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. Mike

    Oh... my, between this picture of Obama dressed as Arab and Louis Farrakan's endorsement, it is going to cost him a lot of votes!!

    Of course, this will be rebuted as "silly, not focusing on policies" and all Hillary's doings!! Same old defense method of "change the subject".

    February 25, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  2. Ginger

    Looks very natural on him.

    February 25, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  3. Sarah

    Then what was the point of circulating the photo? Seems Clinton's camp is throwing everything they can think of at Obama in the hopes that something will stick. At least Drudge also posted photos of other leaders in various ethnic dress (including one of Hillary in what looks to be a muslim head covering).

    February 25, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  4. Seam, Philly PA

    Obama attacks Hillary on issues, but she turns around and attacks him with low blows involving his character. The Clinton campaign is pathetic. It's time to bring these insults to an end.

    Obama 08.

    February 25, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  5. OurTimeIsNow!

    Yeah...We will not be distracted.

    Obama 08'

    February 25, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  6. Segnoria

    Regarding the photo of Obama on Drudge today....

    Why on earth would the Clinton camp circulate this other than some desperate, negative reason. I was originally torn between the two candidates, but I have to say I am done with Hillary Clinton.

    I am disgusted, offended, and horrified that her campaign would stoop to making an otherwise positive photo into something that many won't understand. Not understanding = fear. I hope Hillary loses for stooping down there. I've had it. I am so upset with her. I expected better.

    February 25, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  7. Donna

    I bet you will hold my comments in moderation CNN......
    How scary to see this image. People of America wake up """""
    What you see is what you get.
    Texas and Ohio really think about your vote.

    February 25, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  8. Jules

    My God. What is happening to the Democratic Party? Has everyone gone completely off the deep end? Enough already! I, for one, care more about ending the war in Iraq and our dependency on oil, making college and healthcare affordable for all, and tending to the damage in our environment than any of this! I support Barack Obama in this primary season, but I will support whoever wins the democratic nomination because these things matter too much. We will hand McCain this election if we take our eyes of the big picture any longer. If our candiates (yes OUR candidates- I am calling on supporters from both sides to step up and force a change of tone from OUR candidates) won't stop these attacks on their own then we have to make them. We are engaged and involved and we can pull this contest out of the gutter if we speak out now and ask both campaigns to knock it off and remember we need to win in November for the good of this country of ours. Who's with me?

    February 25, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  9. Rachel

    I'm proud that Obama has respected other countries by wearing traditional clothing. I hope this shows other countries how respectful and understanding American can be once again.
    Thank you Obama for being a good example of how American people should treat others.

    February 25, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  10. Adam

    This hasn't been proven yet, but the Clinton response is a weird attempt to change the subject, which seems incriminating. If it's a false allegation, they ought to deny it.

    February 25, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  11. Hillary

    Another smear on HRC....

    The media is winning this for Obama. I wonder will they help him this much versus McCain.

    Nadar '08

    February 25, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  12. Frank of DC

    Hillary is employing the fear mongering tactics that got us into Iraq in the first place.And Americans are tired of it

    February 25, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  13. Allison LeGhee

    Maggie Williams: If there is nothing wrong with donning the attire of other countries as a goodwill measure (as Bush, and both Hillary and Bill have done) why did your camp feel the need to bring this particular photo to light? What are you really trying to prove? Up until now, I was a Clinton supporter. I even gave $50 last night to Hillary Clinton's campaign. However, when I go early vote today in Texas, I will vote for Barack Obama. Sen. Clinton...SHAME ON YOU for trying to perpetrate Sen. Obama in a seemingly controversial way.

    February 25, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  14. Harry Pilson

    Hillary Clinton should withdrawl from the race now! Enough said!

    February 25, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  15. Dana Broxton

    clinton all i can say is why on earth would anyone want you as president , i have lost all respect for you now. I am for obama for other reasons but still had a great deal of respect for you and your husband but to insist that barack is muslim through this pic is just the lowest that you could go im actually shocked that you did this!!

    February 25, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  16. Sam

    So this is Fear Mongering?
    I am new to the process, so I was just wondering.
    I am not afriad though, just kind of sad for all those democrats that held the Clintons in such high esteem. 95% of them know better.

    Please, educated people, don't let the morons make us all look bad on this....SPEAK UP!

    February 25, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  17. Karen

    Well, this is certainly interesting, is he ashamed of something, many of our politicians have dressed in native Garb when visiting countries, why does he have an issue with this picture, does he have something to hide? This is ridiculous, he can try to bring the heat, but he can't take it, he is such a whiner, who cares about a picture, he must have something to hide if he is protesting this so harshly.

    February 25, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  18. denial, TX

    Obama is looking beautiful

    February 25, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  19. Dave

    Why is Obama campaign furious about this. Obama made a great gesture donning Somali attire. What is wrong with that. Why are they up in arms with this photo. Clinton didn't tell him to wear it and McCain didn't tell him wear it. He chose to wear the clothing and he should be proud that he did it. Good foreign relationship. Why cry foul!!! Stabbing Clinton in the back is good for Obama but doing to him is unamerican. All the attacks to Obama is silly but unwarranted attacks on other candidates by Obama are not. How interesting.

    February 25, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  20. JL Pagano

    Charge? Denial? Allegation?

    Am I missing something?

    What is Obama doing that is so terribly wrong in that photo?

    I'm beginning to think maybe the ghost of Joe McCarthy is involved in the Clinton campaign...

    February 25, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  21. Jason

    Hillary Clinton will stop at nothing to get elected, she's trying every last dirty trick in the book.
    I shudder to think what backhanded sludge she's going to dredge up during tomorrow's debates. Hopefully the voters will see through her painful tactics.
    Shame on you Hillary.

    February 25, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  22. Lily

    This is the lowest that Clintons can go. If by any chance she becomes a nominee this die hard democrat is switching parties and campaigning for the Repub's nominee.

    February 25, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  23. Mike

    I support Hillary and I understand that Obama wearing clothing of other cultures to show support and understanding. I dont have a problem with it. However he should know that this calls to attention his loyalty as when he was asked at one of his rallies the other day about him being a member of a militant group known to bomb federal buildings in the 70's he did not answer that question. It was not an empty allegation as he is a known member of it. That is more disturbing to me.

    February 25, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  24. truth 08 time

    when Americans dignitaries, senators, presidents visit foreign lands they out of courtesy may wear some traditinal garb or clothing out of respect for that societies traditions and customs, which is simply the case here! the clinton camp is grasping at straws to make any thing bad or negative stick, americans are aware of these negative tactics and thats why the end is upon her evil campaign!

    February 25, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  25. Belle

    10 Million + voters for Clinton
    9 Million+voters for Obama

    Instead of reporting the "truth" about words....it still looks like a tie to me....some of Obama's words resonate with half the voters...and some of Clinton's words resonate with half the voters.

    I am growing tired of Obama's Dog and Pony show...he has NOT said anything new....and I grow tired of the Eperience show...

    Can't the press just really look at ALL of the stances and report on those?

    I ALSO GROW very tired of the In Depth analysis.....

    February 25, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
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