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. PAT California

    I voted for Bill Clinton. But this is not the same man I voted for! He didn't have sexual relations....he's not a racist! He's not a racist if it helps his political ambitions. But to refer to Jesse Jackson winning a state where his wife lost?????????????? DUH!!!!

    August 4, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  2. Chris from Chicago

    I believe that Bill did not mean his statement in a racist way. He meant it in a belittling way. He intended to show that Barack's win of South Carolina was insignificant "just like" Jesse Jackson's win was insignificant.

    His continued "resentment" of Obama's team's reaction shows how out of touch he is. He believes that he didn't attack Obama "personally". Didn't he call Obama's campaign a fairy tale (as in "this can't possibly be happening"). He deserved to be smeared for his comments, because they were disrespectful (not because they were racist).

    August 4, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  3. Eric, Newtown, PA

    Can someone tell this guy to put a sock in it already? He never did have any self-discipline.

    August 4, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  4. Danie

    Bill is not racist! He is the first person I ever voted for and he will always have a special place in my political heart! The smart black community which I am a proud member of, does not need anyone to speak for them still loves you and all the things you helped bring about while in office. Don't get discouraged because I can guarantee you this, Al Sharpton (Bad Hair Day) and Jesse Jackson (hypocrite) don't represent me in the least. Let's get this straight Barack has always said that BIll said some things in the heat that were misconstrued. He did not pull the race card. If you crazies listen to Barack and not the people whom you think represent him you would know that. Besides, how can Barack pull the race card when is a collage of many races? Bill spoke the truth just like McCain is and is getting raked over the coals for it, but not by Obama but by the media and everyone else around Obama.

    Go Obama and Go BIll

    August 4, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  5. Alisa--GA

    I dont think he is racist at all. I think he was simply working on his wife's behalf as any husband would and should do. Politics is competive and it should be looked that way. He surrounded himself with lots of diverse people during his administration. I think that says it all right there. I think people are using this racist thing as an excuse to be petty.

    And yes, I am a black woman. We at some point have got to be adults. Please feel free to have your opinion just dont be petty.

    August 4, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  6. Obamacan

    I dont think he is racist but I am 100 per cent sure that he used race card during the primary season I mean South Carolina comment to get votes. That was a blunder.

    August 4, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  7. Ace

    Shame on Obama for painting everyone as a racist. This will surely backfire. European-Americans don't like the Jesse Jackson types.

    August 4, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  8. tess

    you might not be a racist but you surely are a narcissistic fool! don't you realize that nobody cares what you think anymore. you have showed you true colors ( they are not black or white) but just plain low-rent!!! just go away – your time in the spotlite is over and thank goodness for that!

    August 4, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  9. Tom B.

    If you want to discuss racism then Obama's church comes to mind. He only attended 20+ years and then abandoned the church when it got to be a political liability.

    August 4, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  10. GB

    Exactly right, nothing can be said about Obama or you are a racist. This whole thing is getting out of hand.

    August 4, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  11. YB

    Bill Clinton is not a racist. I think the media and Republicans are the ones that are trying to portray him as a racist so that in the media's case, they have something juicy to talk about and in the Republican's case to create division in the Democratic Party.

    August 4, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  12. rachel

    Bill as an African American female I know you are not racist. Its a shame that nobody stood up for you and HIllary in the primaries. While people form protests because someone calls michelle Obama's baby mama, hardly anyone blinks an eye when Hillary is called a b. While Obama can call his grammy a typical white person you cant say Jesse won son south caroliina. The double standard is overwhelming.

    August 4, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  13. Kate

    He is not racist but he thinks the world does or should revolve around him. How could his wife not automatically win? I mean she is a Clinton and there was this guy that won a few states by fluke just like Jesse. All this did not make any sense.

