire? Honestly Hillary, what a low blow. Having someone who actually understands Muslim culture would be a better president than someone who is using it to smear a campaign.

    February 25, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  22. Marie TX

    Just when I was thinking Hillary was a human being again, she comes out with this stuff. She is soooo blinded by winning that she doesn't even realize that she is giving ammunition to the Republicans.

    I was undecided and thinking about voting for her, but this has sealed the deal. I can't imagine voting for in the primaries and in the general election.

    February 25, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  23. Mike

    Clinton supporters are missing the point...

    We are not arguing that this is a smear because it is false,

    It is a smear because, if her campaign put it out, their intention was to incite racism-fear in the minds of white voters who are afraid of muslims. It is her INTENTION that is disgusting, not the factual implication.

    Let's see if they come out and deny that they sent out the photo – because if they don't, I think that is proof enough...

    February 25, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  24. Joe

    I am an Obama fan and it's clear to me that the Clinton's are doing exactly what Obama's camp suggests - playing the politics of fear.

    Having said that, I think the better response from Obama would have been "So what? Why does it matter that I wear traditional clothing of Somalia in a good gesture toward them?"

    Similarly, I thought the better response on the false accusations that he was a Muslim would have been: "I am not a Muslim, but why would it matter if I was? This is a nation of religious freedom and we shouldn't persecute anyone because of their religious beliefs."

    Then again, I'll admit that most people in this country are dolts and wouldn't take as well to my approach.

    February 25, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  25. Bubba

    Actually kinda looks to me like Karl Rove just hurt both Democratic candidates by blaming one for smearing the other. Now, everybody go vote for McCain so he can read about his pet goat while we get attacked again.

    February 25, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
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