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. Democrat

    If Obama wasn't black, he would not be doing as well as he is. A fact is a fact. That's not racist.

    August 4, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  2. William, from Cali!

    Bill Clinton is what you call a "sleeper racist"; get him angry enough about something or "drunk on emotion"; and the true feelings come to the surface!

    August 4, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  3. Bill

    Please, Bill Clinton bent over backwards during the 8 years of his Presidency and since his ex-Presidency for anyone of a non-white skin color.

    That even he could be questioned would make the inhabitants of Salem during the witch trials blush at how tame they were in comparison.

    August 4, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  4. Wisconsin Vet

    Bill stop talking to reporters about it. Everytime you do they twist it to devide the Dems more and more. We all know your not a racist. Heck we know you love women of all colors.

    August 4, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  5. ls

    Denise Groves you can see it as well. Republicans are racist, a majority of whom I've seen and heard. They might not say it, but you can sure see it in their eyes and their facial expressions.

    Bill is not a racist.

    August 4, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  6. AOA Seattle

    Why is it that when people make racist remarks they always follow them with "I am not a racist"? Bill may believe he is not a racist but he made racially insensitive comments He should just own up to that and move on. Nobody ever made a racial remark and said "oh, and by the way, I am a racist"!

    And since we seem to want to blame Obama on everything everyone else but him does or say, here's a list to choose from:

    1) Obama is the reason Bill made racial comments
    2) Obama is the reason the media made sexist comments
    3) Obama is the reason we are paying $4/gal for gas
    4) Obama is the reason the economy is doing so badly
    5) Obama is the reason there is global warming
    6) Obama is the reason the rest of the world thinks we are bullies
    7) Obama is the reason we are fighting in Iraq to settle a personal grudge.

    For those of you bent on NOT thinking for yourselves, just take your pick!

    After all, you are desparately looking for any reason to convince yourself your blinding dislike for obama has everything to do with him and nothing to do with you. You are bent on not facing the obvious...a black Harvard educated intellect shatters all your stereotypes and you can't swallow that. Try being honest with yourself at least once for a change!

    August 4, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  7. EBC

    Jesus, let's give the Clinton's a REST, enough already. HOW much more of this family is truly NEW news? I mean, come on, the Clinton's are a era gone and we need to STOP looking back and start focusing on the FUTURE for God's sake!!! We ALL know the Clintons will DO and SAY anything for political power. This whole CNN story is just downright silly. There are NOT reporting anything that surprises anyone.

    I mean, this is truly boring beyond words..

    August 4, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  8. AT

    This issue should be let go and everyone move on. I have no respect for Bill Clinton. I think he has no morals and will stoop to any level to sleep with women of any age. Many people do things for minorities and are still racist. Only he and God knows his heart.

    Hillary Clinton lost her campaign because she was a poor manager and underestimated the power of her opponent. She lost my respect in the midst of her campaign. She is vicious and will win at any cost. I am glad I saw her before the primary in my state. Let us move on and win this election.

    August 4, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  9. Ricky

    Good for you, Bill. Way to stand up against this foolishness. I'm amazed at how many black Americans turned on a dime and condemned a man who has fought the good fight on race (not without failures or mistakes) for decades (and yes, I'm black). And yes, many DID coin him a racist! If Bill is bitter about it, he has a right to be. I would be. I guess we shouldn't expect more from the Obamamaniacs though. The Obama phenomenon has had a strange effect in that his black supporters are willing to toss anyone who doesn't get onboard wholeheartedly under the bus – no matter how hard they've worked for black America in past. Just ask Tavis Smiley or – for all his faults – Jesse Jackson. I plan to vote for Obama (or rather against McCain). But come on, no one outside of Chicago even knew who this guy was four years ago and now he's the greatest thing since King? The level of mania is disturbingly extreme. I really hope Obama doesn't disappoint those who are so madly invested – without serious inquiry. Dangerous!

    August 4, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  10. Tom

    Bill or Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferrarro are not racist. The Obama camp twisted their words. He puts a large portion of his income to help people all over the world and the USA via his foundation. What a wonderful American.

    August 4, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  11. Manuel TX

    Amazing that the Obama supporters come out and state that no one accused Bill of racism during the primary.

    When he said that Obama's prior position on the invasion of Iraq was a fairy tale...which it is, the Obama surrogates popped up all over the place twisting the statement into some sort of racial comment about a black man running for office being a fairy tale.

