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. Former Repub

    This comment says it best:
    "Nobody has accused Bill of being a racist. Nobody has accused those who are against Obama as racist.

    I think those of you who are against him are just way too sensitive. It's almost like you want to say, "see I have a black friend." Just relax.

    Now if you say something like "A terrorist fist bump? or "Well Jesse Jackson won South Carolina too" or "Well I'm not going to vote for Obama because he's a Muslim" then you may not necessarily be a racist, but you do share one common trait with them – IGNORANCE. And we're going to call you out on it, a rush limbough and sean hanity listener, whether you're the ex-president, a citizen in West Virginia or a Fox News commentator."

    August 4, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  2. MD

    Clinton was one of the few presidents who actively engaged in the advancement of minorities while he was president.

    When Hillary faced an African American, the "private citizen" side of Bill came out, and attacked Obama in several occasions from a racist point of view.

    I think if Obama asks the Clintons to helo, they will put the Party before their own personal feelings.

    August 4, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  3. Dan , TX

    Bill is a better man than McCain, of course he is not a racist. Give him a break, it is politics, he was trying to help his candidate. It's over, fogive and forget.

    August 4, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  4. Xavier, Saint Louis, Missouri

    I don't believe Bill is racist nor have anyone accused him of being a racist. However, giving his past experience as the former President, there are several things he said on the campaign trail, he shouldn't have said. He stuck his own foot in his mouth and that's nobodies fought but his.

    August 4, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  5. jstertn

    We all know that Bill and Hillary are not racist. the blame was put on him by Obama campaign. The DNC is all wrong for making this election like it is. If Obama loose the DNC should be the one to blame
    Nancy Peloski is a big mistake. Hillary should be the democratic nominee and the president. Wake up America.

    August 4, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  6. Esther

    Here is what the stupid bribed MSM has refused to dig up or report to the american people since McSame accused Obama of injecting race into the campaign by predicting that Republicans would try to scare people by reminding them that he "doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills." In fact, that turns out to be a fact rather than a forecast. As Ben Smith reported in Politico on Aug. 1, a McCain ad back in June showed Obama's face replacing Ben Franklin's on a hundred dollar bill!

    August 4, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  7. not an obamabot, thank GOD

    everyone who doesnt bow down to the messiah will be a racist. The word has been spoken. Amen.

    August 4, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  8. Tom

    The Obama Campaign are such experts at playing the reverse psychology race card game that even Bill Clinton has to defend himself againt being called a racist. Of course, even the mildest criticizm of the Annointed One is now considered Racism.

    August 4, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  9. Kiiti J

    HRC was mad that a junior senator came and stole her show , but that doesn't make her or her husband a racist...Obama isn't playing the race card...I find it odd that the only people who bring up his race are the main people who say that he's using it to get votes...I DO agree with the fact that Clinton is mad that he isn't the "First Black President" anymore...

    August 4, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  10. Griff

    No! I am the Racist.. Against a Liar... When Obama tells the Truth, about his real background.... You will understand why...

    August 4, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  11. Teacher

    The Obama people tried to portrait one of the greatest advocates for minorities a racist for their own benefit and the media went along. The Obama campaign is scum.

    August 4, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  12. Jay

    Obama calling Bill's "fairy tale" comment racist is similiar to his implication now that Mccain's celeb ad is racist. Obama is using the same dirty tactics as he did before......except Mccain is now the target and not Bill. I like to see what unity looks like and if its even possible when you have a nominee who showed he was willing to paint an ex president of his own party as a racist in order to win. I like to see how this wound will heal. Obama's do anything and say anything to win attitude is disturbing!

    August 4, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  13. Chanda in Cincinnati Ohio

    I never did think Bill or Hillary were racisit, but he did use race as a minimizing factor in north Carolina. Couple taht with the fact that he referred to Obama as "that Boy" once during a campaing stop, and that is where the stigma started. There are so many people who sit around and complain that if you don"t like Obama, then you are automaticly considered a racist. I don't beleive that. But I am sure there are those who are not voting for Obama just because of his skin tone or the misconception that 26% of this country still holds that he is Muslim. Just take a look at some of the non-sense that gets posted on these blogs. Ignorance definitely must be bliss. As a Black woman, I am tired of people saying that the only reason that Blacks are supporting Obama is because he is Black. Obama was not my first choice. If you look at the voting history of Blacks in this country, especially in recent history, we overwhelmingly support the democratic candidate. Clinton, Gore, Kerry, all recieved over 80% of the Black vote. If Hillary were the Democratic candidate...she would receive the majority of the Black vote..thats just the way it has been, and the way it may always be. Sure there are some Blacks who are voting for Obama because he is Black. Whites have never had to worry about if they would ever see a White president in their lifetime. I have seen 95 year old men and women come to register to vote with tears in there eyes, because they never thought they would even get the chance to consider a Black man for the post. Its a matter of pride, and that is something some may never understand.

