August 4th, 2008
12:10 PM ET
15 years ago

Bill Clinton: 'I am not a racist'

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Former President Clinton, seated next to his daughter and his mother-in-law, at times appeared emotional as he watched Sen. Clinton deliver her concession speech in June."]
(CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton said Monday that he regrets some of his controversial primary season comments, telling an interview that he is “not a racist.”

Clinton addressed some of the frenzy over his comments about his wife Hillary Clinton’s Democratic rival, presumptive party nominee Barack Obama, following the Illinois senator’s win in January’s South Carolina primary.

The former president, who appeared to grow agitated at times during one of his first interviews since his wife ended her active campaign for the presidential nomination in June, was asked by in the ABC interview if he was at least partly to blame for the New York senator’s loss, and if he personally had any regrets.

"Yes, but not the ones you think. And it would be counterproductive for me to talk about," said Clinton, adding that "there are things that I wish I'd urged her to do. Things I wish I'd said. Things I wish I hadn't said.

"But I am not a racist," he continued. "I've never made a racist comment and I never attacked him [Obama] personally."

Clinton’s comparison of Obama’s South Carolina victory to those of former Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson drew resentment from some in the African-American community and an apology from Hillary Clinton.

In an April interview, the former president himself said his words had been deliberately distorted by the Obama campaign. “We were talking about South Carolina political history and this was used out of context and twisted for political purposes by the Obama campaign to try to breed resentment elsewhere. And you know, do I regret saying it? No. Do I regret that it was used that way? I certainly do. But you really got to go some to try to portray me as a racist.”

He added that the way Obama’s campaign had reacted was “disrespectful to Jesse Jackson” that the former presidential candidate had told him he was not offended, and that “we all know what’s going on."

soundoff (368 Responses)
  1. Tony

    That is something you will never get me to believe about McCain, Bush, Sharpton, Wright, Jackson and a thousand other hypocrites!

    August 4, 2008 09:32 am at 9:32 am |

    Poor Bill

    Seriously..he is over in Africa doing humanitarian work

    Obama sucks

    August 4, 2008 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  3. I believe him but of course that makes me racist too

    I thought anything you said about Obama, whether it was policy or character related, made you a racist? By that logic, 50% of democrats were racist during the primary and now it appears that nearly 50% of the country is racist now...

    Flip-flopper: The new racist remark of 2008. Try it at home kids. Call your friends at work flip-floppers and they'll complain about you to the Equal Opportunity Officer...

    August 4, 2008 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  4. Phil-Little Rock

    As much as I was shocked by the behavior of the Clintons, I agree. Bill Clinton is NOT a racist. He may be guilty of saying some not so smart things during this campaign, but a racist he is not.

    The only thing we are all guilty of is holding Bill Clinton up as some type of messiah, perfect in all ways, and then when he slips up, as he did many times, we're shocked and stunned. It's not his fault so much as it is ours.


    August 4, 2008 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  5. Denise Groves

    Bill, I agree is not a racist. However, I cannot believe he is still stewing about this. Be a big boy and just let t go. Black people do not think you are racist. The Repubs are

    August 4, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  6. Michael

    I dislike Bill Clinton intensely, but the man is the furthest thing from a racist a man can be. In fact, I find most racists (plantation racists) tend to be from New York and New England.) And he was right about Obama's pulling the victimization card. He pulled it again against McCain and he will pull it again. Can we just stipulate he is no George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. For a man of his ego, perhaps those towering giants may not seem significant enough to him, a man who hangs around with the Reverend Wright, Bill Ayres, et al.

    August 4, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  7. v.a.

    hahahaha he just can't help but stick his foot in his mouth. why even mention being a racist if you want ppl to think you're not one? let it blow over and quit bringing it up, retard.

    August 4, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  8. TJ Johnson

    Obama's campaign is taking tactics right out of the Slick Willy playbook: "Make an under-the-belt comment and then pretend to be innocent and apologize, how nice!!"

    August 4, 2008 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  9. Joe Reg

    Let's bury the hatchet.

    Hillary for V.P.

    Obama/Hillary 08/12.

    August 4, 2008 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  10. Henry n New York

    Bill Clinton is not a racist. But, he did use race as an excuse to brush away Senator Obama's North Carolina win as race based. It was a low blow that should not have been made against another democrat. There should be a limit as to how severe criticism among members of the same party should and can go. A point to which none should go. He began and later Hilary as candidate went beyond that point.

    August 4, 2008 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  11. Obama supporter: Bipartisan Intelligence in Gov't

    Bill, like Jesse Jackson< are struggling to hold their positions as a generational change is taking place. Whether it is sour grapes or just a natural part of having to let go and become the "senior" statesman will be seen in his willing or unwillingness to help after the convention.

    August 4, 2008 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  12. Hello!!!

    Obama is an absolute JOKE.
    Dems continue to shoot themselves in the foot over and over and over....

    The Clintons should start their own party....and fix our nation once and for all.....

    August 4, 2008 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  13. JV

    Oh give it up already. You used Jesse rather than more recent "South Carolina political history" (i.e. John Edwards?) for a reason. Just move on will ya?

    August 4, 2008 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  14. Jeff

    Anyone who thinks Bill Clinton is a racist is an idiot. Enough said.

    August 4, 2008 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  15. ral-OH

    Looks like Bill is sticking his foot in his mouth again.

    Really he really needs to be quiet and stay out of Obama's
    campaign... he just cant help himself – maybe its dementia
    setting in – whatever it is – give it up Bill – your wife lost.

    August 4, 2008 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  16. vic nashville,Tn

    Sir you or your family members are not racist
    We want Hillary to back
    My Skin color is 100% pure black
    Hillary 08 or Mc Cain 08

    August 4, 2008 09:43 am at 9:43 am |


    August 4, 2008 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  18. Eric

    And nobody ever accused you of being one, Bill. But your whole attitude toward Barack and his campaign was a patronizing and downgrading one, something everybody agreed on. You will have the whole year to think about all the mistakes Hillary's campaign made and to come up with a better excuse for the defeat. Now, as the narcissistic monster you are, you can only blame Barack for it.

    August 4, 2008 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  19. andy

    anyone against obama automatically become racist...if obama is not playing the race card....that's so sad for america.

    August 4, 2008 09:46 am at 9:46 am |

    I truly feel that Clinton should campaign for Obama, if for nothing else to redeem himself and his image.

    August 4, 2008 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  21. Dan in NJ

    He added that the way Obama’s campaign had reacted was “disrespectful to Jesse Jackson”

    So, what, maybe he should have suggested cutting off the reverend's you-know-whats. THAT would have been respectful??

    August 4, 2008 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  22. JB

    You made racist commets, such as "even Jesse Jackson won in SC".

    You know what you meant. You implied that less qualified black people have won in SC, because SC is largely black. You also implied that the win in SC was not an sort of indication of Obama's strength, because he is black, and even less qualified black men have won there. So, you belittled the people of SC, you belittled Jesse, and you tried decrease the significance of Obama's win by "playing the race card". I don't think you are racist, you are just an egomaniac with control issues. Oh, ya and a sexual predator. Nice leagcy Mr. Pres!!!

    August 4, 2008 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  23. Joe, Hell MI

    Sorry to hear that you are getting bumped out of the DNC for the new fashion.

    August 4, 2008 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  24. Abby

    No, you are not. But you played to the worst of human instincts. You campaigned only in the whitest parts of The South, you compared Obama to Jesse when all they have in common is color and so on.

    August 4, 2008 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  25. GIFTY

    Yes your are not. I believed Bill. God bless you and your family.
    Americans love you.

    August 4, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
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