    That happened.

    Everyone knew it was a distortion, but the Obama supporters ran with it, as did the MSM.


    And the Obama campaign is at it again.

    "Oh and did I mention that he's black?"


    August 4, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  12. larry for Detroit

    Where did this come from?????

    You lost Bill because your campaign had no strategy AFTER Super Tuesday and Obama had FAR Superior ground game. It wasn't because you were being charged with being racist.

    August 4, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  13. Janice

    The more Bill talks the more he hurts his party. To say someone made an insensitive comment of course does not mean that someone is accusing you of being a racist or any other kind of "ist". It only means they thought the comment was insensitive. Why does he need to get defensive about it now? It's water under the bridge.

    If he and other Clinton supporters want to replay the past, fine – but enjoy more erosion of our constitutional freedoms, more torture in violation of the Geneva Convention, giving up a right to birth control methods and a women's right to choose, a war with Iran, more national debt, continuing our wasteful occupation of Iraq, and please – enjoy your days on unemployment while paying for $4+ a gallon gas.

    August 4, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  14. Sacto Joe

    This is a media setup. This was a dead issue until the news media brought it up. Now "race" is back in the spotlight again.

    HOW CONVENIENT for the the Republicans and their media mogul masters!

    August 4, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  15. Let Me Participate!!!

    Testing 123

    August 4, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  16. rachel

    Oh and people sayings he's crying over I watched the interview he didnt just bring it up, the interviewer brought it up asking about his loss of support from the black community and Bill laid the smack down on her as he should have.

    August 4, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  17. Rabblerouser

    He's not a racist; neither is Hillary. They just think, rightly so, that Obama is a sham. He's two – faced who will say anything to get elected, ( so much for his new politics). He just finished strutting around the world like he's already President even though he's only been a senator for less than 200 days; he talks out of two sides of his mouth and for anyone who has listening skills, he doesn't say much of anything.

    However, anytime you say you don't like Obama, he and his thugs call you a racist. Which why a lot of us aren't going to vote for him. Bush has given us a repressive enough government; we don't need another sort of repression where everytime you criticize Obama, you're labelled a racist. Obama and your thug-like Obamacans – go away! We need real leadership.

    One of the 18 mil, who will vote for McCain.

    August 4, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  18. Independent

    I think the entire Americans are racist except Bill (if we try to put Bill as a racist). I can only think about Clinton family as a group of people done much much more for the world and the African American people than any other stupid in white house. So those who try to put bill into racist character, they are completely wrong.

    Regarding woman, we all **** around. Show me how many American families have healthy and long lasting marriage life between husband and wife. So as default, We hate people those who do right things, so we hate Clinton.


    August 4, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  19. Joyce in Florida

    I agree with Kevin, FL. The Obama campaign has divided our party during the presidential campaign and his camp was disrespectful to Hillary Clinton from the get-go. The only person playing the race card is Obama himself. The 18 million voters who support Hillary WILL NOT forget this. His arrogance before, during, and now after this campaign is still showing somewhat. I am a proud democrat and still support the Clintons AND ALWAYS WILL. I am looking anxiously looking forward to see what happens at the convention in Denver. Still supporting Hillary and have NOT removed my bumper stickers from my car. GO HILLARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 4, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  20. A CANUCK

    He's not a racist ....he's just a narcicistic liar !!!!!!

    August 4, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  21. Yolanda

    Bill Clinton has done more for blacks than Obama will ever do.

    August 4, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |












    August 4, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  23. Chris C for McCain

    He is not a racist he is just a perv!

    August 4, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  24. ashley

    For those saying no one in the Obama campaign implied that the Clintons are racist ARE WRONG! That was one way for them to get black people to turn against them (and I am African American myself) and look, it actually worked! Otherwise, Clinton could have had this in the bag and black people wouldnt have been voting for him at record highs. I dont believe the Obama campaign believes they are truely racist but they wanted to paint a doubt in the American peoples mind.

    No one will wake up to the fact that Obama campaign is the one and was the one smearing their fellow democrats!

    August 4, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  25. Mike in NYC

    These obligatory anti-racist confessions of purity never seem to go out of style.

    I'm looking forward to the day when a public figure will say, "Yes, I'm a racist. And what are you going to do about it?"

    The reality is that most of the world is racist, in the sense of putting their own kind first. And they'd laugh in your face if you tried to lecture them about it.

    August 4, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
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