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)

    The Obama camp knew exactly what they were doing with that jab at Bill and they've been doing since to other's. There is a rift there somewhere, just ask Jesse Jackson.

    August 4, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  2. MIA in Miami

    Bill Clinton means well. He was just playing the game and wanted his wife to win. Black folks still like you Bill, don't worry.

    August 4, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  3. Bob (NC)

    Obama supporters are the racists in this election.

    August 4, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  4. Lynn de Michigan

    Bill is NOT a racist. Again, the media loves to stir up controversy. By the way, I am writing in Hillary Clinton for president.

    August 4, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  5. Dick in Statesboro

    I have been an Obama supporter since John Edwards withdrew from the Democratic primary, and I believe Obama to be a fine candidate. As an older American (and Southerner) long dedicated to racial equality and the removal of racial barriers, I regret that Obama supporters seem to seize on any white person's reference to or discussion of race as reason to label that person a racist. It's the height of hypocrisy for black Americans to be able to discuss racial issues and at the same condemn any white person's observations or references as evidence of racial bias. The kind of hypersensitivity shown by Obama's campagin staff will help to ensure many more years of tiptoeing around subjects that we need to bring into the open. And Bill Clinton may be many things; he's not a racist.

    August 4, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  6. Slick

    Who cares what this cheating,lying pathetic hack has to say.

    He is so yesterday.

    August 4, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  7. Nick, Columbus, OH

    Bill Clinton has moved this country forward on race relations. I do believe that his comments were about South Carolina political history-but it was an inappropriate comparison. (in the same way if a newspaper political cartoon made Obama and McCain animals they should be aware that they should not make Obama a monkey. ) It was a stupid mistake.

    McCain's campaign is playing the fear card though. McCain cannot win, he can help Obama to lose though. By playing to people's fears he hopes to raise doubts about Obama.

    Black folks are not scared to talk about race-because they have to deal with race everyday. White folk like McCain see a black person but avoid talking about it or bringing it up. Obama points out that he is a different kind of candidate (CHANGE is his platform) Jokingly, he says he doesnt look like those old presidents on your money. He then talks about how he acts differently than Bush and McCain and others.

    McCain wants to make people afraid of Change-Afraid of democrats-and afraid of black folk-and afraid of the next generation.

    August 4, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  8. Johnny

    Bill has a tendency to say stupid things, and is the main reason Hillary's campaign sunk, but I don't think he's a racist. Nor do I think he was actually accused of that; he was accused of making stupid comments, and he did.

    August 4, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |

    Bill Clinton isn't a racist? There's a news flash...

    And yet Darragh Murphy is no better than Barack Obama.

    The question is: Are Pumas not better than Obamabots?

    After all they've done, are Pumas really nothing but Pumabots?

    You decide.

    August 4, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  10. Roxanne NY

    Bill Clinton said Obama made a speech on the war, then voted to fund it while he was in the Senate, it is a fairy tale that he wants us to believe that he is against the war and the Obama camp was the one playing the race card when they dialed it out there and made like it was a racist comment. The media ran with it, never corrected it.

    The "Jesse Jackson" remark is true. The Blacks in South Carolina do give the Black candidate their support over any white candidate as happened with Dukakis. What was racist about saying that?

    You White people(I am Black) really do need to stop riding this race-horse(guilt trip) and stop making a good president who has nothing but a sterling civil rights record pay for your guilt.

    Obama ought to be ashamed of himself. Finally Mc Cain called him out on his racist remarks. The Clintons should have done the same. It was Obama's camp that played the race card on the Clintons and whoever believes that the Clintons are racists really need to stop drinking the Obama cool aid. It was total Rubish and it soiled the reputation of a good president!

    Who is Obama, that he could just pop out of nowhere and get your loyalty like dogs give to humans. You are nothing but followers. Do me a favor. Find out the truth for yourselves. Go check the quote verbatum of Bill's "fairy tale" comment.

    August 4, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  11. Michael Shea

    As much as I dislike Bill Clinton and his wife, I don't think he is a racist. Although I still can't figure why so many folks refer to Slick Willy as the "First Black President of the United States" when Clinton signed NAFTA, GATT and WTO, he sent thousands of their union manufacturing jobs offshore forever.

    No, I don't think Bill Clinton is a racist but he is a shill for multinational Corporations and he will do and say whatever it takes to get his way.

    Obama 08

    August 4, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  12. sk

    Barack Obama by far is the most racist person I've ever met. For one, he is almost ashamed of his half white part. Anybody opposes him is a racist, does not go along with him is a racists, does not like what he likes is a racists. The list just go on and on. Actually, I think he's not only racist but outright hates Whites. Is this what we want in our Presidency. Come on people....he is nothing but a big show for affermative action.