    August 4, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  14. Rob


    I do not think that everyone who is against Obama is labeled a racist because they are for another canidate, but you have to admit that the exit polls in those prodominatly white states pretty much had racial under tones for reasons why people would not vote for him. For the most part a lot of those folks could not think of one single policy of Obama's that swung their vote. It was always, "well, he's a Muslim" or "well, I just don't trust the guy" and all of these excuses are based on lies spread around the internet and white America. If people would stick to facts and policy in the debate the race card would not come up, but when white America begins character attacks and focuses more on preacher's then the candidate's policy, then one can not help but to wonder if race is the case. The racist Jesse Helms was in office for many years and white America never made a deal about him, even when he made outwardly racist comments and even ran racist ads. Now all of a sudden Obama is labeled a racist at every turn. Hummmm.

    August 4, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  15. Jimmy

    Of course Bill Clinton is not a racist. The man did everything he could to advance the cause of equality during his eight years in office. Despite what the so-called liberal media says, he'll also do everything he can to get Senator Obama elected. Bill Clinton knows that America would suffer under John McCain. The media gets so caught up in the idea of Clinton working in the interest of his own legacy. Call me an optimist, but I think the man might just be working in the interest of his country. He thought that Hillary was the better choice for president, and he now thinks that, of the remaining candidates, Obama is a far better choice. Of course, I'm not an impartial commentator; I'd like nothing more than to see an Obama-Clinton ticket send McCain packing back to Arizona.

    August 4, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  16. Maria, NY

    Too late, the cat is out of the bag. His wife will never get a substancial percentage of the black vote, which is the loyal Democratic base.

    I think if you are bold enough to go racial, then be bold enough to stand behind your decision. Don't wimp out on us now. His wife is suffering the consequences of racial politics right now. Instead of being the Democratic nominee, she is licking her wombs, and begging all over the country for money. that she won't get.

    Too bad, so sad.


    August 4, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  17. Major Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Americans have a pathological anxiety for racism.......and the sad point is that it remains "hidden,"......just like Bill Clinton's true as it may......there are many regrets in life. what is done is done and nothing can change the fact.

    August 4, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  18. Jozee

    No, Bill, I don't believe you are a racist; but you said and did a lot of things that helped to divide the Democratic party and hurt a lot of feelings in the African American community.

    I commend you, Bill, on your humanitarian work. Your talents are well utilized and respected. Please put them to good use by helping to elect Barack Obama the next POTUS.

    BTW, Happy Birthday, Barack!

    OBAMA/BIDEN 08/12

    August 4, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  19. just me

    Sen. Obama nor his campaign try to make it out to be that Bill Clinton was a racist. It was the media, the pundits and all these so called "experts" that you people listen to and get all your ideas from, they are the ones that have and are making race an issue. As far as Bill Cliinton, he and his wife are held in high regard in the black community, but of course the media and the "experts" don't want you to know that.

    August 4, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  20. Down with Obama

    No Bill is NOT a racist!! Obama and MO are more racist than anyone!!!

    August 4, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  21. GW

    Bill Clinton is not a racist, there is no such thing as racism, it is a myth
    whoever come up with the notion that there was ever such a thing as racism in America is nuts. How dare you say such a thing. The people of America has never had, never will be, or never will tolerate anything
    that will resemble racism so stop accusing this this great nation of such great people with racism. America racist ? Nah, can't be I must be dreaming. We are too great of a society to let such a thing happen.
    Racism happens in other countries but not here, so get your facts straight. By the way I want to talk to you about selling some ocean view property in Hawaii for $1.00 too!

    August 4, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  22. Upon Further Review,Texas

    As the real news gets overlooked,like the anthrax coverup.

    August 4, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  23. Donna

    Bill Clinton is nobody's racist! I believe that Obama is more the racist than Bill is. Time tells all people, just remember to be wary of what you ask for. The CHANGE you ask for may not be the CHANGE you want or need.

    August 4, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  24. Keller, TX

    Bill Clinton clearly tried to belittle Obama's win in SC.
    Bill Clinton is clearly whining about something that was totally and completely his fault.

    Bill Clinton needs to own it.

    August 4, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  25. Ex Dem

    I left this ungrateful dumb party after Hillary suspended her campaign.

    If the democrats had half a brain they would nominate Hillary at the convention instead of running with obama-theloser.

    McCain will win in Nov because obama has no qualifications or experience, that will become clear.

    Bill – you were the greatest President in my lifetime.

    I will come back to the democratic party after Obama loses.

    August 4, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
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