    August 4, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  14. Kempatsu

    "The only thing we are all guilty of is holding Bill Clinton up as some type of messiah, perfect in all ways, "

    I'm pretty sure your holding Obama to the same light...try again.

    August 4, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  15. NC for Barack Obama!!!

    I don't believe that Bill Clinton is a racist. But him comparing Obama's win in the Carolinas to what Jesse Jackson did in those states was not fair.
    If Obama won those states then he won, there was need for him to say what he said. Obama is his own man, he and Jesse Jackson are not alike at all except
    for the fact that they are black. I saw this interview this morning and I was further disappointed by what came out of his mouth. He is still very angry and bitter.
    He did nothing in this interview to help his own party. I think he feels rejected, because he and Hillary thought they were the chosen ones and they were beaten
    fair and square. I am very disappointed, I expected more from him, its not about Bill and Hillary's feelings, its about the people and the people have spoken for the Democratic party and they said OBAMA 08.

    August 4, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  16. Obama 08 - rocking it baby

    I suppose with an African American running for President Race will pop its ugly head... the comments that triggered the McCain camp to state that Obama camp is playing the race card is out of scope... Obama walks on a thin rope due to the color of his skin.... New Rule <== I miss BM.... lets get beyond Obama color and McCain illness and age.... let’s stick to the policies and then America choose wisely..... Taken age and race out of the equation the right choice will be more transparent.... we can do this! The US and world can not sustain without us doing the right thing..... And of course Bill Clinton is not a racist he was the best President I ever voted for..... He is not perfect but I will take Bill any day over Bush....

    August 4, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  17. Matt in NC

    Of course he's not racist, but the Clintons are willing to say or do anything to fufill their ambitions.

    Racist? no. Unethical? hell yes.

    August 4, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  18. Diane, MD

    I have never voted for a Clinton or a Bush. I'm not bragging just stating that I'm a good judge of character. I always thought Bill was a phony and I refused to be used by him, even though I'm a Democrat.

    So I think it's wonderful that other black people are beginning to see what I saw all along. For a long time I didn't say anything about him, even though I thought he was a racist because no one would listen. Well, they're listening now.

    The person who surprised me was Hillary, and I don't know why I didn't put two and two together. Surely if he's her husband she must have the same bigoted tendencies.

    Thanks Bill for proving me right.

    Black and Right in MD.

    I'm happily voting for Barack in November, and I can't wait.

    August 4, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  19. Carmen

    How is Obama responsible for what comes out of Clinton's mouth? You people are seriously stupid for blaming Obama for what Clinton says. Yah Obama sucks but Clinton says stupid things. That is the dumbest arguement i have ever heard in my life

    August 4, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  20. Change

    It is not about you Clinton is about America and it is about time to move on we all did.

    August 4, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  21. Chris

    Is it just me, or is the media's bias (read stupidity) starting to duplicate the post 9/11 days?
    Ask no questions .. then .. it was Bush is right .. now .. it is
    Obama is GOD and can do no wrong

    When will the media wake up and start doing what it should be doing .. REPORTING THE NEWS
    not pandering !!

    I bet this doesnt get printed 🙂

    August 4, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  22. bimmer

    The muslim community from Bangladesh (90% muslims) is campaigning for Obama and asking for contrubions to be pooled and sent collectively to his campaign.

    Mind that almost all of these members of this community cheered, condoned, expressed sympathy or put the blame on CIA or Israel for the tragic Sept 11 attack that indiscriminately killed people of any faith and nationality. How could any decent human being condone such an attack, where people was jumping from the twin towers to their death, sitting on US and Candian soil and enjoying all the good things freedom and democracy have to offer is beyond me?

    Before I got this solicitation for contribution, I thought most Bangladeshis would vote for McCain because he adopted a handicapped girl from Bangladesh for medical treatment and changed this girl's life for ever.

    Is it possible that the Bangladeshi muslims think that if you have a muslim father you are a muslim?

    August 4, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  23. ruth

    I don't care what he says, he made comments that had no place in politics. And as for Jesse Jackson why give him respect when he himself commited adultery, made comments against Sen Obama and is a deadbeat dad himself. As an African American i never had respect for Jesse Jackson, and did not believe in his claim of working hard for to forefill Dr Kings dream. He worked hard at promoting himself. Bill Clinton was not is not and has never been the first black president. What crap for other african americans to say. I do believe we saw the real face of Bill and Hillary Clinton in her fight to gain the nomination. I would ask CNN to define their meaning of raciam and apply it where it belongs in their reporting and not where they want to create controversial sensation.........

    August 4, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  24. Shinons

    Usually, when you have to say "I'm not a racist" it's a bad sign as to whether or not you're a racist.

    But...but...I have an office in Harlem!

    August 4, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  25. Debbie, Ohio

    Clinton is not a racist, Obama is! If not he would call himself bi-racial, not black! Can he really believe he's not a racist if he call himself black, when he is both white & black???

    August 4, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
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