    August 4, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  13. Constance, SD


    Stop drinking the Kool-aid and take your meds. Bill is a racist and he knows it. It was a political advantage for him to embrace black people– that's it. There's nothing more. He cares about black people like he cares about the sanctity of his marriage. And we all know how he feels about that.

    Signed- black with eyes open

    August 4, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  14. maria

    obama 08,12
    bill is not a racist , but his personality has changed. He became a misrable person he completly lost his crisma. Obama did not call mcwar a racist he just called his followers racist.

    obama 08,12

    August 4, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  15. mike

    Yes, but all past and left for talke. I don't believe Bill is a racist tatally but for me no one beyond my wife especially in such crtical situations.

    August 4, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  16. wrob from GA

    Bill, If reporters continue to ask you those type divisive questions, please tell them that those misconceptions have received enough coverage already and it's time to move on to things that really matter to Americans. We've got serious problems and it's going to take all of us to fix them. Thank you.

    August 4, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  17. reason

    Obama's plan: Anyone who doesn't agree with him or vote for him is a racist. Discusting.

    Anyone who plays the race/victim card is pathetic and weak. Not fit to be president or even to be called a man. Hillary had more cajones then Obama.

    HILLARY 2012!

    August 4, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  18. Sheri

    Black people don't think that Bill Clinton is a racist., and neither is Hilliary. The republicans some of them are definitely racist.


    August 4, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  19. zeia

    I agree with the first sentence of Eric's comment...but we blacks still love you Bill. You were the closest thing to a Black president we could get...I guess it was just the 'heat' of the moment that got to you during the campaign. Don't worry about it...just 'brush' it off and support Obama from the heart.

    August 4, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  20. Andrea

    I could be wrong (I am almost never wong), but I don't think Obama will win in November. He is too slick, pulling the race card when needed and holding it back when not. The majority of Americans don't like moves like that. Yes, I am Black and will be voting for Obama, but his support staff must be crazy if they think that's a strategy to win.

    August 4, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  21. Former Repub

    For the ones on this blog filled with paranoia, No one is ACCUSING you of being racist for opposing obama, Stop victimizing yourself...Obama's not expecting everyone to like him, no matter how much you accuse OBAMA of playing the race card, the truth is still that there are overwhelmingly more openly racist people in the Republican party than in the democratic party, and some of them will go great lengths to show their racist opposition towards OBAMA ( i live in texas and believe me I've seen it all when it comes to racism campaigns). The mainstream republicans try to act like racism does not exist in their party, but it shows everyday day through comments and patterns on fox news.
    If you are truly not racist but disagree with OBAMA on real REAL ISSUES, good for you, but please stop whining. stop the paranoia, you're only ignorant only if you are.

    August 4, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  22. williefloyd

    It was the SC primary and no Bill Clinton is not a racist. He made some bad choices in the primary-no worse than mccain is making now though. I believe he was responding to a question-that isn't "bringing" it up. I'm not a fan of his but let's try to be fair-something not very many are doing right now.


    August 4, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  23. 2 MucH. Th3r3 !S St!LL H@T3 N 08

    Enough already. Bill Clinton is not racist. I did vote for in the 2nd term. I was not old enough the 1st go around. Infact I do not believe he or his family is racist. I am a black woman. I am voting for Obama, not because he is black, because I do like must of his views. Yea we knew the RACE card is going to be pulled since Obama is black. I do not feel he is using that card. I feel the media is wanting to hype up things and get stuff started. There are racist people still out there. The media is using this time in America to bring this up.
    OBAMA 08

    August 4, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  24. Dave

    Michael, Abraham Lincoln was a giant, george washington was a necessary evil for a new nation...and a slave owning racist as was thomas jefferson. Both hypocrites crying about give me liberty or give me
    death. While they gave no black people liberty and only death.

    August 4, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  25. Girl from Louisiana

    I disagree. Is he a flaming racist? no. But some of his comments can't be explained. BUT WHO SAID THAT OBAMA PLAYED THE RACE CARD? I think many reporters thought Clinton's comments were odd too. Also, I am not sure why Hillary could talk and still talk about being victimized for being a woman but the faintest suggestion that Obama's race effects his run- both positive or negative as being "playing the race card" and "victimization" is ridiculous. Of course it is part of the equation. If it wasnt we'd have presidents of different races and gender by now. Instead only old caucasian men have ever been elected to the presidency since the beginning.

    You can like /or dislike Obama and not be a racist but of course some people like or dislike him because of race also

    August 4, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15